General manager Bob Myers might have been relieved to learn Thursday that the Warriors won’t be invited to Orlando to resume the NBA season.
In the coming months, Myers must rely on limited information to make a series of roster decisions that could determine whether Golden State will return to title contention. Here is a breakdown of what the Warriors face in an offseason filled with uncertainty:
How will the NBA shutdown affect the Warriors’ spending?
Majority owner Joe Lacob has long insisted on spending big to win big, but he might soon have to rethink that mentality. The coronavirus shutdown has already had significant financial repercussions for Golden State, which, by not playing its final seven home games, will miss out on at least $25 million at the gate alone.
There is also the revenue the Warriors will lose from the numerous Chase Center concerts and events that have been canceled. But before Golden State can know just how much the shutdown will hurt its bottom line, it must see how much the salary cap drops.
The National Basketball Players Association and the NBA determine the salary cap each year based off expected revenue for the next season. Recent estimates have the cap, which was projected to be $115 million before the shutdown, dropping between $4 million and $15 million.
Though a resumption of play in Orlando next month should help limit the decline in the cap, it could still dip enough for teams like the Warriors — those poised to be in the luxury tax — to reconsider their offseason spending. A $10 million cap drop, for example, would leave the Warriors with a $195 million luxury-tax bill.
That means Golden State would spend $15 million more in taxes than it would on its entire $180 million roster. If the Warriors aren’t sure they can compete for a title next season, they might want to cut costs by trading their top-five draft pick, not using the full taxpayer mid-level exception, or acquiring a player who makes less than the full amount of their $17.2 million traded player exception.
But according to a league source, Golden State is unlikely to let a drop in the cap change how it approaches roster-building. Lacob realizes that with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all in their early 30s, the Warriors might have only a three- or four-year window to win another title.
Even if it requires a massive luxury-tax burden, Golden State will do what it can to capitalize on the rest of its core players’ prime years. Anything else would go against what this ownership group has come to represent.
It only helps that the Warriors’ trade-deadline moves put them under the luxury-tax threshold this season and saved them roughly $40 million. And given that every team would have to deal with the ramifications of a drop in the cap, Golden State could actually acquire a better player with the traded player exception than it might have otherwise.
What will the Warriors do in the draft?
For the first time since 2002, Golden State will have a top-five pick. This is a critical opportunity for a team eager to return to its dynastic ways. By drafting someone who can contribute immediately and develop into a face of the franchise in coming years, the Warriors would buoy their chances of following the Spurs’ blueprint for sustained success.
In June 1997, after an injury-plagued season ended with a 20-62 record, San Antonio took Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan with the No. 1 pick. Two years later, the Spurs won their first of five NBA titles in a 15-year span.
The problem for the Warriors is that there are no Duncan-caliber prospects in this class. To avoid a draft-night bust, Golden State must be especially diligent in vetting potential lottery picks — a process that only became more complicated in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown.
With in-person workouts and many draft showcases canceled, scouts have had to get creative, relying on video and Zoom interviews with players to put together their draft boards. At least the Warriors aren’t short on time. The NBA draft lottery was pushed back from May 19 to Aug. 25, and the draft was rescheduled from June 25 to Oct. 15.
That gives the Warriors more than seven weeks between learning their draft position and having to select someone. As the league’s worst team this season, Golden State has a 14% chance at the No. 1 pick, 13.4% chance at the No. 2 pick, 12.7% chance at the No. 3 pick, 12% chance at the No. 4 pick and 47.9% chance at the No. 5 pick.
Sources have indicated to The Chronicle that if the Warriors land the No. 1 pick and decide not to trade down, they’ll likely take Georgia guard Anthony Edwards. If Golden State lands anywhere between Nos. 2 and No. 5, it’ll strongly consider Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton, Auburn’s Isaac Okoro and Israel’s Deni Avdija, among others.
How will the Warriors use their $17.2 million traded player exception?
Golden State might not have much salary-cap flexibility, but the traded player exception it obtained in last summer’s Andre Iguodala deal with Memphis is a significant asset. This exception allows the Warriors to absorb the contract of a player on a team in search of cap relief.
Though Golden State can’t add player salaries to the traded player exception, it can attach draft picks to it to make the deal more compelling. The deadline to use the traded player exception is a year after the trade that created it. But according to multiple reports, the July 7 deadline on the Warriors’ exception is expected to be pushed back until sometime in late October because of the shutdown.
That should allow Golden State to dangle the traded player exception as trade bait for any team interested in moving up in the draft. If the Warriors offered their top-five pick and the traded-player exception, they might have a chance at such players as Philadelphia’s Josh Richardson ($10.8 million next season), Phoenix’s Kelly Oubre ($14.3 million) or Orlando’s Jonathan Isaac ($7.3 million, extension eligible).
All three could immediately become franchise building blocks. But if the Warriors prefer to get a first-round pick in addition to a rotation-caliber player, they could offer their traded player exception and top-five pick for the likes of Phoenix’s Ricky Rubio ($17 million), Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe ($16.9 million), Oklahoma City’s Dennis Schröder ($15.5 million) or New Orleans’ J.J. Redick ($13 million).
