The Golden State Warriors’ pursuit of an unprecedented fifth championship in nine seasons fell flat, but hope springs eternal with Stephen Curry wearing blue and gold. Here are three major offseason fixes the Warriors must make to win the 2024 NBA Finals.
Trade Jordan Poole
It’s not Poole’s fault Draymond Green completely lost his cool in early October, irreparably damaging the Warriors’ chemistry a couple weeks before their title defense tipped off. But Poole knows better than anyone there’s no coming back from the vicious punch to the face he took from Green during a preseason practice.
Golden State finally shed some real light on the lingering effects of that incident after its hopes for back-to-back championships ended in the Western Conference Semifinals. Poole’s “pouting” against the Sacramento Kings was reportedly the product of a decrease in playing time, but it was always wildly naive to assume fallout from the punch existed in the vacuum of his relationship with Green.
It changed everything about the Warriors’ alchemy in 2022-23, giving them no chance to develop the trust and cohesion that last year’s team rode to a ring. Curry turns 36 next March. Green isn’t going anywhere, and the Dubs just don’t have time to risk that same problem coming back to bite them in 2023-24.
Poole’s ugly performance during Golden State’s brief playoff run, unfortunately, extends far beyond 44.7% true shooting. He was perhaps the most damaging postseason defender in basketball, a massive bullseye for the opposition in pick-and-roll, off-ball screening actions and transition. Curry slipped some on defense this season, and was targeted as mercilessly as Poole as the Warriors fell to LeBron James and the Lakers.
Poole’s presence threatens the togetherness every team needs to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy, while lineups featuring he and Curry have never seemed less tenable defensively. His big-money extension kicking in next season helps push the Dubs’ luxury-tax bill well past the $400 million threshold Joe Lacob has already marked as a line in the sand.
Assuming ownership commits to cutting costs, Golden State is bound to lose the net talent exchange in a Poole trade. He’s still just 23, not even a year removed from emerging as one of the league’s most dynamic, creative young playmakers on the postseason stage. Stardom could still await him.
The Warriors’ clearest path to another championship involves trading Poole regardless. It’s time for both sides to start fresh.
Increase overall size and athleticism
Golden State was absolutely pounded by Domantas Sabonis and the Kings on the offensive glass at times in the first round. De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk ran the ball down the Warriors’ throat over and over in transition, creating efficient shots early in the clock pretty much whenever they wanted.
The Lakers took exactly twice as many free throws as the Warriors, and Golden State committed a whopping 42 more fouls than Los Angeles. Those extreme trends carried into the second round from the regular season, while a locked-in Anthony Davis and LeBron James overwhelmed the Dubs in the paint—seemingly at will—on both sides of the ball.
It’s no coincidence the Warriors’ collective lack of size and athleticism was laid barest when it mattered most. They were subject to that inherent disadvantage almost every night across the 82-game grind. Only the good teams feature a beast like Sabonis and blur like Fox or two-way monsters like Davis and James, though.
Playoff basketball is a different animal, one that made Golden State seem like prey in the first two rounds far more than at any other point in the Kerr era. The Dubs simply must get bigger and more explosive in 2023-24.
A full season of Gary Payton II’s hyper-disruptive defense and stellar finishing will help there, and Jonathan Kuminga committing to the grunt work that would earn him a guaranteed spot in the lineup would loom even larger. An earmarked rotation role for Moses Moody will at least make the Warriors a bit longer on the perimeter; he was also plenty comfortable tussling and tangling for boards in the playoffs.
The Warriors' lack of flexibility could make it very hard to address their biggest need this summer—barring internal improvement, at least.
— Warriors Nation (@WarriorNationCP) May 24, 2023
But it’s imperative Bob Myers—or whoever is running the front office—looks past incumbents to up Golden State’s all-around physicality before next season. The Dubs’ best hope of adding an impact third big or additional wing is via trading Poole. They just don’t have the spending capacity needed to bring in that type of player on the open market.
The Warriors have the opportunity to make one significant team-building splash this summer. The major physical deficiencies they faced en route to a disappointing postseason should inform it as much anything else.
Ease the burden on Stephen Curry
The biggest problem with moving Poole? His departure would almost certainly lower Golden State’s ability to break down defenses and create shots in the halfcourt outside Curry, arguably this team’s biggest single weakness. The prospect of losing Donte DiVincenzo in free agency only compounds that worry.
Even so, the Warriors’ championship equation in 2023-24 is probably best reached by prioritizing versatility, defense and ancillary scoring punch in a Poole trade. Only so many offense-first guards really move the needle in the postseason—a number much smaller among reserves. Curry needs to be the only player on the floor who fits that profile if the Dubs want to level back up toward legitimate title contention.
Somehow, some way, Kerr and company will likely need to ease the playmaking burden on Curry absent Poole and the help of another dynamic guard added via trade.
Maybe that means Andrew Wiggins tapping back into the ball-handling responsibilities he shouldered with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Could Klay Thompson’s necessary late-career improvement comes in the form of leveraging his shooting threat by creating more shots for teammates? Payton was a point guard, living on the fringes of the league, before finding his calling in Golden State before last season. Kuminga has the very early makings of a potential secondary creator.
It will be tough for the Dubs to make life easier on Curry. He proved he can still put on the superhero cape in Game 7 of the first round. But the best playoff defenses are too disruptive and disciplined to be bothered by one-dimensional offenses, an attack the Dubs were ultimately forced to settle for against the Lakers and Kings while Curry’s teammates struggled immensely to exist outside his singular orbit.
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