By Devin Zanskas

Draymond getting suspended for two separate stints contributed significantly to the Warriors’ disappointing season, as he missed 21 games combined. He’s one of the best defensive players ever, so Draymond being unavailable for a quarter of the year was bound to hurt the Warriors, especially with their lack of size compared to the rest of the league. The offense is also diminished whenever Draymond is out due to his exceptional passing, as only six other big men are averaging at least five assists in 55 or more games played, per Given the suspensions, Draymond hasn’t quite met’s requirement of 55 games, but he’s posted at least five assists per game since the 2015-2016 season. Another veteran who personifies the Warriors’ struggles is Klay Thompson, who’s averaging a career low three-point percentage. He’s also scoring less than 18 points per game for the first time in ten years.



While Klay’s the first of the Big 3 to show this level of decline, he’s still averaging 17.6 points, so it might just seem like a more significant slump because of his 20-point standard that’s lasted about a decade. That slight dip in production may exceed the Warriors’ margin for error if they want to reclaim the success that they had during 2022, given the top four in the West this season. Meanwhile, debatably the most impactful playoff performer when they won it all besides Steph, Andrew Wiggins, hasn’t played the same since only being active for 37 regular season games last year. Despite returning for the postseason in 2023, and producing similarly compared to years prior, Wiggins is putting up fewer points, assists, steals, and minutes played than any other point in his career. This stretch from Wiggins led to him leaving the starting lineup with Draymond when he was suspended for the second time, and they were replaced by Jonathan Kuminga and Brandin Podziemski. If someone asked Kuminga, he might say that his increased opportunity is well overdue, as The Athletic’s Shams Charania tweeted that Kuminga no longer had faith in Steve Kerr in early January. Although Kerr was dubbed one of the Top 15 coaches in NBA history in honor of the association’s 75th Anniversary, Kuminga backed up his comments by being key to the Warriors’ survival so far. The very next day, The Athletic’s Anthony Slater reported that Kerr and Kuminga had squashed their beef, and he’s averaged 19.4 points since the Nuggets game that sparked this controversy. Going back to the 2021 draft, when the Warriors selected Kuminga with the seventh overall pick, he’s been the Warriors’ best example of it being possible to execute two timelines simultaneously. If the Warriors were to push all of their chips in for Steph to have another shot at a title though, Kuminga would probably be the most intriguing piece for a team that would be sending back a proven star.

According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Warriors asked Rich Paul, the agent for LeBron James, if he’d be interested in joining the organization that he battled in four finals appearances, and he said no. While it’s noteworthy that LeBron’s camp itself, not the Lakers’ owner, Jeanie Buss, was who ultimately halted the momentum behind this staggering hypothetical, the talks could surface again in the summer. The Warriors are above the second apron by $25 million, which means that as of next year, they can’t receive any more money than what they would send out in a trade. For example, a couple of months ago, listed five trade candidates for the Warriors to pursue, and Pascal Siakam was the first name mentioned. Even though Indiana acquired Siakam days later, he would’ve been a great fit on the Warriors. However, if these rules were already in place, they would’ve had to send out at least $37.9 million, since that’s his salary. Only Steph and Klay make as much money as Siakam, but breaking up the Splash Brothers would’ve been sacrilegious to Warriors fans. The next highest paid Warrior is Paul, whose salary is $30.8 million, and to include Kuminga in a deal with Paul, the Warriors still would’ve had to add $1.1 million to the trade. Pairing Kuminga with Wiggins in a trade may be more difficult because their redundancy is part of what got in the way of Kuminga getting more minutes before the new year. Those two will make enough money combined, $33.9 million, to acquire someone else on the list that Siakam was on, Jerami Grant. 



Previously, the Warriors elected to keep large contracts, even for players outside of their Big 3, instead of letting them expire, like when they got D’Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade for Kevin Durant. That’s because the Warriors know that once they exceed the luxury tax threshold, the taxpayer mid-level exception is their greatest tool for adding talent, and that’s only around $5 million. By the 2019 offseason, when KD left the Warriors, they already made enormous luxury tax payments the prior two years, and had three championships under their belt. Many other owners in this situation would’ve been satisfied with their accomplishments from the previous five years, and used that as an excuse to escape the luxury tax. Although, according to, the Warriors made more luxury tax payments than another other franchise between 2001 and 2022, and they’re not showing any signs of penny pinching. Maintaining Russell let the Warriors add Wiggins, who was obviously a huge piece of the puzzle when they won it all two seasons ago, and it might be forgotten that that’s how the Warriors got Kuminga too. The result of this year remains to be seen, but so far, it’s looking much more similar to 2020 and 2021, when they missed the playoffs completely. The difference between those two seasons and this one is that Draymond is going to end up playing many more games than Steph or Klay did in the years that they missed all or most of the season. That may be a sign that this year isn’t an aberration, and the league is evolving beyond this Warriors core. Ironically, Steph is scoring better now than he did in 2022, when they most recently won a title. In the end, the Warriors might have to mortgage more of their future if they want to make sure that Steph rides off into the sunset in blue and gold.