The start to free agency may have felt a bit like Groundhog Day for the Golden State Warriors.
For the second straight year, the team has emphasized the need to bring in some veteran players who could bring leadership and fill key roles while not breaking the bank for the franchise deep in the luxury tax. But for the second year, the Warriors have lost out on the same veteran who had expressed concern last year about the team’s lack of firepower with half of the Splash Brothers missing.
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Warriors Lose out to Pacific Division Rival
Ahead of the August 2 start of free agency, Anthony Slater of The Athletic reported that the Warriors were interested in Nicolas Batum and planned to contact his representation early in free agency. But Batum, who is in Tokyo competing for France in the Olympics, may have made a decision before the Warriors got a chance to woo him. He agreed to a two-year deal that brings him back to the Los Angeles Clippers, according to The Athletic.
As Slater pointed out, the Warriors pursued Batum last season, but he expressed concern about Klay Thompson’s season-ending injury and opted instead to join the Clippers.
“[Batum] told them he’d have probably come, on the minimum, had Klay Thompson not been injured, ending the Warriors’ title chances,” Slater wrote. “He instead chose the Clippers, and wisely. Batum had a resurgent season and helped them reach the conference finals.”
Batum averaged 8.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season, showing a strong touch from outside by hitting 40.4% on three-pointers.
Bad Sign for Warriors
Batum’s decision could have wider implications for the Warriors. In talking about the team’s free agency plans for this summer, general manager Bob Myers appeared to reference Batum’s decision last year, saying he hoped that the team would not suffer the same fate with veteran targets this time around.
“We need to add a couple guys,” Myers said during a July 30 post-draft press conference. “We need some veterans. I don’t know who that will be. We’ve got to find out if we can win a tie; if we offer somebody something, how do they feel about us? Like I said last year, I think we were close on some guys, but Klay’s injury, I don’t blame the players, they said, ‘Look, we’re going to go somewhere else.’”
The cash-strapped Warriors are already constrained on what players they can target, limited only to veteran minimum and taxpayer midlevel exception deals. Golden State had been in the trade market ahead of last week’s NBA draft, according to Bleacher Report, but opted to keep both of their lottery picks to land former G League Ignite forward Jonathan Kuminga, 18, who averaged 15.8 points in 32.8 minutes in his 13 games in 2020-21, and rookie guard Moses Moody, who started all 32 games he played in for the Arkansas Razorbacks, averaging 16.8 points but shooting only 42.7% from the field. Those additions could make the need for veteran leadership even greater.