The Golden State Warriors have been the team to beat in this era of basketball. Winning four of the last eight championships and making six of the last eight finals, Golden State has built a dynasty-level team that will always be remembered as one of the greatest units in league history. They were built through the draft, selecting Stephen Curry seventh overall in the 2009 draft, Klay Thompson 11th overall in the 2011 draft, and Draymond Green 35th overall in the 2012 draft. This has been the core three for Golden State over the past decade, and all three have grown and developed together into a Hall of Fame trio.
All three stars have exceeded expectations immensely compared to their expectations coming out of the draft. Many thought Curry would be a bust and find himself out of the league after one of two contracts. Instead, he’s turned into one of the greatest to ever do it, building himself a strong argument to be considered the greatest point guard in league history. Thompson was seen as a high-floor, low-ceiling 3-and-D wing, but he’s panned out to be the greatest 3-and-D player of all time with his all-time shooting combined with consistently elite defense. Green was seen as a defender at most coming out of his draft, and although his offensive game has never been of note, he’s developed into one of the best and highest IQ defenders of all time. He’s still no slack offensively, as he’s always been an elite passer and play initiator upon entering the league.
The Warriors have had other homegrown talents contribute to wins, however, these three are the core guys. It seems as if Golden State has found a way to replicate developing stars in the draft 10 years later, the perfect time considering their iconic big three is beginning to age swiftly. Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and James Wiseman are four youngsters with boatloads of potential. In Golden State’s system, there’s a good chance multiple of these players become stars. Poole is the most worthy player to note, as he tallied 18 points per game this past season, shooting 45% from the field and 36% from deep while dishing out four assists and becoming a more polished passer game by game.
Golden State has one more key player in town, and that comes in the form of Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins was a revelation in the playoffs, especially in the Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals when it mattered most. Wiggins was touted as the next Kobe Bryant coming into the 2014 NBA draft, and although he’s come nothing close to that, he’s carved out a more than successful career. Despite a rocky start with the Minnesota Timberwolves where he couldn’t find a role for himself, Golden State was able to mold a role for him in the system to be effective. They had Wiggins do everything; from hitting threes and slashing to the rim, to rebounding the ball at a high rate, to picking up the best offensive player on the opposition defensively. Wiggins has developed into Golden State’s second most important player, slowly but surely.
With Golden State being so deep, it eventually creates a dilemma. There are too many good players on this roster, and with that, there’s not enough cap space to give everyone the money they deserve. Going into the next offseason, all three of Wiggins, Green, and Poole become free agents, and there simply won’t be enough available cap space to retain all three with Curry and Thompson making max money.
Golden State can throw two of the three max money, but in this case, it means sacrificing one. It might be hard for Warriors fans to let him go, and it may be hard to see him put on a new jersey, but they should easily let Green be the one to find a new home next offseason.
As much as he’s done for the franchise and as much as he can continue to do for them, he’s the easy pick to let walk. Green will be 33 years old by next summer, and he’ll still have one or two more years with All-Star level impact, but Green may crumble as a player fast into his mid-30s. Not only is he the oldest of all three, but he’s in the worst shape of all three as well. This, combined with his lack of a scoring or shooting game, will hurt his longevity tremendously. He’ll always have a spot on an NBA roster up until his 40s simply due to his all-time IQ and elite passing, which are two things that will never go away. However, when his defense regresses, it will likely regress rather fast, and it’d be way more logical for Golden State to pay Poole and Wiggins over him.
Wiggins is already taking over as Golden State’s primary “glue guy” as we speak, and at times, Poole looks like a junior Curry. Each will have an impact on Golden State for much longer than Green in the long-term future, so if Green is solely focused on making as much money as possible late into his career, he’s the odd man out in this situation.
Regardless, this doesn’t make for an easy decision. Golden State could easily go the wrong route and let the wrong guy go, and a lot of this depends on potential contracts. However, if one has to walk, it should be Green.