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Warriors roster: Kuminga = 4th center? Myers free agency Q&A reveals pursuit of playmaking point guard & more…
+ some stream-of-consciousness updates
Back on August 9th, Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers spoke to credentialed media. Warriors PR had listed the Zoom call as “free agency”, but the crux of what was revealed by Myers was the strategy towards completion of the 15- (14?) man roster, which is basically what the off-season is all about.
Here are some basic topics — plus associated video — and some rambling by me, before we go off on the “erudite takes” about the depth chart. Btw this turned out to be a super-long-form read and I explain why in the last section (the Myers transcript is tacked on to the end of that):
Stephen Curry’s $200 million extension that takes him through the 2025-26 season when he’ll reach age 38 was described by Myers as “keeping him under the Warriors banner”. Also it was a reminder of Curry’s character: “never demanding, always pleasant, always collaborative.” It makes you wonder why so many on #WarriorsTwitter don’t follow Steph’s mantra(s). “Enjoy the process,” he often said through the struggles of last year. That’s where I conclude once again that that app is merely an enabler of outrage, complaining, and bully-ism, and many beacons (that’s what I’ll call them) have profited through actual money or at least “klout” by this form of misinformation. This, quite honestly, is a reflection of our society, as renowned sociologist Harry Edwards, who now consults with the Sam Francisco 49ers, has said throughout his entire career. I mean, you’ve seen the same themes with politics. So be careful not to get sucked in. But it’s also a reminder to me of how lucky I am to be so close to that process and able to share as much of that as I can from a first-person perspective. That is literally my job here at LGW in a nutshell. So that’s what I mean when I say “erudite takes”, which #WarriorsTwitter uses against me. And so I implore those of you reading this to delete that app. If you have this website for long-form stuff like this (even threaded tweets of 260 characters each have their limitations), our YouTube channel to see what I see with my own eyes, and our Discord server which consists of “PVO” citizens of DubNation who will post the latest and greatest stuff you need to know from that app and other sources anyways, you’re good to go and don’t need to consume all that negativity that’s literally posted on every single tweet reply of anything newsworthy. /endrant
I guess Steph deserves two bullet points. Anyways, he’ll get paid $59.6 million that final year in 2025-26, which if you’ve been studying up on salary cap tables, is an eye-popping number. By contrast, last season’s $41.4 figure for Chris Paul was “eye-popping”, and Curry’s figures are the first time I’ve ever seen someone surpass that magical number of $50 million for one season. Btw this is why you had some cap nerds at the beginning of last season suggest GSW had to eventually trade Curry — an absolutely ridiculous take, but if you stare at that $50 million figure too long, along with the huge numbers for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins, your mind will take you to a dark place. Especially when you consider a surgically repaired ACL and another surgically repaired Achilles’ tendon (knock on wood!). A word of advice: immerse yourself in salary cap tables at some point, because you kinda have to if you’re following the NBA and don’t want to be misdirected by (Twitter’s) misinformation, but don’t stare at them too long or erudite takes will turn into ridiculous ones!
The salary slot otherwise known as the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (TPMLE) will probably not be used, if at all, until the buyout season around February 2022. Yes, Rajon Rondo got bought out by the Memphis Grizzlies today, but all signs seem to be pointing towards his return to the Los Angeles Lakers. Myers did say the Warriors “offered (the TPMLE) to a few people, but they chose another direction.” Using it would have or will cost the team a ton, at least a multiple of 3x, in luxury taxes, and so Myers told us that he had to “save Joe (Lacob) from himself.” That speaks volumes because it reinforces how committed Lacob has been to winning and, with that confidence, you have to put two-and-two together and assume that (a) with a degree in epidemiology, Lacob must be confident that the pandemic will only get better with time and (b) as a result, Chase Center should return to its “cash cow” status sooner than later. Ergo Chase Center is one of those unfair competitive advantages that Silicon Valley venture capitalists talk about ad nauseum.
