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Warriors signing DeMarcus Cousins not even best development of their summer

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Rockets downgraded. LeBron James didn’t form a super team anywhere. Only the Raptors emerged as a new contender, and that’s only if Kawhi Leonard is healthy.

The Warriors’ path to another championship looks even clearer now than it did at the beginning of the summer.

Oh, and they signed DeMarcus Cousins.

Of course Golden State isn’t assured a third straight title and fourth in five years. I’ve been banging the drum against the inevitability of a Warriors championship during this entire run, and I’m sure not stopping now. There are too many variables just to assume one team will cruise against a field of 29 others. But few teams have ever looked so well-positioned entering the season.

Golden State returns its entire elite core. Kevin Durant re-signed, though on just another 1+1 deal. Uncertainty seems unavoidable with him.

At least he’ll be a known factor next season. The same can’t be said of Cousins.

Cousins’ Achilles tear makes it unclear when he’ll play, let alone when he’ll play at a high level. Even once he gets healthy and on track individually, there are real questions about how he’ll fit with the Warriors. Cousins won’t necessarily be the dominant force that stacks the deck insurmountably in Golden State’s favor.

There was also a real opportunity cost to signing him. The Warriors needed more wings rather than another center, and they used their biggest tool to upgrade – the mid-level exception – on Cousins. And they’ll almost certainly get him for only one year. The largest starting salary they can effectively offer him next summer is just $6,404,400. If Cousins can’t command far more than that on the open market, he probably wouldn’t be welcomed back, anyway.

All that said, Golden State had to sign him when he agreed to play for so little. He’s so darned talented. It’s worth the risk. If everything pans out, he could help the 2018-19 Warriors stake a claim as the greatest team of all time.

Otherwise, the Warriors were pretty conservative this summer.

They drafted Jacob Evans No. 28 and signed Kevon Looney and Jonas Jerebko to minimum contracts. Patrick McCaw will probably accept his qualifying offer.

David West retired. JaVale McGee signed with the Lakers. Zaza Pachulia signed with the Pistons. Nick Young remains unsigned.

On a team with Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala, those players just don’t move the needle much. Golden State was mostly locked into a static summer by virtue of the team’s incredible standing already.

So, it was shocking the Warriors added a potential gamechanger in Cousins. But the biggest moves for Golden State were the ones that didn’t happen elsewhere to threaten its supremacy.

 

Offseason grade: A

David West retires

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David West changed the NBA forever.

His own career was impressive enough. He made two All-Star appearances with the New Orleans Hornets, played a big role on really good Pacers teams and won titles the last two years with the Warriors.

But those accomplishments, though absolutely commendable, don’t loom over the league.

West’s 2015 decision to leave more than $10 million on the table to leave Indiana for San Antonio did – because Kevin Durant took notice.

Durant, of course, left Oklahoma City for Golden State the following year. His reasons weren’t precisely the same as those of West, who voiced displeasure with how the Pacers treated Roy Hibbert. But the blueprint – sacrificing to join a better team – was similar.

That should be West’s legacy as he exits the NBA at age 38.

West:

West influencing Durant should be no surprise, because West is so respected around the league. West is tough, wise, proud, socially conscious and just real.

He’ll definitely be missed in Golden State’s locker room.

On the court, it’s more complicated. He played limited minutes. He was exposed in certain matchups. But West was darn effective in his role off the bench last season.

The Warriors just want to move onto a less center-centric roster. DeMarcus Cousins, Jordan Bell, Damian Jones, Kevon Looney and Draymond Green can handle minutes at center. West’s roster spot will go to a wing.

It’s hard to imagine a career more fulfilling than West’s. And because Durant followed in his footsteps, West will see his impact on the game last far longer.

Five free agents still available who can help teams

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The NBA summer is basically over. We are now closer to the start of the new season than we are the end of the NBA Finals and most teams have their rosters set, they are just adding training camp invites. Or, guys who could maybe get the 14th or 15th roster spot.

Still, some name free agents can help teams.

Here are the big five on the market still.

1. Rodney Hood (restricted). At this point, he’s going to remain a Cavalier next season. No team is making an offer the Cavaliers wouldn’t just match (only Sacramento has the cap space to do it, and they are focused on others at the wing), meaning the only question left is if he plays for the $3.4 million qualifying offer or if the two sides work out a different deal.

How his stock has fallen. One year ago he was preparing for a season where he expected to be the go-to scorer of the Utah Jazz. By the end of the season he barely got off the bench in Cleveland (and in one case would not get off the bench).

That said, he can help a Cavaliers team that doesn’t want to just tear it down despite LeBron James leaving (see the Kevin Love contract). Hood is a 6’8” wing who can get buckets, and the Cavaliers could use that. Play well, rehab his image, and he will not be in this situation a year from now.

2. Jamal Crawford. He’s 38 years old (which scares some teams), and his efficiency has slipped, but the man can still get buckets off the bench (10.3 points per game last season) and more than a few teams could use that. Plus he’s seen as good in the locker room. He turned down a $4.5 million player option with the Timberwolves because he wanted a bigger role (he was getting 20 minutes a game last season) but at this point that is apparently off the table. Still, some team is going to pick him up.

3. Dwyane Wade. He’s made it clear, if he comes back it will be with the Miami Heat for one year. While a rumor got going on Twitter Tuesday that he was close to signing a contract with the Heat, I was told by sources that is not the case. Then Wade Tweeted this:

Nobody knows for sure, but I would lean retirement over return at this point. That said, the decision will come when Wade is ready, not before. He’s earned that right.

