The Golden State Warriors are facing a number of difficult decisions in free agency this coming offseason, but the player who grabbed the 15th and final roster spot last year could end up being one of the top priorities.
The Warriors have seven players headed to unrestricted free agency, including three who played critical parts in the playoff and NBA Finals rotation — Otto Porter Jr., Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II. They also have a budding young star in Jordan Poole expected to get a big extension and a first-time All-Star in Andrew Wiggins who could get his own max deal at this time next year.
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Defensive Specialist Could Return
After six seasons of bouncing around the NBA and spending long stretches in the G League, Payton found a home in Steve Kerr’s rotation last season. He was one of the team’s top defensive players and brought a scoring punch off the bench, averaging a career-best 7.1 points per game in 17.6 minutes.
Payton is now headed to unrestricted free agency, but one Western Conference executive believes that after working out a new deal to lock down breakout guard Jordan Poole, Payton would be the next order of business for the Warriors.
“After the Poole extension, Payton seems to be the priority there,” the executive told Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney. “They want to get him at a reasonable number, of course, if he gets an offer above the mid-level, they can’t keep up with that.”
The executive added that the Warriors could have an advantage in that Payton’s defense-first style is a perfect fit for them but not other potential suitors.
“There’s a lot of teams that look at him as a guy who fits their system but would not fit in with everybody else, he is a specialist that way,” the executive said. “He is not a shooter, he does not even like taking 3s. So for a lot of teams, and that includes teams like the Lakers and Celtics, teams he’s been mentioned with, they need two-way guys. So the market could be limited on him and the Warriors hope that keeps the price down.”
Key Players Want to Return
While Poole and Payton may be the priorities, other Warriors have expressed a desire to return and help the team defend its fourth title in the last eight seasons. Looney, who turned in a pair of playoff career highs with 22 rebounds against the Memphis Grizzlies and 21 points against the Dallas Mavericks, said he wants to be part of a title defense.
“I always want to be back here,” Looney said. “I want to come back and try to defend what we just won and be a part of something special again.”
Wiggins, who is going into the final year of his contract, also said he wanted to remain with the Warriors for the long term.
“I would love to stay here,” Wiggins said. “Being here, this is top-notch. The way they treat the players … we’re all one big family. I feel like a lot of places may say that, but they show it through their actions.”
Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle reported the Warriors are discussing a max contract extension for Wiggins, though likely wouldn’t make any imminent moves.