The Golden State Warriors dynasty may have just been put to bed by the (giant) hands of new NBA champion Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors. In a 4-2 NBA Finals defeat, Golden State looked to be a fraction of itself — partially due to injuries, and partially due to the aging and dilapidated shape of its salary capped-out roster. For the first time in half a decade, the Warriors are in flux.
When the Warriors collapsed historically to LeBron James’ Cavaliers in 2016, the solution was to dial one of Kevin Durant’s burners and bring him to the Bay. But the summer of 2019 doesn’t bring such luxuries to the table. Instead of luring free agents, Golden State will spend time pleading to keep them.
Kevin Durant’s free agency was on the forefront of the Warriors’ minds long before Draymond Green called him “a b*tch” at the end of a close game in November. His decision is the domino that will influence everything that happens next, and the torn Achilles he suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals makes life that much more complicated. But the post-KD list also includes free agent Klay Thompson, a top target for nearly every team with the money to sign him (barring injury results), as well as the looming retirement of Shaun Livingston, the future of DeMarcus Cousins, and more.
Here’s what Warriors fans have to wait on this summer:
1. What will Kevin Durant decide?
The one move that’s astronomically out of Golden State’s hands is where Durant will play next season and beyond. The two-time Finals MVP could miss the entirety of next year with his Achilles injury, but that doesn’t mean the Warriors won’t want to re-sign him long term.
It also doesn’t mean Durant won’t sign elsewhere, or — and maybe even worse for Golden State — opt-in to the final year of his contract and become a free agent the following year without playing another game. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the latter a “last resort” for KD now, but that could change.
How the Warriors handle the free agency of arguably the best player in the league after he suffered an injury this serious is unprecedented, to say nothing of the circumstances that may have caused him to return to play from his prior ailment. The answers are infinite and none more educated than the next. This summer won’t be easy for anyone involved.
2. What will Klay Thompson decide?
Will Thompson, the sharpshooting, meme-friendly juggernaut next to Steph Curry in the backcourt, ultimately stay in Golden State for another lengthy tenure? With news that his knee injury from Game 6 was a torn ACL, is he going to command the max contract offer he was likely set up to? If so, only the Warriors can offer a five-year deal worth close to $190 million. There’s so much to sort out in such a short span of time.
Before the season even began, Klay led us to believe he’d re-sign in Golden State.
“I’ve been to the mountaintop,” he said in October. “I know what it feels like to win and win with some of your best friends. And that’s why it would be hard for me to leave just because I’ve put so much blood, sweat and tears in this building and with this franchise. I’ve had my ups and downs, but I couldn’t imagine myself being somewhere else.”
He did say he could change his mind in the coming months, but hasn’t suggested anything publicly.
The question is will the Warriors offer Klay a max deal? Will anyone else? The answer might depend on whether Durant’s on board to run things back.
3. What about that looming Draymond Green dilemma on the horizon?
Draymond Green has one year left under contract, but that doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to start the year with the Warriors. The 29-year-old is one Defensive Player of the Year or All-NBA honor from becoming “supermax” contract eligible, meaning the Warriors could pay him nearly $240 million over five seasons. Will Green demand that money? More importantly, has he proved his play is worth it to the Warriors?
Though Green had a resurgent playoffs, he was poor by his standards during the regular season. Green had a tough shooting campaign, leading defenses to back off him and hover closer to his much better shooting counterparts. Green’s been an offensive liability at points, and he averaged just seven points on 45 percent shooting. Defensively, he didn’t play up to par either until the playoffs.
The Warriors could cut bait early and sniff out potential suitors for Draymond before the season starts, especially if the dynasty is coming to its true close. They won’t want to see him potentially walk away for nothing like KD and Klay could this summer.
4. Will DeMarcus Cousins be back?
Cousins could be July’s biggest bargain or risk. After tearing his Achilles last season, Cousins signed a one-year deal with Golden State over the summer. He played 30 games in the regular season, during which he looked fairly close to himself. Three-point shooting aside, Cousins met or neared his efficiency expectations from the year prior, and averaged 16 points, eight rebounds, and four assists in just 26 minutes per game.
Then, he tore his quad in the second game of the playoffs, reminding the front office that he’s still prone to injury. He returned in the NBA Finals and had his moments, but also looked rusty at best.
What length of contract and how much money he’ll command in the offseason is so hard to predict. Could a team like the Lakers offer him the big-money deal he wanted last year? Sure. Could teams also pass over him again, leaving him to stay in Golden State? That could happen, too.
5. Is Shaun Livingston going to retire?
After rehabbing through a leg so shattered he was told it may have to be amputated in 2007, the 33-year-old Livingston has come back a three-time champion and important piece of the Warriors dynasty. But he’s coming off a season where his play declined and he missed 18 games, his most since 2010.
In April, he hinted to The Athletic that this may be it. “It’s just all the signs on the wall,” he told Anthony Slater. “And just more so from a physical standpoint. If I’m healthy and having fun, then I want to play. But physically, if I’m not … Like, I put so much work in my body just to get back to playing basketball, let alone get to this point where I’m at.”
With his contract not guaranteed for next season, this could actually be it for him.
6. What about the rest of the depth?
Kevon Looney, Jonas Jerebko, and Andrew Bogut are all set to become unrestricted free agents, while Jordan Bell and Quinn Cook will become restricted free agents. Who stays and who goes will depend on the decisions made by Durant and Thompson.
Looney has become an integral part to the Warriors defense, but his play may convince some team to spend more money than the Warriors are willing to pay. Back in April, Andre Iguodala already said he hopes Looney doesn’t come back to Golden State, because that means he will have gotten paid.
Andre Iguodala on Kevon Looney this summer: “I hope he gets paid, so I hope he doesn’t come back because I hope he gets all the money.” pic.twitter.com/mZUI2Lm4JH— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 19, 2019
Jerebko and Bogut are both contenders to return on league minimum contracts, but Cook could earn a steeper offer sheet in July than Golden State wants to cough up. It’s unclear if Golden State even wants Bell, who’s hardly played in the postseason. He was suspended for one game after charging some hotel fees to assistant coach Mike Brown.
The Warriors have nine moving pieces this summer and no guarantees from any of them. The Earth will stand still until KD speaks up. After that, the Warriors front office is in for a stressful few months to avoid all good things coming to a bitter end.