The league’s free agency signing period seemed to “fall of a cliff”, in Bob’s words, plus Golden State just doesn’t have the cache it once did as a destination, so don’t expect anymore free agents to hop onboard the GSW train anytime soon. On that front, Myers said Andre Iguodala has a “bright way about him” and will be perfect for the tutelage of Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. As for on-the-court, Bob “wouldn’t be shocked if (Iguodala) still finishes games,” nor would DubNation, I suspect. Meanwhile, credentialed media anxiously await the impending Iguodala Zoom call and I hope to do a “live thread” on this website as it happens and Andre is answering questions, like we did with the Otto Porter interview and Myers post-Draft call, assuming GSW PR is able to book our favorite media-savvy uber-vet.
The last question (by Anthony Slater of The Athletic) was on Moody, but we’ll cover him more in-depth and sort of comprehensively later because it wasn’t much anyways.
Myers admitted to Monte Poole that the staff needed to be improved, which led to the hirings of Kenny Atkinson, whom we saw very active during Vegas practices, and Jama Malahlela, whom we gave background on first among Warriors media. We also saw Malahlela working with James Wiseman at practice.
Bob refuted the notion that Kuminga didn’t have a good “feel” for the game, as had been the talk leading up to Draft Day which luckily for the Warriors, dropped him to the 7th pick. Slater asked about Kuminga’s passing ability and probably included the quotes in a piece about him (I’m not sure). Mind you, this interview took place late afternoon before the Warriors’ first Summer League game before only one Kuminga appearance in the California Classic and, sure enough, both Myers and Slater were spot-on about that natural passing ability, as we progressed through the Vegas experience and saw “JK” play more and more.
Welp, Kuminga deserves two bullet points as well. Myers recalled their dinner with him, even remarking that Jonathan had arrived by himself, which for an 18-year-old with already a half-million-dollar G League contract under his belt, said a lot. And, you should know, Kuminga does have an entourage of sorts surrounding him. I can count three off the top of my head (more on this some other day), whereas I’m only aware of, say, one for someone like Jordan Poole. Bob said JK choosing New York for high school because he “wanted to be Number One in his class” impressed the Warriors’ brass. “We can’t count on us motivating him or even financially be motivated…success is borne in their work.” Credit Marcus Thompson, also obviously of Slater’s The Athletic, for pulling that out of Myers, as Thompson appeared to be writing from the angle (again, I’m not sure because I don’t have all the time in the world to read each and every single article out there, but at least I’m plugging him and Slater) of guys like Kuminga and Poole having “confidence bordering on delusional” — those were Marcus’ words. Again, score a big one for the intangibles section of JK’s pre-Draft scouting report, which if you’re a diehard fan of DubNation who is really into the culture, certainly it checks off that big box for us.
Roster/depth chart ramble
And that brings us to the original topic of this post: the 15th roster spot and the conclusion that Kuminga is the fourth center on the depth chart.
The discussion of the 15th man was perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Myers interview, so I’ll go ahead and copy/paste the entire quote from Bob when he was asked by Slater about the remainder of free agency: “We still need probably some kind of ball-handling guard. We’re a little bit thin there, it doesn’t take a genius to see that. That’s where if Steph or Jordan were to miss some time we’d be a little vulnerable there…(Chris Chiozza on a two-way contract) will help for a buffer…invite some guys to camp as we did (last year with Mychal) Mulder and Juan (Toscano-Anderson), even Damion Lee…to compete for that 15th spot…good wing depth, good depth at the bigs, but kinda the 1-2 (or) 2-1 until Klay comes back would be nice to supplement that…”
Now, one NBA insider told me he is not at all impressed with Chiozza. I told him that the ceiling could be a taller J.J. Barea and my insider started to throw Barea under the bus lol. So, what quality playmakers are available for a veteran’s minimum? I gather the answer is “not much”.
Marcus would later press Myers further on that 15th spot, twice, but Bob in his expert PR way of giving you something without really giving you something, said that it’ll be open for competition during training camp, or they’ll wait until February or March to fill it with a buyout guy, or some injury might happen and they’ll have to act on it. He did name Mulder as a possibility, so if Mulder plays “balls out” as a 2-guard in training camp, so be it.
If I had to guess, I think they’ll fill that last roster spot with someone — Gary Payton, Jr. seems to be the average YouTube commenter’s pick — because, as mentioned above, Lacob isn’t shy about spending some money and, if an injury does happen and another positional player is needed, they can always trade that player away for peanuts (which sometimes includes a future second-rounder) in a pinch.
