Ranking Warriors’ Priorities for Free Agent Re-signing originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
The main goal of the Warriors in this off-season is crystal clear. They want to keep as much of their championship roster as possible.
Golden State has nine players on its roster that the Warriors could lose one way or another this offseason. Who’s on top of that big plate?
Let’s rank the Warriors’ to-do list by levels entering a critical season after winning their fourth title in the past eight seasons.
Level 1: Kevon Looney, Gary Payton II
Everything starts with Looney† The Warriors once turned down Looney’s fourth-year option as the former first-round roster struggled to stay on the field. Now he is an irreplaceable player with three rings to his name at the age of 26.
Looney was the only Warrior to play in all 82 regular season games. He finished in 104, including the players.
“He’s a championship center, modern defender, substitute, and that’s what it takes in the playoffs,” Steve Kerr recently said of Looney.
As the Warriors raced to their final ring, Looney showed he can impress with multiple starting or bench positions. Aside from a 21-year-old James Wiseman, who has played 41 games of basketball since November 5, 2019, the Warriors have no real centerpiece on the roster. Looney knows the system in great detail and is the perfect mentor to nurture Wiseman while keeping the chemistry alive in a championship team.
Payton seems to have finally found his home here in the Bay Area. In this case, it feels like both sides – player and team – are making each other better.
The 29-year-old is not a real point guard. He has allayed most concerns about shootings, but will never be seen as a marksman. On defense, he can guard multiple positions and be the best scorer or ballhandler of the opposing team. On offense, he’s the dunker and slasher – someone who might be six feet tall.
The Warriors own Payton’s Birds Rights. This time, he doesn’t have to wait until the last day to find out if he’s made a selection. It should be with the Warriors too.
If the Warriors bring back Looney and Payton, that alone is a win for them. All signs point to that most likely happening, which makes perfect sense for all parties.
Level 2: Otto Porter Jr., Nemanja Bjelica
Porter played 68 regular season games, his most since 2017-18. Along the way, he became the Warriors’ Plus-Minus King. He led all Warriors with a net rating of 12.4 in the playoffs. He shot 37 percent from 3-point range and 40.4 percent in the playoffs.
And he’s most likely not coming back to the Warriors.
The Warriors own Porter’s non-Bird rights. His ninth season and first championship probably made him too expensive for the Warriors. In the event that Porter’s time with the Warriors is over, he will be missed.
Bjelica is five years older than Porter. The experienced big men’s market is not expected to be as vibrant as Porter’s, which should help him return to the reigning champions. The 34-year-old measures the Warriors at 6-foot-10, is a floorspacer who shoots 36.2 percent from deep and is respected in the locker room.
It doesn’t hurt that he also locked Jayson Tatum in the NBA Finals.
Level 3: Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damion Lee
Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday that Toscano-Anderson, who is a restricted free agent, is expect to receive a qualifying offer worth $2.1 million on Wednesday. Toscano-Anderson is a defensive guard/minor attacker who is six feet tall and can play a point guard.
But last season he shot 32.2 percent of the long distance. Toscano-Anderson’s outside options may not be enough, and a reunion with the Oakland native could be on the horizon.
Of the free Warriors players who had guaranteed deals last season, Lee has been waiting the longest. He is a viable NBA player who is clearly above the G League. Lee can also be quite inconsistent at times and struggled in the playoffs.
It may take a while for his free agency to complete. If there’s enough room, he should stay in The Bay. When it comes to numbers, Lee may be on his way.
Level 4: Quinndary Weatherspoon, Chris Chiozza
Last season’s Warriors’ two-way players are in different places. With the Warriors appointing guard Ryan Rollins, plus unfinished Memphis guard Lester Quinones taking on one of Golden State’s two two-way contracts, Chiozza’s days as a Warrior have most likely come to an end.
Weatherspoon’s outlook is much brighter.
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He is a bouncy athlete who defends strongly, looks like an NBA player when given the chance and averaged 25.3 points in the G League for the Santa Cruz Warriors. He should have the inside track to a roster spot, and the Warriors can hope he’s available for their second two-way contract.
Wildcard Level: Andre Iguodala
Will he or won’t he? For Iguodala, that question comes down to retirement or extending his career. If he decides he wants to keep playing, the Warriors will make sure it’s with them.
“I’d love to have him back on the roster if it works out – and I know” [general manager Bob Myers] feels the same — and things have to fall into place,” Kerr said of Iguodala. “Andre and I have been talking, and we’re going to be in touch here over the next few weeks while he kind of goes over his decision. It’s never easy to retire and walk away from a game you love, people you love, so it’s a really big decision for him.
“Like I said, if he decides to come back we would be really happy because he means so much to us in so many different ways.”
Iguodala, who turns 39 in January, was limited to just 31 regular season games and appeared in just seven of the Warriors’ 22 playoff games. He would be a more improved version of what Udonis Haslem is to the Miami Heat when he wears another Warriors jersey. His voice weighs as much as anyone else, and he would be welcomed back.