By Matt Citak
After an unpredictable offseason, a crazy regular season, and a wild ride of a postseason, the 2017-18 NBA season has ended how many believed it would — with the Golden State Warriors defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers to take home their third championship of the last four years.
In fact, even the Conference Finals turned out exactly how most predicted they would. When the Houston Rockets dealt for Chris Paul and the Boston Celtics acquired Kyrie Irving last summer, the two franchises were seen as the most likely candidates to take down Golden State and Cleveland this year.
While neither underdog accomplished the feat, both brought each Conference Finals series to a Game 7, providing fans with some entertaining basketball before this year’s snooze fest of an NBA Finals.
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As a team that just won its third title in four years, Golden State obviously doesn’t have many holes in its roster.
Two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but has made it abundantly clear that he isn’t going anywhere. Stephen Curry signed his massive contract extension last summer, Draymond Green has another two years left on his deal, and Klay Thompson won’t be hitting the free agent market until the summer of 2019. Andre Iguodala is locked up until 2020 as well.
As for the rest of the roster, well, Warriors GM, Bob Myers, has his work cut out. With almost all of the Warriors’ cap space going towards its top five players, Myers will have to get creative.
The front office declined the fourth-year option on Kevon Looney back in October, and after his strong play throughout the postseason, they’re probably regretting that decision. Looney will garner plenty of interest this summer, and unless he’s willing to take a big hometown discount, his time in the Bay Area is most likely done.
Shaun Livingston has played an under-appreciated, yet vital role on the Warriors over the last four years. But with two years and $16 million left on his contract, the Warriors might choose to dump his salary in order to clear cap space to help fill other parts of the roster. This would be a tough pill to swallow for the Warriors’ locker room, as Livingston has been a veteran leader throughout his time there. But it might prove to be the team’s best move, considering some of the free agents Golden State might decide to pursue.
Other than the big splash of the Durant signing two summers ago, Myers and Co. have worked hard to convince veteran free agents to accept less money to compete for a championship with the Warriors. This summer should be no different.
Considering how close the Rockets were to defeating the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, Golden State’s best move this summer might be one that also takes a shot at Houston.
Both Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute are unrestricted free agents this offseason. There is already early speculation that Ariza might be willing to accept a pay cut to sign with the Warriors, although it would have to be a somewhat hefty cut since Golden State can only offer the $5.3 million taxpayer midlevel exception.
It’s hard to imagine a player fitting in more perfectly with the Warriors than Ariza. His athleticism and versatility on defense would make Golden State an even more unstoppable force, as would the addition of Mbah a Moute. Other players such as Joe Harris, Nerlens Noel, Wayne Ellington, and Aron Baynes could also end up being free agent targets for the Warriors this offseason, and any of them would be huge additions to the Warriors bench.
As unlikely as it may sound, there is also a small (and I mean VERY small) chance that, similar to the summer of 2016 with Durant, the Warriors can convince LeBron James to join the new Evil Empire in Golden State.
The NBA has never seen a roster consisting of three MVPs like James, Durant, and Curry. And really, I don’t know if the league would be ready for that either.
But after all the grief he received for signing with Miami in 2010, it’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario where James signs with Golden State. This decision would forever make James a super-villain in the eyes of most NBA fans, while also tarnishing his NBA legacy. Such a move would also have to involve two of Thompson, Green, or Iguodala being sent to Cleveland, something the Warriors may not be too excited to do.
The Warriors are fresh off their victory parade, so thoughts of reworking the roster are probably far from their minds right now. But with the offseason quickly approaching, Myers knows that some work, albeit not a ton, must be done if Golden State wants to continue its run of pure dominance.
Whether or not that involves LeBron James… only time will tell.
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.