SAN FRANCISCO — At one point early in the NBA playoffs, Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers and head coach Steve Kerr had a conversation about how they didn’t feel their team was championship caliber. They saw themselves as a Western Conference finals team, maybe, but compared with the title teams they’d worked with in the past, this one didn’t have the obvious markers of a champion.
But then the playoffs started, and with each round, the Warriors got better and better.
“As we went, I think Bob and I both kind of shifted our opinion,” Kerr said. “Like we kept getting better, and it’s like, wait a second, maybe we do have a chance.”
Now, there is a feeling that this group is just getting started and will be even better next year. That should be a frightening thought for some around the league, but for that to happen, it means the Warriors need most, if not all, of their players to return. And that might be tricky.
“Free agency, unrestricted especially … it is in our control to a certain extent, but in some ways, it’s not,” Myers said in his end-of-season news conference on Wednesday. “I hope that our players will give us a chance to respond to an offer. They don’t have to. They don’t owe it to us. But that’s what you get if you win and you create a good environment. You might get a chance to match something.”
Myers added: “Our goal, our hope is to bring all those guys back and try to do it again. They were all great in different ways and all fill different needs for us. … A lot of our free agents had big moments in the NBA Finals, which means they’re pretty important.”
The Warriors’ unrestricted free agents are Kevon Looney, Otto Porter Jr., Nemanja Bjelica, Andre Iguodala, Damion Lee, Gary Payton II and Juan Toscano-Anderson. Looney, Porter and Payton are the key free agents they’d like to bring back.
Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole are also up for contract extensions. While Myers acknowledged those agreements might not be settled on for a while, he called them “a big priority.” With Poole up for a rookie extension, the Warriors have until Oct. 17 to sign an extension. For Wiggins, who is entering the final year of his five-year contract from Minnesota, there is no deadline.
“All these negotiations take on a life of their own,” Myers said. “They’re all different. But I know with a guy like Jordan, usually, those things come down to kind of training camp and end-of-the-line deadline. … We’re a long way from figuring out what Andrew wants and what his agent wants, but I do know what we want. We want to keep him, and we’re going to make every effort to keep both those guys. They were huge for us.”
With the Warriors uncertain about what their roster will look like in just a few weeks, it will be difficult for them to have an exact plan heading into Thursday’s draft, in which they have the 28th, 50th and 51st picks.
“You know, that’s the, I guess, disadvantage of having the draft before free agency. We don’t know,” Myers said. “That lends itself to saying, let’s take the best player. If we find that we’re unbalanced at a position, then let’s try to recover in free agency.”
Because Golden State has so many free agents, Myers said he isn’t concerned about preserving a roster spot for anyone, instead of using a draft pick.
He also made clear that money will not be the determining factor if the Warriors retain their picks or trade them away. It’ll come down to fit and impact.
“The payroll is already, as you know, the highest in the league,” Myers said. “Second place isn’t that close. That’ll change over time, but Joe [Lacob] has always wanted to win. … It’s just dependent on if we think we can get value in free agency for some of these guys. We’re not just going to spend. We didn’t do that last year.”
What Myers and the Warriors’ front office opts to do with their draft picks will most likely come down to the wire Thursday night. As for their free agents, they’ll have to wait until early July for any decisions to be made there.
But the Warriors know they want to run it back with as many of the same players as possible as they try to live up to their words and get even better than this championship season.