As for that future second-rounder, incidentally on Draft night Myers told us they tried to buy a second-rounder and was unsuccessful [Myers’ entire YouTube playlist is here]. But let’s take a step back from this. I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s just like this 15th roster spot, which I’ve had to caution some people on our private Discord server about: at the end of the day, this guy isn’t gonna play much anyways, and so don’t lose any sleep on it, but then again yeah, it’s the off-season and there’s nothing else to talk about right now, so sure, let’s go “H.A.M.” That is to say, that 15th spot isn’t going to make-or-break this 2021-22 title run, but let us dissect it anyways.
Now most of us, myself included, had the immediate reaction that we ought to get a backup center. A big body, like, 6’10” or bigger because how are we gonna match tit-for-tat versus the Lakers (Marc Gasol and Dwight Howard with a very tall Anthony Davis at the 4) and, um, idk, maybe the Grizzlies (Jonas Valanciunas which became Steven Adams during this off-season, with a very tall Jaren Jackson, Jr. at the 4)?
The Phoenix Suns had a rotation of Deandre Ayton, Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky with one of our favorite ex-Warriors Damian Jones as the emergency backup. The Milwaukee Bucks only had Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis in the rotation, although Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly bent that equation. The Los Angeles Clippers had Ivica Zubac and DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins along with Serge Ibaka before he got injured. All of these teams had multiple guys 6’10” and taller. We can probably name some more teams and their frontline players.
After all, the Warriors have kind of done this very recently. Remember when head coach Steve Kerr had four centers at a time? Actually, he had five in 2017-18, although “only” three of them were 6’10” or taller: Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, David West, Jones and (drum roll) our beloved Kevon Looney. Because I already did the research because 2017-18 wasn’t that long ago, I’ll add that 2018-19 ended with four centers in Boogie, Andrew Bogut, Jordan Bell (an LGW friend and fan fave!) and Looney. 2019-20 had four in Willie Cauley-Stein, Alen Smailagic (okay, he was a 4), Omari Spellman (okay, he was only 6’8”) and Looney. But 2020-21 only had Wiseman, Bell, Smailagic and Looney and it was really only Looney and Bell (and Green during small-ball, of course) with “Smiley” being out of that infamous eight-man rotation.
Is Bob really gonna go all-in on this playmaking point guard? That means Kuminga, who spent some time in the Summer League at the 5, is the Warriors’ fourth center!
(And yeah, JK was blocked by Miami Heat true big Omer Yurtseven in the waning seconds of that loss in Sacramento in Game 2! 😱 #sarcasm)
So I re-watched the Lakers & Grizzlies games
As it turns out, someone on the Interwebs has both games and much, much more — I believe those that are not NBA-League-Pass-replay-able from ESPN and TNT — and in amazing resolution with no commercials and the ability to fast forward ten seconds with one right-arrow keystroke (!).
Well actually, due to time constraints I only watched the first, third and fourth quarters of each game to get a feel for if the Warriors could continue to go with Looney in 2021-22 as presumably the backup center to Wiseman, who I expect to start whenever he’s 100% healthy, with Draymond sliding over to the 5 after that and, presumably, Kuminga as the emergency backup-backup-backup center.
By process of elimination, did it really make sense for Myers to target a playmaking point guard instead of matching chess pieces with the bigger elite teams of the West?
I’ll tell you what, Looney held his own against Andre Drummond, to a point where TNT color commentator Mark Jackson said that if the Lakers were going to post him up against Looney and the Dubs’ swarming defense, that was going to be a losing strategy. Jeff Van Gundy even whole-heartedly agreed.
When Toscano-Anderson spelled Looney at about the 6:00 Q1 mark each time, Drummond took advantage. Yep, it was literally Juan at 6’6”, 209 lbs. bodying up Drummond at 6’10”, 279 lbs. and sometimes Drummond had his way on the boards.
But taking the game as a whole, you could see how the NBA game has changed. It’s changed a lot even since the Warriors’ absence from the Bubble! Oh, how time flies. Conclusion: for the Lakers, I actually don’t think the Warriors need much more beyond a healthy Wiseman to start against Gasol and, if push comes to shove, a healthy Looney is good enough. The game has become that fast, even in a playoff atmosphere.