It’s looking increasingly likely that Golden State will deal the traded player exception straight up for a player. The Warriors have identified several potential top-five picks they like. Unless they can bring back someone like the 76ers’ Richardson (a long shot at this point), they might be best served staying where they are in the draft and acquiring a helpful rotation player like Evan Fournier ($17 million, player option), Cody Zeller ($15.4 million) or Rudy Gay ($14 million).
Gay, in particular, would make a lot of sense. At age 33, he probably doesn’t fit the timeline of a Spurs team poised for a full rebuild. The Spurs could get much-needed salary cap relief while the Warriors land someone they’ve eyed for years. A rangy shooter who can move off the ball and guard multiple positions, Gay would be an ideal sixth or seventh man in Golden State’s system.
Can the Warriors find some bargains in free agency?
The biggest silver lining for the Warriors might come when free agency opens Oct. 18. Though this free-agency class isn’t loaded with franchise cornerstones, it is filled with quality rotation players who figure to struggle finding contracts that match their value.
Cap space, which was limited before the pandemic hit, will now be nearly nonexistent. Even teams with money to spend will probably be hesitant as they grapple with all the financial ramifications of the shutdown.
This should be good news for Golden State, which hopes to plug some holes in its budget. Its biggest free agency asset is a $6 million taxpayer mid-level exception. This normally couldn’t net the Warriors much more than a serviceable rotation player, but the shutdown might push the ceiling for what the mid-level could yield.
One player who’d be a best-case scenario is Raptors center Marc Gasol, who, at 35, might not warrant much more than mid-level offers. Even if other teams gave him more than the Warriors can, Gasol might consider taking less to join Golden State.
This is someone who has made $178 million over his 11-year NBA career. With the Warriors, he’d find a movement-oriented system that could maximize his 3-point shooting, screen-setting and passing ability.
If Golden State can’t sign Gasol, it should still be able to find a helpful piece on the mid-level. Heat forward Jae Crowder, Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. and Suns center Aron Baynes could be options.
As is the case every year, the Warriors can round out their roster with minimum contracts. One name that has already gained traction within the organization is forward Glenn Robinson III, who, before being traded to Philadelphia at the deadline, resuscitated his career in 48 games with the Warriors.
One league source told The Chronicle that many on the team were far more upset about Robinson being traded than with D’Angelo Russell getting dealt to Brooklyn the next day. In addition to being a steadying locker-room presence, Robinson was an above-average defender who could knock down the open 3-pointer and find open driving lanes.
How will players handle an almost nine-month hiatus between games?
The Warriors’ front office had little interest in resuming this season once the shutdown arrived in mid-March, and few can blame them. There was no need to have Golden State, which was already mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with a 15-50 record, in Orlando during a pandemic.
But had the Warriors been invited to Walt Disney World, they could have at least taken comfort knowing that they would break up their extended offseason with some competitive games. This is a team that has played in each of the past five NBA Finals. Now it will go nearly nine months between games.
And that’s assuming the NBA is able to start next season Dec. 1 as planned, quite a lofty goal given that free agency won’t start until mid-October. The lengthy hiatus might not be such a bad thing for the handful of long-tenured players coming back from injuries: Kevon Looney, Green, Curry, Thompson. But for the Warriors’ youngsters, such an extended break could do more harm than good.
Part of getting accustomed to this level is learning the rhythm of the NBA. After some players went more than two months without access to a gym, they’re now just beginning to work out individually at Chase Center. To make sure the Warriors don’t show signs of rust come December, the training and coaching staffs must take the lead, shepherding players through plenty of strength and skill work.
Getting ready for the season, however, is about more than being well-conditioned. When the timing makes sense, the Warriors might want to consider holding an offseason training camp to scrimmage and catch up on each other’s lives.
Which fringe players will make the 2020-21 roster?
The Warriors have at least 10 players expected to be on next season’s roster: Curry, Green, Looney, Thompson, Damion Lee, Marquese Chriss, Eric Paschall, Jordan Poole, Alen Smailagic and Andrew Wiggins. That leaves five open spots, but Golden State could use one on its upcoming lottery pick, one on whomever it signs to the mid-level exception and one on whomever it acquires with its traded player exception.
The Warriors might also decide to keep at least one of their two second-round picks, and they could sign someone to a minimum contract. Ky Bowman, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Mychal Mulder will be competing for, at best, two spots, but there’s probably a better chance that none of them make the 2020-21 roster.
If one or two of them do, it’ll come down to lineup dynamics. Bowman might make the cut should the Warriors need another ball-handler. Toscano-Anderson, who recently helped organize a peaceful protest against police brutality in Oakland, could provide Golden State an instant-energy forward off the bench.
But if the Warriors don’t have any specific glaring needs, Mulder probably has the best chance of those three at making the roster. He is an elite shooter who can defend multiple positions. That’s a skill set that any NBA team would value.
Connor Letourneau is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @Con_Chron
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