Last spring, before dismantling the Celtics in the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors had to get past the Mavericks and superstar guard Luka Doncic in the West finals. They did that in just five games, with Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson averaging 18.0 points on 46.4% shooting and 40.9% 3-point shooting to back up Doncic.
Brunson was the Mavs’ secondary star, but he bolted to the Knicks this offseason. That, oddly enough, could affect the Warriors.
The Mavericks now find themselves in the position of looking for a new running partner for Doncic, possibly through free agency if they can clear out some salaries. Should they clear out those salaries, the Mavs could come looking for one of the Warriors’ stars–with, perhaps, a son of a Warriors legend coming back.
“It won’t be a great (free-agent) class next year,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “Obviously, the Mavericks would love a guy like Khris Middleton, but he won’t be leaving Milwaukee, I think. Kyrie Irving, if you want to put him with Luka which, I wouldn’t.
“But there will be opportunities, gettable guys, some restricted free agents out there, Cam Johnson or Tyler Herro. … You could go hard after the Warriors, whether it’s (Jordan) Poole or (Andrew) Wiggins. You’d rather go with a younger guy, a guy like Poole, but the Mavs could do worse than adding Wiggins to that mix.”
Warriors Have Tough Free-Agent Decisions Ahead
The Warriors are, of course, facing a salary crunch with the team’s top players.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson remain under contract for 2023-24, at a whopping $95 million, which is 71% of the total projected salary cap ($133 million). But the Warriors also need to take care of Wiggins, whose contract is up next summer; Poole, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract and could be a restricted free agent if he does not get an extension; and Draymond Green, who can be a free agent if he opts out of his final season, which many expect him to do.
Re-signing everyone is all but impossible, because it would vault the Warriors’ payroll up around $220 million and their outlay including the tax payment would balloon to $400 million or so. Someone is going to have to go, likely either Poole or Wiggins, since Curry would not tolerate the team letting Green walk.
The answer could be in just dealing with the Mavericks directly ahead of next summer’s free-agent meat grinder. They have a pair of players who could fit well with the Warriors this year and ease their financial burden going forward.
A deal would look like this:
Dallas receives: Andrew Wiggins
Golden State receives: Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, lottery-protected 2025 first-round pick.
Hardaway, a ‘Poor Man’s’ Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins is only 27, and with his ability to contribute as a two-way star—he averaged 17.2 points with 46.6% shooting and 39.3% 3-point shooting—he would be an ideal match for the Mavs’ Doncic-Spencer Dinwiddie backcourt.
Hardaway Jr. is 30 and Bullock is 31, but the Mavs would add a protected first-rounder to sweeten the pot. Bullock is a rugged 3-and-D guy off the bench, whose contract expires after this season and thus won’t be a factor in the Warriors’ long-term financial crunch.
Hardaway is the keeper, a smaller (he’s 6-foot-5), poor-man’s version of Wiggins. He is an average defensive player but has the build and athleticism to get better in the Warriors’ system. And though he struggled last season (14.2 points on 33.6% 3-point shooting), his recent track record of perimeter shooting (39.4% over the two previous seasons) suggests he would thrive in Golden State’s offense.
Moreover, he is slated to get half the money that Wiggins would get next year, having signed a contract extension with a descending payout–$19.6 million in 2022-23, $17.9 million the following year and $16.2 million in 2024-25.
Hardaway is not Wiggins. But he could be the best the Dubs can do to lessen the effect of his potential loss. Making the swap would bring another first-rounder to the Warriors and allow them to keep Poole, who is only 23, on board. That’s not a bad outcome for a tricky situation.