How LeBron James’ arrival with Lakers may affect Warriors

How LeBron James’ arrival with Lakers may affect Warriors

‘THREE!’ chronicles the Warriors run to the 2018 NBA Championship.
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Nearly 375 miles away from their Oakland headquarters, the Warriors saw yet another example of the opponents remaining intent on taking away their championship hardware.

LeBron James landed in Los Angeles on Saturday. Then less than 24 hours after the hand-wringing over Paul George both staying in Oklahoma City and even declining a meeting, the Los Angeles Lakers snatched James away from the Cleveland Cavaliers, marking the second time in his 15-year NBA career that he left his hometown franchise. His agency group announced on Sunday that James agreed to a four-year, $154 million deal with the Lakers.

Meanwhile, the Warriors ceded the NBA spotlight after commanding it through three championship runs in the past four seasons. Beyond making the important albeit expected move in agreeing to re-sign Kevin Durant to a so-called “one-plus-one” deal, the Warriors did not make any other moves on the first day of free agency.

How the Warriors proceed can help fend off what other opposing team does with their roster, including the Lakers.

Granted, Warriors general manager Bob Myers has stressed that he wants to upgrade his bench with wings that can offer scoring bunch and defense. He would like to mix his bench with developing young players and trust veterans. The Warriors kept the goal regardless of the Thunder retaining George (four years, $137 million), the Houston Rockets keeping Chris Paul (four years, $160 million) or the Lakers acquiring James. After all, they still have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Durant.

Yet, the Warriors always had limited financial tools to upgrade their bench. They only have a tax-payer midlevel exception ($5.3 million). Otherwise, they will fill up to three other roster spots on veteran minimum contracts. It does not help that the salary cap jumped from $99.093 million (2017-18) to $101.969 million (2018-19). That marked a modest increase compared to when the cap jumped from $70 million (2015-16) to a record $94.1 million (2016-17) because of the league’s new television deal with ABC/ESPN and Turner through 2025 worth $2.67 billion per year.

“There may not be the space or the room there was in the previous year, but that will all fluctuate,” Myers said recently. We’ll see. We’re not equipped with a lot of money. So if we’d like to win some ties, we can offer equal compensation. Maybe we can get players that want to be part of our environment, but you never quite know.”

Case in point, JaVale McGee accepted a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum with the Lakers after the Warriors expressed interest in retaining him. The Warriors missed out on a potential target at the taxpayer mid-level exception (former Rockets swingman Trevor Ariza accepted a one-year, $15 million deal with Phoenix) as well as the veteran’s minimum (former Portland forward Ed Davis accepted a one-year, $4 million deal with Brooklyn).

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Still, the Warriors had prioritized upgrading their roster with youth. They are carving out bigger roles for second-year forward Jordan Bell and third-year center Damian Jones. The Warriors also reiterated their interest in retaining third-year forward Kevon Looney. Looney will still seek offers elsewhere, in hopes he can build off of career-best season in points (4.4), shooting percentage (58.0), rebounds (3.3), minutes (13.8) and games played (66). But Looney has expressed gratitude for how the Warriors have developed him under the team’s All-Star talent and coach Steve Kerr.

Can the Warriors find more upgrades elsewhere?

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