Against Memphis, Valanciunas actually got into foul trouble early, but also had moments of dominance. However, again, you see the speed of the Grizzlies’ modern-NBA offense and those instances when “JV” was isolated against the smaller Looney were relatively few and far between.
Look, GSW only lost by three points to LA on a miracle LeBron James broken-play shotclock buzzer-beater and in overtime to Memphis which also had to have a great game from a revenge-seeking Ja Morant. And, yes, LeBron was minutes-restricted, but replace Mulder with Iguodala, Kent Bazemore with Moody who will have 80 games under his belt by then, and human pogo stick Kuminga off the bench in any variety of spot moments, plus let’s not forget about Klay, and we’ve got a force to be reckoned with especially if the offense is humming like it did through the first half of the Laker game and the comeback late in regulation to take the Grizz to overtime.
Incidentally the paragraph above makes me less fearful of the downhill ability of Russell Westbrook. Don’t underestimate the pace of the 2021 NBA game which would negate the effectiveness of Gasol and Howard. It is likely to get even faster as we roll into 2022. I mean, look at how many wings entered the NBA in the 2021 Draft! And with GSW’s bevy of such two-way players this season, there should be enough there to neutralize Westbrook than perhaps at any stage prior to this (#hottake).
At the very least, if you don’t agree with my “Optimist Prime” outlook, at a minimum you should be able to see the logic of why Myers has decided to go all-in on this playmaking point guard search, which btw flows right into said era of even faster pace.
Finally, if you’ve read this far, I’ll mention that re-watching those two games also killed two birds with one stone. It gave me some possible clues as to why Bazemore left — I’ve promised to break that news on here via paywalled subscription and I will make do on that promise within a few articles. Well actually, I already broke the news on a previous livestream, but I doubt you’d be able to find it. As for that paywall, read on if you’re remotely interested.
Why I thought this super-ramble was okay
Well, I felt bad that the consistency of the written content wasn’t coming out right now, with just 30 days to go before training camp. I mean, ten days to write three articles isn’t what I intended.
During the season, we’ll have a firehose of live interview threads, “DubNation Diary” entries of what I saw at practice or on the road (knock on wood), et. al. So as I started writing the first few paragraphs of this article, I just thought oh well, at least this will maybe make up for the relative lack of content while we’re signing up new paid subscribers (thank you!) as well as free ones. It remains a thrill to see those notifications!
During the upcoming season, I’m not even sure sitting down for 3-4 hours to write these beasts is even possible. I’d be too weary from the travel. So as Steph would say, “Enjoy the moment.”
And this being a free post is also a thank-you to those free sign-ups. I’m always going to think that most Q&As, even the live threads save for maybe that special Iguodala one or maybe Curry postgame after three other ones, will be free anyways. I’m certain random behind-the-scenes stuff will continue to drop in my lap and I can share those as subscription-only posts. And I’m starting to think that there are “hybrid” posts that can be behind the paywall to start out and made public later on, like a week later (the Wiseman prognosis one will).
Also I’m not that embarrassed for writing these super-long stream-of-consciousness pieces, mostly thanks to the legendary Mark Deeks. But also this kind of format just wouldn’t ever be approved by literally any of the other beatwriter houses such as The Athletic or the SF Chronicle (both of which I have a paid subscription for). I’m a contrarian at heart, so this is also just me being me.
Truth be told, a lot of the three-articles-in-ten-days “anti-rhythm” can be attributed to my “mental”, as the kids call it these days. A lot of changes have happened during this off-season. Just name it. This website, somehow attending practice in Vegas, having better access with insiders, the YouTube channel now at 108k subs, an Instagram strategy that keeps morphing little by little, just to name a few.
And yet, I wonder what the priorities in my life are, especially as the season schedule has been released and I start to envision myself jetting around the country, chasing the next practice or morning shootaround to share with you guys and our YouTube audience.
What am I truly passionate about? I think people would be surprised and it’s not always so obvious, believe it or not. It’s an evolving process for me. At the same time, it’s also so fragile. Like, I don’t even know if I’ll get credentialed for any of those games, as I wasn’t even credentialed for Summer League until the final few days, with the NBA still proceeding with that cliche-ish abundance of caution with COVID.
