The Kevin Durant sweepstakes are entering the Christmas Eve phase. As the Warriors anxiously await whether or not they are going to receive one of the NBA’s most luxurious gifts, the organization must decide whether he’s worth essentially breaking up the entire team.
Signing Durant would cost an estimated $26.6 million in cap space and the Warriors would have to maneuver to get there, as broken down by The Vertical.
Letting Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli already seems like a foregone conclusion, but in addition, GM Bob Myers would have to trade either Andrew Bogut or Andre Iguodala for virtually nothing in return — likely draft picks. And even then, it would leave the Warriors with the minimum salary base ($2.9 million) to fill out the rest of the roster.
This is the Warriors’ current conundrum: Is it worth it to shuffle in an entirely new roster for one more superstar?
First, remember how much team chemistry means to Steve Kerr. The Warriors were a solid playoff team before the coach arrived, but morphed into a symbiotic breathing organism once he took over. Kerr may trust his skills in building a brand new team from scratch with new concepts. Or he may nudge Myers to keep as much of this team intact as possible.
The flip side of the coin is that Strength in Numbers ultimately failed the Warriors in Games 5, 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals. The bigger the moment, the smaller the bench came up — and these guys aren’t exactly spring chickens. Replacing Mo Speights, Leandro Barbosa and Brandon Rush shouldn’t be extremely difficult. Similarly to Richard Jefferson in Cleveland, if veteran players want to win, Golden State will become a soft landing spot with roles to be had.
Now on to the real issue: Would you keep Bogut or Iguodala? On the surface it seems like a no-brainer.
But if the Warriors do land Durant — a joyous moment no matter the ramifications to follow — don’t be 100 percent certain they would choose to keep Iguodala over Bogut. Yes, the 32-year-old Iguodala is universally recognized as the better basketball player who can do more things than the Australian big man. Iguodala’s role within the team — the calming dribbling, the suffocating defense, the three-point shooting and the decision making — is irreplaceable. Often times, it’s Iggy who makes the Warriors tick, and not the Splash Brothers. Losing an All-Star caliber player off the bench would be devastating.
But injured back or not, Iguodala wasn’t the LeBron-Stopper he was in 2015. His scoring dipped to just 8.9 points per game this postseason, where he topped 15 points just once in the Western Conference Finals and the NBA Finals. When Steph Curry was floundering, this time Iguodala wasn’t able to pick up the pieces and keep the Warriors moving.
Further, if Golden State gets rid of both Bogut and Ezeli in the same offseason, they could theoretically be digging their own grave. As fascinating as a Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green lineup is, it completely ignores the fact that the Warriors were soundly beaten in the post by young big men all throughout the playoffs. Assuming rookie Damian Jones and some veteran signed for the league minimum are ready to combat this deficiency is playing with fire.
Bogut’s health is obviously the foremost concern, as is his age (31). Big men tend to deteriorate quickly in the NBA, and the end could be near for Bogut. Then you remember he was the No. 1 defensive player in the league in certain metrics, his 15-point, 14 rebound revival in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals completely flipped the script and his role as a gifted passer and screen-setter would mix much more with Durant and other shooters on the court. Because Durant takes away the basketball from Iguodala’s hands, finding a comparable Bogut replacement may actually be the harder task.
No matter which call Myers makes, this is going to be an excruciating decision. Bogut is due $16.6 million, Iguodala $16.5 — also meaning their won’t be a surplus of teams willing to take on those contracts. The Warriors would like to keep either one out of the Western Conference, but may not have a choice.
If Durant stays put in Oklahoma City, and the team instead decides to replace Barnes with someone like Ryan Anderson or Marvin Williams, they can likely keep both Bogut and Iguodala in the fold.
But with desperate teams in free agency — the aging Joakim Noah is already rumored to be garnering a maximum contract from the Wizards — the Warriors have to be careful. Quality big men are going to be impossible to find for the price tag Golden State can offer.
Iguodala has meant so much to the Warriors since his unexpected arrival in the summer 2013. Myers and Kerr can’t let triumphs of the past cloud their vision of building the best roster of the future.