Trade Proposal Flips Warriors’ $128 Million Star for Former No. 1 Pick

Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors.

Getty Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors.

The Golden State Warriors are hardly a wreck, but even Steve Kerr admitted this isn’t a championship roster after the Los Angeles Lakers ended their season Friday night.

The Dubs must consider a serious personnel shakeup if they hope to remain a viable title contender in the Western Conference moving forward, which means mixing in at least one fresh face with the battle-tested trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

That face could be center and former No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton, who the Phoenix Suns may shop this offseason as that franchise tries to build a championship team around Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. If the Warriors do a deal for Ayton, the most likely centerpiece would be Jordan Poole whose $128 million extension kicks in next season.

Ben Stinar of Sports Illustrated pitched a Poole-for-Ayton trade on Friday, May 12, one day after the Suns’ departure from the playoffs.

“I believe the Suns should try to trade Ayton to the Golden State Warriors for Poole,” Stinar wrote. “The Suns are in need of guard depth, as [Chris] Paul is 38 years old and has a lengthy injury history. … On the other hand, the Warriors desperately need size. No one on the roster is taller than 6’9″ and they traded 2020 second-overall pick James Wiseman to the Detroit Pistons during the season.”

Jordan Poole’s Salary About to Become Onerous for Warriors

Jordan Poole Warriors-Kings

GettyGolden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole reacts to a play during Game 5 of his team’s first-round playoff series against the Sacramento Kings.

Golden State’s financial situation complicates any such move, as the franchise stares down the barrel of a salary cap figure well over $400 million next season with luxury tax penalties figured in.

Still, Anthony Slater and Shams Charania of The Athletic on Friday, May 12, asserted that Joe Lacob remains among the NBA owners most likely to spend heavy and keep his team’s championship window pried open. They added that of all the players on roster, Poole figures to be the most likely trade chip.

If cost-cutting is required, he profiles as the likeliest candidate. Poole had a turbulent fourth season, beginning when he took the infamous preseason punch from Green during a training camp practice. Poole kept it professional in the aftermath and tensions cooled enough for the two to work together. But the relationship was never fully repaired and Poole’s struggles didn’t help the mood, culminating in a challenging playoffs that saw his efficiency plummet and minutes get reduced.

There’s still hesitancy to move him. Poole averaged 20.4 points this season and has potent offensive capability that is lacking on the roster below Curry and will be needed as the core ages further. Is it wise to move off of that when his value is at its lowest in 12 months? Will the money crunch dictate it?

DeAndre Ayton Offers Warriors’ Roster Youth, Size

Suns center Deandre Ayton

GettyPhoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton.

Swapping Poole for Ayton doesn’t solve the Warriors’ money problems, but there’s no way they could be solved solely by dealing Poole for any player.

NBA rules require that the total salaries of players included in a trade match up more or less equally on both sides. Ayton is actually scheduled to make more money than Poole over the next few years, as his deal pays him $133 million over four seasons as opposed to Poole’s $128 million.

The major difference between the two contracts is that Ayton has three years left on his agreement, while Poole has the full four years left to play on his deal. The Warriors could get creative and make a big bet on Ayton, trading Poole for his services and parting ways with Green either this offseason or the next.

Green is scheduled to earn $27.6 million next year if he picks up his player option. However, Green has voiced a desire for a new deal that may not fit in with Golden State’s long-term plans for the future. If the Dubs are willing to play hardball with Green and let him walk, they can move massive luxury tax penalties off the books in 2023-24 and effectively swipe out Poole and Green for Ayton.

It isn’t a perfect maneuver for the Warriors, but it does help the team get younger, bigger and less expensive all in one fell swoop. Something clearly needs to change in Golden State if the franchise hopes to be back competing for another NBA Finals berth next season, and Poole’s departure is the most likely step toward that end.

Read More