To what extent was the Golden State Warriors ‘ 2022 ring exceptional or a continuation of a longer process? Was that success the swan song of a dynasty that was running out of its last days? The answer to both questions can be resolved in the coming months and it is that after the elimination of the current champions at the hands of the Lakers in these 2023 Playoffs, the viability of the project has been called into question. A group built around Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson capable of winning four rings in eight years, but whose average age is 33.6 and whose main figure is heading towards the end of his career. And precisely because of the latter, it is likely that this particular Big Three may have played their last game together.
Draymond Green is the most important piece in this chess game. The interior veteran has the option of extending his presence under Steve Kerr for another year at a rate of 27.5 million, but also not to do so and explore the market. After being eliminated in the Playoffs, Green did not hesitate to reaffirm his commitment to the organization saying that “I want to be a Warrior for the rest of my life, I want to continue with the same guys.” In addition, Shams Charania and Anthony Slater reported that negotiations for a new extension will take place, which does not mean that they will reach an agreement.
That is why the Californian franchise has a very important decision that will mark the following years. And most relevant: the options to fight for any ambitious goal. That is the dilemma before the Golden State Warriors: keep the Big Three and honor their legacy or break it in search of one last success?
Why the Warriors should break the Big Three
Any project that continues over time ends up acquiring vices or accepting certain practices that would not be allowed in other contexts. It is undeniable that the Warriors have built a winning culture , contrasted and capable of adapting to the different changes in the general situation of the NBA, but they have also had to deal with different off-sport issues that have limited their ability to be in a position to win.
These issues have become more tangible over the last calendar year with Draymond Green at the forefront, whether through his altercation with Jordan Poole , his on-pitch reactions or his own performance as a player. Although the inside is not the ultimate reason for the Warriors’ collapse against the seventh-ranked player in the West, the decline in his contribution has had a domino effect on the rest of the squad, a sign that something may be ending.
The managers have to make the best possible decision to try to put the team in a position to win. Can Golden State re-qualify for the ring with this same configuration? Clear. Is it feasible? That is already more complicated. The game is changing and it is increasingly necessary to have more reliable figures from long distance, something that with Green and Looney on the court is difficult.
What is the main stumbling block? That the Green market is practically nil. Even if they managed to get the deal they would get, it would hardly improve their chances of competing in 2024. Hence, if they choose to break the deck and end the Big Three, the Warriors would necessarily have to move Klay Thompson.
Only with a general release of the team’s salaries and a reconfiguration of the roster around Stephen Curry could Golden State have options to fight for a new championship, taking advantage of the end of the great star’s career peak.
Why the Warriors shouldn’t break the Big Three
Just like other great projects such as the San Antonio Spurs did, being fair to those who made success possible is a non-negotiable condition for building the legacy of these dynasties. However, the reality facing the Warriors is somewhat different than other examples from the past due to their high salaries and the impact of the luxury tax.
Even with everything, the Big Three have earned the right to fall on the field, to say goodbye to the game with honors when they themselves wish or their health allows it. Writing off Golden State based on how Steve Kerr’s team has performed this season could be a dangerous results-based overreaction.
The collective irregularity, the management of the expectations of some players, the injuries or the simple difficulty involved in defending a championship are sufficiently solid arguments to give the project a vote of confidence.
These Warriors who have lost to Lakers who only won one less game in the Regular Season are the same ones who turned around a 0-2 loss in the First Round and knocked out Kings who were third and had a home court factor.
The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the NBA or its organizations.