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Five players Warriors could target in free agency

© Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve got no idea how the NBA offseason will play out. The Warriors might trade James Wiseman, Andrew Wiggins and all of three of their draft picks. Maybe they bide their time until the trade deadline, or utilize their Andre Iguodala trade exception to add another highly-priced player to their already bloated books. Or maybe they just add through the draft and hope another year with Klay Thompson back in the mix is enough to make this team a contender again.

For now, we’ll assume that their approach in free agency incorporates everyone who is currently rostered, with Kelly Oubre Jr. not returning. Failing to trade him at the deadline seemed a mistake at the time, and if they can’t find a sign-and-trade partner for him now, and he fails to re-sign, it will look like an even worse misevaluation than it did then.

Regardless, this team isn’t getting under the salary cap, and unless they can somehow shed Andrew Wiggins and James Wiseman-sized salaries with league minimum deals in return, it’s not a team that will be under the luxury tax either.

That’s all to say, it’s going to be strictly minimum deals and mid-level exception money.

From what we saw last year, it’s imperative the Warriors find shooters; proven commodities who can come into a game for less than 10 minutes at a time and hit a couple threes. Jordan Poole is thrilling when he’s on, but he might go 3-for-31 over a three-game stretch before that switch flips back in the right direction. And regardless, the Warriors need more bench scoring than Poole and stronger veteran leadership.

Right now, without Oubre, you’re looking at a lineup that looks roughly like this:

Curry, Klay, Wiggins, Draymond, Wiseman

Poole, Lee, Paschall, JTA, Looney

Here’s who they could add to that group:

Patty Mills

Mills is coming off a four-year, $50 million deal, and even as a 33-year-old next season, he’s still a reliable bench scorer and ball handler who scored 10.8 points per game on 37.5 percent shooting from three. He’s probably going to be worth more than the luxury tax mid-level exception, which was $5.718 million last season. Still, if he’s available, it’s hard to see how Mills, a Saint Mary’s graduate, wouldn’t be a fantastic candidate for a return to the Bay.

He’s an effective ball-handler and bench scorer with the sort of experience that would be valuable on the floor with those mostly young bench units. He’s not going to help much defensively, but the Warriors’ problems last season were founded on offense.

Nemanja Bjelica

“Belly” as he’s called, and as he should be solely referred to, was rumored to be a player the Warriors were interested in last year around the trade deadline. His production has dipped since his best season with Sacramento in 2019-20 (11.5 points on 48.1 percent shooting, 41.9 percent from three, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists), but he’s still a viable and crucially cheap candidate to fit in as a stretch four.

He’s a career 38.7 three-point shooter in a 6’10”, 234-pound frame who’s an effective rebounder with solid court vision. Like with Mills, he’s not all that effective defensively and limited in terms of mobility, so pairing him with someone like (a hopefully healthy) Marquese Chriss or a more defensively sound James Wiseman could be an intriguing combination.

Alec Burks

Burks might have priced himself out of the mid-level exception with how well he played last season for the Knicks. He was outstanding in their playoff series with the Hawks and had some ice-in-his-veins moments down the stretch.

He’ll likely want to parlay that success elsewhere and might not want a Warriors reunion, but he’s an outstanding bench scorer who can get his own shot without much help. He averaged 14 points, 5 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game in five playoff games this season and shot 41.5 percent from three in the regular season. If he’s available at the mid-level, the Warriors would be foolish not to make him an offer.

Wayne Ellington

Ellington is almost the ideal bench scoring guard. He’s been an efficient shooter for the Warriors. He’s a career 38.2 percent three-point shooter and improved to 42.2 percent from that range last season with Detroit on six attempts per game and 9.6 points per game. As is the theme here, he’s a defensive liability. But again, you’re not getting the full package at the mid-level exception, you’re getting a lot of one-way, veteran players who excel at one or two things. And Ellington is absolutely an effective bench shooter.

Kevin Love

Love is a prime buyout candidate who’s getting the chance to play with Draymond Green at the Olympics; if he gets bought out by the Cavaliers, the Warriors could effectively steal him for the minimum.

According to Rusty Simmons of The San Francisco Chronicle, there have been rumblings that Love will get bought out and that the Warriors are expected to be players if that does happen. Even if he’s a shell of himself, you can expect that he’ll be much improved over the version that we’ve seen lately with Cleveland. Few players would benefit from a change of scenery more than him.

Even if he’s never the same, a guy who puts up 12.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists with as much experience as Love does, would be an invaluable bench presence.

He said recently how much Green has grown on him.

“Obviously, with Draymond, it’s a love-hate relationship, but we’ve become actually pretty close friends over the past few years,” Love said. “I love how he competes, his mind for the game, his intangibles, how he leads the break. He passes, he plays defense, and it seems like he’s always in the right spot.

“He’s first-team All-Defense and has been the Defensive Player of the Year for a reason, so I think we can elevate each other’s game.”

Bonus names:

There are another handful of guys who fit the backcourt bench scorer/facilitator role who just as easily could have been included above. Avery Bradley is obviously more of a defensive specialist, but his 36.3 career three-point percentage isn’t disqualifying:

  • Wesley Matthews
  • E’Twaun Moore
  • Austin Rivers
  • Avery Bradley

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