With a healthy Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Golden State Warriors fully expect to become title contenders once again following a brief sojourn to the bowels of the NBA hierarchy. If they’re going to do that, however, they’ll have to make wise moves this offseason in both free agency and with the No. 2 pick in November’s NBA Draft.
The Warriors have top-heavy talent at guard and on the wings with the big three alongside Andrew Wiggins, so the most glaring position of need is at center. Though 7-1 Memphis big man James Wiseman is one of the draft’s top prospects with incredible upside, Golden State is unlikely to take a center with their top pick in the upcoming draft, according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Connor Letourneau.
That means that they’ll most likely try to add another big man through free agency, and they have their eye on one already: Dwight Howard. Fresh off helping to bring the Los Angeles Lakers an NBA title, the 34-year-old future Hall of Famer upped his free-agent stock by playing his role to perfection all season long. The Lakers will look to re-sign him, but they could have some competition from the Warriors, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
The Golden State coaching staff and front office loved the development they saw last season from Marquese Chriss, and he’ll be the frontrunner to be the starting center to open the 2020-21 season as a lob threat, rim-runner and rim protector with improving playmaking skills. Behind him, however, things get a little murky.
Kevon Looney developed into what Warriors coach Steve Kerr called a “foundational piece” during their Finals run in 2019, but he played only 20 games last season due to various injuries, and looked bad in his limited time on the court. Alen Smailagic, a 6-10 fan favorite who has showcased a unique offensive skill set in flashes last season, still appears to be far away from contributing to a championship team — especially on the defensive end.
Since the Warriors believe the best use of their draft asset would be on the wing, where they’re extremely thin behind Thompson and Wiggins, Howard makes sense as a low-cost free-agent target who might be available for the veteran minimum (it’s doubtful the Warriors would use their mid-level exception on him). Chriss fits into what the Warriors do, but he’s only 6-foot-9, and Kerr doesn’t like to overextend Green’s center minutes, so having a more traditional big man could solve some potential problems. As we just saw in the Lakers’ postseason run, having the lineup flexibility to go big is a luxury, and Frank Vogel consistently touted Howard’s physicality as a key component to their success.
Not to mention that if the Warriors want to win a title, they’re likely going to have to go through the Lakers, who will likely continue to throw out big lineups with JaVale McGee, Anthony Davis and any other offseason additions, even if Howard signs elsewhere.
Howard and the Lakers have mutual interest in a deal, according to Charania’s report, so this might all become a moot point. But if the Warriors are looking to add a low-cost center in free agency, Howard certainly fits the bill.