And so I thank you for your patience as I “figure things out”. In life, as well as in DubNation. Have you seen any of Festus Ezeli’s amazing work with his “Rebuilding the Beast” podcasts? I’m not the only one who has to adjust their mental on the daily.
Every day, it seems, you learn more and more. That’s where I completely embrace my inner Wardell and try to “enjoy the process”. I’ve also heard this quote, on Instagram of all places (ditch Twitter and get on IG now!): “Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.”
We certainly try to learn more and more through factual information, more so than seek entertainment, on our Discord server. Access to that comes free with the $5/mo subscription to this site, if I may plug myself for a moment.
I hope that way of thinking seeps into more parts of DubNation, so don’t be shy and please share us with your friends and family who bleed blue and gold. I still have yet to do the full explanation to the world, which is coming on this site, but I think this sort of positivity is really needed as more and more people plunge into the unfortunate spiral of outrage that pervades on free social media apps and unavoidable memes.
It’s the era “throw someone under the bus” for a laugh, during which certain information can be mistaken for fact, and suddenly those who actually can sort out what’s really going on get buried by the zombie apocalypse of misinformation. I hope to be that voice of reason, but I’ll require your patience at the same time.
Anyways, I’m done talking, finally! Here’s the ongoing list of stuff I’m hoping to post soon on here (* = subscribers only):
☑️ Myers breakdown from free agency Zoom call
🔲 NBA Draft experience with DubNation at Barclays
☑️ Wiseman’s presence and support (Sacramento report)
🔲 Why Bazemore left (surprisingly)*
🔲 The whole Ben Simmons Kool-Aid
🔲 Shaun Livingston’s reaction to Iguodala’s return*
🔲 Draymond’s camp’s reaction to the Kevin Durant stuff*
🔲 JaQuori McLaughlin scouting report (maybe)
🔲 What happened to all the Kuminga Draft angst? (Or maybe a JK comprehensive takes piece)
🔲 Moody comprehensive takes (maybe)
🔲 How LGW will celebrate Klay’s return including fan interaction
Entire Myers notes & quotes (almost-transcript)
- Steph: “probably the most important thing we could do for us, our fans, was to get him paid and under our Warriors banner for as long as we can which will be five years, next season plus four…he’s thrilled and we talked quite a bit leading up to FA and the Draft…never demanding, always pleasant, always collaborative…how we were trying to construct things in FA and the Draft…don’t often get to watch a basketball game with him (Wed night at Summer League)…also happy about Iguodala, Bjelica, Otto Porter…some maturity, some experience, very skilled all three of them, can play in a variety of systems…”
- TPMLE: “we offered it to a few ppl but they chose other direction…we tried and ultimately after a few guys went off the board we kind of held it in check…doesn’t mean we can’t use or won’t, it might be in the buyout market if that gets competitive…it isn’t just 5 or 6 million for us, it’s quite a bit more (due to luxury tax). It doesn’t mean Joe didn’t authorize our ability to use it…sometimes you gotta protect Joe from himself…”
- TPMLE amidst Oubre experience, didn’t get ROI: “…idk that it made us kinda gun shy…it didn’t give us pause, we thought at the time that was the right thing to do…in many ways it did work. In some ways, not making the playoffs was hard for all of us…I don’t think we’ll use (TPMLE) in on what’s left in FA, I don’t see that happening…”
- Kuminga ready?: “The coaches have been more positive on him…moments where you’re pretty much in awe of the physicality and athleticism…moments where you say well, you’re not going to be able to do that in the NBA game, you gotta take care of the ball more, be under control, but there are special qualities that he has that are rare for an eighteen year-old, for a 25 yo. It’s just about refining those things and kinda figuring out how to slow down a little bit…whether it’s him or Wiseman or Moody, a year ago at this time I don’t think we thought Poole was gonna be much of a fixture in our rotation…maybe one of these guys emerges…it’s gonna be somebody because they’re all talented…you gotta beat out some pretty good players to get minutes…we’ve got a lot of veterans and pretty good players…”
- FA: “we still need probably some kind of ball-handling guard. We’re a little bit thin there, it doesn’t take a genius to see that. That’s where if Steph or Jordan were to miss some time we’d be a little vulnerable there…(Chiozza) will help for a buffer…invite some guys to camp as we did Mulder and Juan, even Damion Lee…to compete for that 15th spot…good wing depth, good depth at the bigs, but kinda the 1-2 (or) 2-1 until Klay comes back would be nice to supplement that…”
- trade talks dormant? “…tomorrow’s maybe different and the next week. It seems to be constantly shifting in the NBA these days…things can pickup quickly…the league is a little bit dormant right now…it falls off a cliff so fast…the league is pausing and taking stock right now…maybe in the preseason, once you see kinda see your team a little bit, things will change…”
- watching with Steph: “he’s a fun guy to be around…I don’t golf, so I’d probably spend more time with him than I do…I just like the human being…I’d hang out with him as much as I could…watching the game with him was fun because he gets to be a fan…he was talking about Kyle Guy…it wasn’t just about Kuminga and those guys, he loves Gary Payton. He was commenting on a lot of different things and it was. It was nice to see Draymond and his big heavy medal.”
