Free agency changes Warriors roster

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Free agency changes Warriors roster

PHOTO BY ERIK DROST/WIKI MEDIA COMMONS

PHOTO BY ERIK DROST/WIKI MEDIA COMMONS

PHOTO BY ERIK DROST/WIKI MEDIA COMMONS

By TJ Porreca, MANAGING EDITOR

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The Golden State Warriors’ roster will have a drastically different look in the 2019-2020 season after free agency led to a domino effect of changes.
Former Warriors star Kevin Durant announced his decision to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, where Durant will partner with former Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics star, Kyrie Irving. Durant joined Brooklyn on a four-year, max contract worth $164 million.
Durant’s decision set the Warriors down a path that changed a key piece of the core of Golden State’s roster. While Durant was a free agent, Brooklyn’s own free agent guard, D’Angelo Russell, agreed to join Golden State on a four-year max deal, worth $117 million. When the transaction was finalized, the Warriors signed-and-traded Durant to Brooklyn, in a deal that included Russell.
The acquisition of Russell, who had interest from the Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns among others, pushed the Warriors to the NBA’s “hard cap.” The hard cap triggers when a team is in the luxury tax, which the Warriors are, and acquires a player via sign-and-trade.
This meant to acquire Russell, the Warriors had to part with one of two players: Andre Iguodala or Draymond Green. Iguodala was an integral part of Golden State’s rise from 2014 to 2019, but at 35 years old, he was the roster casualty over Green.
Golden State found a trade partner for Iguodala, trading him to the Memphis Grizzlies for a future draft pick. After the trade, Warriors owner Joe Lacob announced the team would retire Iguodala’s No. 9.
Russell’s long-term fit with the Warriors remains to be seen. In the immediacy of the 2019-2020 season, he will fill in for Klay Thompson while Thompson recovers from a torn ACL he suffered in the NBA finals against Toronto. Early estimates suggest Thompson could return to the floor by the 2020 All Star break, but with the nature of his injury, it’s possible he could miss the entire season.
Once Thompson returns, Russell’s fit with the Warriors could become murky. This, in part, is what makes his acquisition by Golden State so interesting. Ultimately, the Warriors acquired Russell to get something in return for the departing Durant, who was set to leave either as a free agent, or via sign-and-trade.
Russell happened to be in high demand this offseason, and next offseason he will be just 24 years-old. It’s conceivable that the Warriors could hold on to Russell for the entire 2019-2020 season, and then trade him next offseason for either players, draft picks, or both. If a team were to acquire Russell in 2020, he would still be under contract for three more seasons.
The Warriors knew a Durant departure was possible all season long heading into this offseason. But now that it happened, it’s abundantly clear that Durant, both on and off the court, is irreplaceable.
With Durant in the Eastern Conference and Thompson out for a majority of the 2019-2020 season, the Warriors reign over the NBA is finished for now. When Durant joined the Warriors, with Golden State coming off of a record-setting 73-9 season, fans of other teams yearned for more parity in the league.
The fall out from 2019 NBA free agency ensured that parity has been restored, and the Warriors new-look roster will have to gel without the steadying veteran presence of Iguodala moving forward.