The Warriors have a vacant roster spot and a few options to fill it.
Two-way players Ty Jerome and Anthony Lamb are candidates to be converted and added to the roster. Or the Warriors can explore the buyout market for a free agent upgrade to supplement their depth.
On his podcast, guard Patrick Beverley, who was recently bought out by the Magic after being traded from the Lakers, revealed that he had a choice to sign with the Bulls or Golden State. He opted to sign with the Bulls – with Lonzo Ball out for the year, Beverley will have a chance at a regular role and consistent minutes in a team with playoff hopes.
“Obviously it’s always good to have a lot of great talent playing in Golden State, but[there are]a lot of guards there,” said Beverley. “I thought I could make a playoff push with the Bulls now and pump them up a little bit. The East is a bit weak.”
It could be assumed that the Warriors would prioritize frontcourt depth in the buyout market. Draymond Green, Kevon Looney and JaMychal Green are the size of their center depth, and any injury could put them in a sticky size and defense situation with the buyout signing on March 1.
But the Warriors’ interest in Beverley indicates they are looking to supplement their defensive depth, particularly defensively, with trade signing Gary Payton II expected to miss at least a month with a core injury. And with Steph Curry’s timeline for returning from a leg injury still undetermined, the Warriors’ heavily armed roster could actually use some help from a seasoned veteran.
Can the Warriors find an upgrade from Jerome and Lamb for that final spot? Point-of-attack defense is clearly at the top of the Warriors’ wish list. President of basketball operations Bob Myers has said any frontcourt expansion would only be considered if there is guaranteed playing time. In other words, they won’t just add a big one unless head coach Steve Kerr and the coaching staff give their approval.
“It’s determined by how the coaches will use that player,” Myers said of their search for a buyout. “For us to say, ‘Here’s a big guy,’ and for the coaching staff to say, ‘We’re not playing that guy. It doesn’t matter if he’s seven, eight feet tall. Any buyout talk needs to be had in collaboration with the technical staff, because why would you bring in a player if they are not going to use him?”
After Beverly, there are few buyout options for defense-focused guards on the radar. But there are some wings and greats the Warriors could be looking at in the buyout market. Here’s a look.
Barton was a thorn in the side of the Warriors, especially from 3-point country, during his years with the Denver Nuggets, shooting an average of 36% shooting on 4.6 attempts per game over his eight seasons there. His shooting volume has taken a minor hit this year – shooting 38% at 3.4 tries per game with a questionable defense in 40 games with the Washington Wizards before being bought out.
But Barton has only played in nine games dating back to December 23 and his rebounding numbers have dropped from 4.8 per game last season to 2.8 this year. Barton is shaping himself as a solid fullback, but will his questionable stint with Washington deter the Warriors?
Ibaka at his best would make a perfect warrior: a big one that could stretch the floor and give some much-needed muscle to the paint at both ends. When he’s healthy, he’s a defensive force. But 33-year-old Ibaka hasn’t played much this season. He played just 16 games this year with the Milwaukee Bucks, was traded to the Indiana Pacers as part of a four-team deal, and promptly reneged on it.
The Miami Heat was paired with Ibaka before landing Kevin Love. But there is some uncertainty about Ibaka’s willingness to step in – he hasn’t played a game since January 1.
Johnson, 26, is an intriguing prospect. He stands 6-foot-7 with the athleticism worth investing in.
But Johnson has failed in his eight-year career to stay with any of the five teams he’s landed on. While Johnson could be an intriguing addition and long-term project for the Warriors, it’s unclear if he could jump into a playoff run with an unknown team right now.
The Warriors might skip the buyout market and work with what they’ve got. It’s entirely possible that the Warriors decide that none of the options in the outside frontcourt is a better fit than Lamb, who is shooting 40% this year with 3.4 3-point attempts per game. Although, as Draymond Green pointed out, he needs to reinforce his habit of helping too much on defense, which the Warriors have a hard time with.
Jerome isn’t bad defensively and is a capable guard to replace Curry and Payton. He is a strong playmaker for others – Jordan Poole, Donte DiVincenzo and Klay Thompson – and for himself. Even though the Warriors are a little vigilant, Jerome is a good fit.