4. Nick Young. No team could use some Swaggy P? He’s a character, often doesn’t play within the flow in the offense, he doesn’t play great defense, but he just played 17 minutes a game for the NBA champions, hr hit some threes and shot 41 percent from deep, and made some plays. Another guy who is not young (11 years in the league) but some team will likely give a chance (if not at the start of the season, as a mid-season replacement).

5. David West. His role shrank with the Warriors last season — he averaged 6.8 points last season on 13.7 minutes a game — but he was still efficient when he was on the court (a 20.9 PER). Plus, he is excellent in the locker room. A lot of younger teams could use his presence in the locker room, but he may be a mid-season replacement for a team looking for front-line depth.

Honorable Mention: Joe Johnson. He’s 37-years-old and has 17 seasons of miles on his legs, but he still knows how to play the game. He struggled to help Houston or Utah last season, but don’t be shocked if he is a mid-season pickup by a team.

• Added note: Trevor Booker would have been on this list, but he decided to take the cash in China for a season.

Steve Kerr says Andre Iguodala pranked him about leaving for Kings

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All is well in a land of the Golden State Warriors. The 2018 NBA champs celebrated in Oakland today with their championship parade. Meanwhile, stories about the Warriors are beginning to trickle out of Golden State, including one about Andre Iguodala‘s free agency in 2017.

Iguodala had many suitors that summer, including the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings, in addition to the Warriors. According to Golden State coach Steve Kerr, Iguodala apparently pranked the Warriors coach by setting up a conference call with him and GM Bob Myers to let them know that he was going to head to Sacramento.

Speaking on Zach Lowe’s podcast on Tuesday, Kerr told the story about Iguodala’s joke.

Via The Lowe Post:

I was never really that worried. I guess Sacramento was involved, and they were offering him a big deal. Typical Andre, he decided to play a joke on Bob and me. He got us on a conference call and told us he was going to go to Sacramento. We wished him well and he’s like, “I gotcha suckers, I’m coming back.”

We know that there were some things happening behind the scenes in the Warriors organization that David West hinted about — some things that might not be exactly all peaches and cream. This seems relatively harmless, but no doubt we will hear more stories about the intricacies of this team and the people behind it as the days move along through summer.

Apparently Iguodala didn’t catch Kerr by surprise for too long, and his ruse only stood up for a few seconds until they figured out the Warriors guard was going to return to the team. Still, to have that kind of relationship and trust between a player and front office folks is pretty surprising. You don’t hear about two many players pranking their general managers during free agency.

Warriors’ GM Bob Myers will give Kevin Durant new deal he wants

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Warriors general manager Bob Myers expects swift negotiations to re-sign two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant and coach Steve Kerr.

Durant could sign for as long as four years and about $160 million, and Myers is prepared to give him “whatever he wants.” Durant has said all along he wants to stay put, especially after winning a pair of championships in his first two seasons with Golden State.

“Sometimes you don’t negotiate. I’d love to have him for 10 years. Kevin Durant, look what he did for us last year, he did us a great service,” Myers said. “He’s earned the right to sign whatever deal he wants. I just want him to sign a deal. But want him to be happy and want him to know that we want him as long as he wants to be here. He’s earned that, to kind of lay out the terms. He can do whatever he wants. That shouldn’t be a long negotiation. Our goal, to be honest, is to try to keep the whole thing together, so that’s the pieces of the puzzle we’ve got to try to figure out.”

Kerr has one year remaining on his original five-year contract, so he would receive a multiyear extension – and Kerr wants to coach Golden State for the long haul, perhaps for another decade if he can.

He doesn’t expect any difficulties in getting a deal worked out.

“We’ll get that done pretty quick, I don’t think it’ll be much to it,” Kerr said.

Myers wants to keep as much of the core of the two-time defending champions intact while also realizing the Warriors will be a younger team without the same veteran presence as the group that just swept LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to finish the finals Friday. Working to try to extend the contracts of Draymond Green and Klay Thompson could be discussed as well.

“Sure, guys have proven they can win so you want to keep that group together,” Myers said. “I have no idea how that’ll play out. It’s a lot of different conversations that have to take place and if that’s something that we want to look into I’m sure we could have those – Klay’s got another year, Draymond’s got two more. Kevin’s really the free agent we have to focus on.”

After a regular season that was anything but steady, with Stephen Curry limited by injuries to 51 regular-season games, losing seven of 10 late, all four All-Stars out at the same time for health reasons, the Warriors on Tuesday will again host that victory parade in downtown Oakland they planned for all along – their third in four years.

Kerr stayed healthy and on the bench while continuing to deal with symptoms stemming from a pair of back surgeries following the 2015 title.

“I’m sure if you’re around our players and talk to them, they make no bones about it, they love playing for him and they love going through this journey with him,” Myers said of Kerr.

Key reserve David West is contemplating retirement, telling Kerr and Myers during exit interviews he will take some time to decide.

West said after the title clincher that the team went through things behind the scenes that would be surprising if revealed.

“I don’t know if anything would really blow your mind but it was a difficult season and there were lots of moments where it became more difficult,” Kerr said. “I didn’t think it was anything unusual given the state of our team, what we’ve been through and the length of this journey. Nothing to me was that, like, shocking but yeah we went through some stuff. … For sure this was the toughest of the four (years).”

Myers also downplayed any tension or turmoil that took place privately.

“Certain challenges, some were apparent, some not,” Myers said.

Kerr plans to take it easy for the next several months and not work much as Myers handles the contracts and money, while leaving summer league coaching duties to Willie Green.

It’s still sinking in for Kerr just how much success the Warriors have had during this four-year stretch since he became coach ahead of the 2014-15 season.

“I never could have envisioned this. I know when I took this job I thought we could be really good,” Kerr said. “I could never have dreamt of three titles in four years. It’s pretty incredible to be a part of the group and the organization.”