The feeling around the league is the Golden State Warriors are second in line heading into the meetings portion of the Kevin Durant sweepstakes — if Durant decides to leave the comforts (and extra cash) of Oklahoma City, then he may well join the 73-win team from the Bay (and face the wrath of Twitter for forming a super team).
But the Warriors are still second in line. What if he decides to stay in Oklahoma City, or another team leapfrogs everyone with its presentation. Then what for the Warriors?
ESPN reported last week that Golden State is “all-in” on the pursuit of Durant, but sources said this week that the 2015 champions plan to retain Barnes and try to sign a proven big man — sources say Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, David West and Timofey Mozgov are all potential targets — if Durant stays with Oklahoma City or chooses to sign with another team.
The Warriors would also like to retain free-agent center Festus Ezeli, but how they fare in the Durant chase will play a big role in determining his fate.
If the Warriors land Durant then they can’t keep Barnes, need to let Ezeli walk, and likely also need to lose either Andre Iguodala or Andrew Bogut via trade (there are a number of variables in play, they have a few different options, but a lot of salary needs to be shed to give KD the max).
But if Durant chooses a different home, then it’s not hard to picture Noah playing a key role off the bench for them — he can defend the rim, he’s a fantastic passer, he’s not going to demand a lot of offensive touches, he’s a good veteran in the locker room, and the Warriors can limit his minutes to keep him healthy over the course of the long season. Gasol would sort of be the same thing in reverse — he would bring a lot more offense off the bench, if he’s willing to accept that role. Otherwise, they will be able to get some size.
It’s rare to see a team as good as the Warriors be this aggressive in looking at reshaping their roster — things they were thinking about doing before the Finals loss to Cleveland. They are not looking to maintain the status quo. Which if you’re a Warriors fan, should make you happy. If you’re the rest of the league, it should make you nervous.