July 14, 2024
The Dubs have failed to answer the defining issue of last season. That could convince the franchise's defining player, Steph Curry, to re-evaluate his future.

The clock is ticking for the Warriors.

One year. that’s all they have.

If this organization cannot find a No. 2 star to play opposite Stephen Curry by the summer of 2025, don’t be surprised if Curry re-evaluates his end-of-career plans, just as Klay Thompson did this offseason.

I’m not guaranteeing this. I don’t even see it as a likely scenario.

But the Warriors guard — the greatest player in franchise history; the sport changer — left the door open to something other than a career spent in blue and gold when he was asked about Thompson’s exit this week.

“I can clearly say I want to be a Warrior for life,” Curry told Yahoo Sports’ Vinny Goodwill. “That’s always been my goal. And I’m saying that sitting in this chair right now, but life, and especially life in the NBA, it is a wild environment, and things change quickly, and the league has changed quickly, so we’re trying to adapt and evolve.”

That, folks, is a smart man giving himself an out.

And it’s also a challenge to the Warriors: things need to change for the better.

Or, in other words: shape up or Curry might ship out.

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The Warriors guard has two years remaining on his contract. He’s currently extension eligible, but from what I’ve heard, there’s no conversation between team and player about a new deal.

Both the team and Curry are in wait-and-see mode.

And if Curry doesn’t like what he sees with the team around him by this time next year, it serves all parties to find a resolution before the final season of his contract. You can’t let a player like Curry leave in unrestricted free agency for nothing and the summer market is far more robust than the one at the trade deadline.

From Curry’s perspective, leaving the Bay would certainly be a lost opportunity — playing his entire career with the Warriors would be special — but the ideal exit (Steph, Klay, and Draymond Green all riding off into the sunset together) is already off the board. Like Thompson, Curry has to look out for No. 1.

The Warriors can make this all easy. Just land Curry a No. 2.

(Of course, that’s easier said than done.)

But as of today, Curry’s Warriors future looks like it will be hard.

I’ll eat crow on this point: Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy might have botched the Chris Paul exit, but he showed serious creativity in Thompson’s departure. Whereas it took nearly a decade for Dunleavy’s predecessor to complete a three-way trade, Dunleavy was at the epicenter of the largest trade in NBA history — a six-way deal that brought back both Kyle Anderson and Buddy Hield in exchange for Thompson.

Add in De’Anthony Melton, who could only sign the contract he received from the Warriors if Thompson and Paul were jettisoned, and you had an exceptionally creative offseason for the Golden State.

It also failed to make this team appreciably better.

And it failed to rectify this team’s biggest problem from this past season: the lack of a No. 2 scorer.

Look at the Western Conference. Where do you see the Warriors fitting next season?

It’s not as a top-six seed — the real playoffs. Anyone making that claim is a bigger homer than Dubs announcer Bob Fitzgerald.

No, this is a play-in tournament team — again.

And there’s no guarantee of even that.

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Warriors optimists love to point out Draymond Green’s suspension last season as the reason the team only won 46 games. But they fail to acknowledge that Curry played 74 games last season, after averaging 60 per season in the two prior campaigns. If Curry goes back to that level — that’s 22 games missed — this team is cooked. They barely made the play-in tournament with him playing all but eight games at an All-NBA level.

Why would they be doomed?

No No. 2. Duh.

The Warriors already missed out on Dejounte Murray this offseason — he was had for a song by the Pelicans. A Paul George mega-deal was never really in the cards.

The Warriors are left with one good option in the marketplace, and he might not even be available.

Utah’s Lauri Markkanen would be an ideal option and the Warriors have made an excellent offer to the Jazz. But it takes two to tango, and there’s no evidence Utah wants to trade their sweet-shooting All-Star big.

There has been talk of Pelicans wing Brandon Ingram, as well. He is available. And no one seems to want him.

New Orleans has soured on him fast. It’s somewhat quizzical. But don’t think the Dubs lack good intel on Ingram from Pelicans coach Willie Green — a former Dubs assistant. The truth is that Ingram doesn’t fit the Warriors’ system. (Then again, the Warriors might be so desperate for someone else who can score 30 points in a game that they are willing to overlook a great number of things.)

Is Chicago’s Zach Lavine better than Andrew Wiggins? You can’t help your team get a dub when you’re constantly in the tub.

The Warriors appear headed towards a season where they’re praying that Wiggins regains his form from the summer of 2022 or that Jonathan Kuminga — likely with a massive contract extension in hand — makes a big leap to All-Star level.

And that is a terrible plan.

Or, to be more specific, it’s a plan that requires Curry to do the work of two men — facing double and triple teams possession after possession — every night for seven months. Just like he did last season.

All so the Dubs might get another game or two in the not-quite postseason.

It’s all enough to make even the most loyal soldier question his marching orders.

Franchise players don’t willingly leave teams with a chance of winning a title. In the modern NBA, that means being a top-six team in each conference — just be in the mix amid an era of parity.

That’s not the Warriors right now.

Curry is currently with Team USA in Las Vegas. He’s surrounded by stars. That’s fertile recruitment ground for a player who is always thinking at least one step ahead.

If Golden State can’t give Curry a good reason to stay with the team other than “loyalty”, don’t be shocked if he decides to find a better place to play out his final (likely highly productive) seasons.

Curry’s legacy is secure and unimpeachable. But it would be a shame to see him wearing another uniform. Everyone — Curry included — agrees on that.

But the Warriors can’t take the star’s omnipresent lack of disgruntlement for granted. He’s no drama, but he’s also no push-over.

And right now the Warriors are pushing him. It’s only a matter of time before he pushes back.