Down 3-1 in the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors represents the biggest test to the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty.
Head coach Steve Kerr noted following Friday night’s loss to Toronto that it’s not necessarily a daunting task to come back from this deficit. He’s wrong.
Only one team has won three consecutive NBA Finals games after losing three of the first four.
Even if the Warriors were to pull off a historical comeback (not likely), changes are in store for this team. Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins and Kevon Looney are all slated to become free agents.
While the Warriors’ top-three remaining players (Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Thompson) have played well in the Finals, there’s some major weaknesses up and down the roster.
No matter what happens moving forward in the series, here’s what needs to happen this summer if Golden State wants to make it back to the Finals for a sixth consecutive season.
Re-sign Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson
Should this even be in doubt? Durant’s importance to the Warriors has been on full display through the first four games of the Finals. Sure Golden State misses his scoring, but Durant’s absence on defense has played a role in Kawhi Leonard’s historical performance on offense. Golden State will need to recruit Durant like it’s 2017 all over again. It must be a full-court press.
Thompson’s importance to the Warriors was magnified during Game 3’s loss to Toronto. With him sidelined, Curry had to play hero ball. He dropped 47 points, the eighth-most in NBA Finals history. The Warriors still lost by double-digits. The good news? It’s highly unlikely Thompson departs in free agency.
Re-sign Kevon Looney, let DeMarcus Cousins walk
We’re not going to blame Cousins for his struggles in the Finals. Dude is coming back from a serious injury and is nowhere near 100%. The question here is whether Cousins was ever a fit in Steve Kerr’s system. Even prior to the injury, the All-Star center seemed like a fish out of water on a consistent basis. One and done should be the name of the game here.
Looney is a vastly different story. After struggling through injuries and inconsistency over the early stages of his career, the former first-round pick has stepped up big time. He’s averaging 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds over the past seven games. Looney has found a mid-range shot and plays elite-level defense. Kerr notes he’s a cornerstone for this team, and Looney will get paid like it. Golden State needs to offer him starter money during the summer.
Find a shooting wing in the draft
More so than struggles on defense or injuries, the Warriors’ lack of perimeter shooting behind the Splash Brothers has become noticeable in the Finals. Sure Durant re-signing would loom large here, but the Dubs still need another capable shooting wing off the bench.
Last year’s first-round pick Jared Evans might not be that. He seems to be more of a two-way player with a large focus on defense. Boasting both of their picks for the first time in a while, Golden State needs to find a pure shooter in the first round. The options include Cam Johnson (North Carolina), Tyler Herro (Kentucky) and Jordan Poole (Michigan), among others. This is a necessity.
Find another guard with mid-level exception
Shaun Livingston is great for what he does. He can be that go-to-guy in a pinch. His mid-range game has proven to be a major asset in the past. Unfortunately, Livingston has never been a true perimeter shooter (10 three-points attempts over the past three seasons). He’s also 33 years old and may call it quits after the Finals.
Sure the Warriors will look to retain Quinn Cook. As they should. But this team needs another proven scorer on the second team. That’s where veterans who are ring chasing could come into play. Vince Carter, J.J. Redick, Terrence Ross, Iman Shumpert and Rodney Hood could all be strong possibilities
Give Draymond Green the max
At 29 years old, a long-term contract for Green could hinder Golden State years down the road. It’s somewhat similar to when the Rockets signed Chris Paul to a four-year, $159.7 million contract back in 2018. However, there’s two major components that lead us to believe the Warriors must give him a max extension this summer.
First off, Green is (and has been) the glue to hold this thing together. His passion for the game, excellence on defense and play-making ability on offense can’t be overstated. Secondly, Golden State must want to avoid a similar situation as what we’ve seen with Durant this season. Green is slated to become a free agent after the 2019-20 campaign. Take care of him now and avoid any hint at drama behind the scenes.