The Golden State Warriors are looking to become back-to-back champs as the NBA season starts in a little over two weeks. Were their off-season moves enough to make that happen?
While the Warriors did let go of some fan favorites, they are hoping for leaps from their lottery picks from the past few seasons. There is legitimate hope within the organization that Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody both take strides forward as their minutes increase. James Wiseman is rumored to be fully healthy and apparently has been participating in a “ton of pickup” games over the past month.
If Kuminga and Moody are able to take the next steps forward, then losing Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II becomes an easier pill to swallow. Both of them quickly became fan favorites as they brought many Warrior fans back to the glory days of the “strength in numbers” mantra.
Nemanja Bjelica signed a two-year deal with Fenerbenche in Turkey. Bjelica’s season with the Warriors was a rollercoaster ride. In his first game of the season against the Los Angeles Lakers, he notched a 15-point double-double where he missed just one shot. Eventually, he came back down to earth and actually went on a lengthy shooting slump, which prompted many fans to cry for his release. But the Warriors stuck with the former Euroleague MVP and he eventually became an NBA champion. The Warriors will miss his ability to stretch the floor and make plays for others.
OPJ took his talents north of the border to the Toronto Raptors. Porter’s wife is from Toronto, which seemed to be a big reason why he chose Toronto over running it back with the Warriors. Porter was seen as a great signing if he was able to stay healthy throughout the season. A few bumps here and there, but load management and minute restrictions helped him have one of his healthiest seasons. Porter was fantastic for the team and a key starter in the Finals for the Warriors. Many knew OPJ could shoot, but I think one of his most underrated abilities was his timely rebounding. He seemed to always be in the mix to grab important rebounds throughout the entire season and postseason, something that the Warriors will surely miss.
One of my favorite moments from this past season was Porter going ballistic against the Phoenix Suns and letting them know he had arrived:
Gary Payton II earned the last roster spot for the Warriors at the beginning of the 2021-22 season. He made the most of his opportunity as he went on to earn a fully guaranteed three-year $26,145,000 contract with the Portland Trailblazers. As tough as it was to see GP2 go, it was amazing to see him get paid what he deserved.
GP2 had some fantastic moments throughout the season. His defensive toughness and his explosive dunks created some jaw-dropping highlights. One of the best was him dunking on former Warrior, Kelly Oubre Jr.:
Damion Lee was a spark plug off the bench that took his talents to the Phoenix Suns this past offseason. Although he was not a fan favorite, there is no denying he had his fair share of bright spots, like his game-winner against the Chicago Bulls, which will always be remembered by Warrior fans.
Juan Toscano-Anderson didn’t always have the biggest impact on games, but he represented the epitome of patience and hard work and how it will eventually get you to where you are meant to be. Add into the mix that he is from East Oakland, and he was instantly a fan favorite. Juan T’s hustle and play earned him respect around the organization. His gutsiest play being against the Boston Celtics:
He received 35 stitches for that play alone. His toughness was displayed on national TV, and from then on, Juan T was beloved by Warriors fans.
He was more than a hustler, he was like a mini-Draymond for the Warriors. When he was on the floor, good things seemed to happen. His energy and play will definitely be missed, but I am glad he was signed, even if it was by the evil Los Angeles Lakers.
Also for good measure, here is his absolute poster on JaVale McGee:
Donte DiVincenzo was a huge pick-up for the Warriors. The former Villanova champion is just 25 years old. His defensive prowess is a welcome addition after losing GP2, but his shot-making ability will be needed as well. Since his injury in the 2020-21 season, he hasn’t looked the same. Prior to his injury, DiVincenzo was an effective shooter, netting 37.9% of his threes. If he can hover around 36-37% from beyond the arc, he’s going to fit in nicely. The Warriors were able to rehabilitate OPJ’s career, who’s to say they can’t do that with DiVincenzo.
JaMychal Green is a player that the Warriors have been trying to get their hands on for some time now. His toughness and his ability to space the floor is a match made in heaven for Steve Kerr and his offense. J. Green should be a good backup big for the Warriors. He fits the role of small-ball-five and he also possesses the ability to space the floor at the four spot as well. In his best season, J. Green hit 40.3% of his threes. Last season, he hit just 26.6%. He will have to get that number to around the 33-34% to stretch the floor effectively, but his defense and rebounding will probably keep him on the floor.
Draft day steals?
The Warrior’s front office is known for their calculated moves, but they are also known for their excellent drafting as well. This trend may continue with the 2022 class as they seem to have hit on two very good players.
Patrick Baldwin Jr. was once considered a sure-fire lottery pick, but a tough college career shattered those dreams. PBJ dealt with injuries, as well as having too much on his plate. His story should be a cautionary tale to all young players on how important fit is. Having your freshman phenom as your do-it-all guy puts a lot of pressure on a young player. Especially when they are trying to figure out how the college game works. Unfortunately for PBJ, he struggled throughout the season, and he never really got a footing for the college level. So he slid down to the Warriors as they selected him with the 28th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
The Milwaukee forward stands at 6’9. He has a good overall feel for both sides of the ball. PBJ has a nice, smooth jumper, and sneaky athleticism. Defensively, he needs to work on his IQ, but his body and frame should help expedite his growth to reach his defensive potential.
This was seen as a steal since PBJ was once seen as a can’t-miss-prospect, and by putting him alongside greats like Steph, Klay, and Draymond, the sky could be the limit.
Ryan Rollins was someone I was not too familiar with when the Warriors drafted him. Like many other fans, I immediately searched for his highlights on YouTube and was very impressed with his overall game and feel. The Toledo guard stands at 6’4 and was selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 44th overall pick, which was later dealt to the Warriors.
Rollins is a shifty guard, similar to Jordan Poole, who has a good feel for the offensive side of the ball. He is also a capable rebounder as he grabbed 6 a game in college. He is an efficient scorer since he averaged 18.9 points a game in his sophomore season while shooting 46.8% from the field.
Gui Santos set the Summer League ablaze after his 23-point debut game. The 21-year-old from Brazil is a unique prospect that was selected with the 55th overall pick and he will spend the entire season in the G-League. He is a 6’8 forward who projects as a Swiss Army knife. He can shoot a bit, has some nice athleticism, and has some good defensive instincts. His goal for the upcoming season is to simply refine his skills. Santos could be a really nice role player in the future.
Although both PBJ, Rollins, and Santos present intriguing projects, they will all likely play in the G-League for a majority of the season.
Path to success
The Warriors roster is essentially set, with one final spot going to either Mac McClung, the high school athletic freak, or Quinndary Weatherspoon, a player the Warriors have seen grow under their watch. Weatherspoon offers defense on the wing, while McClung offers more of an offensive punch at the guard position. I believe the Warriors go with Weatherspoon, but McClung is an intriguing young player who is likely to have outside interest from other teams.
As for the Warrior’s path to success, the front office has put a lot of trust into the hope that last year’s rookies make an impact this season. Kuminga, Moody, and Wiseman are all going to be important rotational pieces for this upcoming season. Moody and Kuminga might not have a shot at a starting spot, but they could easily get a bulk of the bench minutes with OPJ and GP2 both gone.
There is a possibility that Wiseman finally breaks out and stays healthy *knocks on wood* this season. There is a path for him to become the full-time starter, similar to Draymond Green taking over David Lee’s spot all those years ago.
The Warriors are still a formidable foe in the West. With their core still intact, and their rookies looking to take a leap forward, it’s going to be very difficult to stop them.
The Warriors start their season at home to receive their championship rings against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on October 18th.