- Iguodala: “Andre has always kinda dictated terms…found a way to put a cap on his career…usually does what he wants to do…gives us something we need intellectually, maturity, experience. Can’t find a better guy to teach a Kuminga or Moody…bright way about him…that is invaluable…Andre will show them also on the court…still for stuff to give…mentor…knows how we play, he’s got the trust…wouldn’t be shocked if he still finishes games…you sign a guy at the minimum who finishes games for you, and maybe it’s Porter…we don’t take that for granted.”
- confidence/Poole/Kuminga, bordering delusional: “…this league will kinda wear you out and spit you out if you don’t have that…but it can’t be too irrational…first you have to believe in yourself before anybody else does…when we say with him and talked about his journey, and he talked about his choices in HS and he said, ‘I want to go to New York because that was kinda what I felt was the center of the basketball universe and I wanted to be the No. 1 player in my class’…to hear him say that with such clarity…there’s so much money and all these contracts are guaranteed…we can’t count on us motivating him or even financially be motivated…success is borne in their work. Kuminga, even Moody, Poole, even James, that’s what’s gonna make it or not and I think they all have it.”
- Cousins reached out 3 years ago, now reaching out to guys saying maybe, maybe not: “…we’re not the clear favorite to win it…that was a moment in time…healthy competition…maybe we’re second, maybe we’re third…we got first crack at these people…Otto Porter chose us and he had other options…David West, he turned down $11 million to come to our team but I don’t think he regretted it. He won two championships…people pickup the phone when we call them…you win some ties and you lose some…probably not gonna be like that, that was a moment in time.”
- on Kuminga and his passing ability: “…some of the negative comments on him were his lack of feel and you can’t really make many good passes if you have lack of feel…even Steve commented during the game the other night, he said, ‘I love his willingness to pass’…that’s what we saw too, he’s gotta grow in that area, but he isn’t somebody that isn’t capable or completely unaware or doesn’t want to…the desire to make the right play.”
- stick with 14 NBA contracts? “…I think we’ll keep 15 open for competition, so that could mean somebody wins that in camp, that could mean in February or March during the buyout we do it. If we have some injuries and we’re thin in an area and we gotta grab someone, we make a trade and it opens up a spot…”
- changes in development staff: “We thought we needed to be better (laughs)…huge part in what makes an organization successful for not…internal growth, that’s where we have the most control. Trades and FA, that’s where we have to have a partner or somebody to choose us…it’s a big part of every league is doing now…baseball had always done a great job…minor leagues…that’s where Kenny and Jama come in…Steve kind of leading the charge…this is an area where we can improve…those guys are as advertised, in some ways even better than we thought in the short time that we’ve had them…hopefully you can come to practice and see some of their work…”
- who can realistically win the 15th spot: “we haven’t narrowed down who those candidates will be yet, we have some ideas, but the area of need is clear to us so if somebody can handle and have those secondary playmaking duties and be that kind of backup point guard type of guy…Mulder’s there too…maybe he wins the day…you gotta go compete and win the job.”