The latest on the Warriors' offseason and a patient Lauri Markkanen chase


SAN FRANCISCO — Not much has changed for the Golden State Warriors in the past several days of a quieting free-agency period. They remain in pursuit of Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, league sources confirm, but have entered the waiting period of what could be a drawn-out process.

Markkanen, as several have chronicled, becomes extension eligible on Aug. 6. He’s on an expiring $18 million contract and due for a large long-term raise. There are several within the league who have grown more convinced that the Jazz, after exploring Markkanen’s trade market, plan to renegotiate-and-extend Markkanen, using their saved up cap space.

That would take Markkanen off the table for six months, if the extension is signed on Aug. 6, bringing him back into the mix on Feb. 6, the exact date of next season’s trade deadline. If Markkanen waits to extend an extra day, Aug. 7 or beyond, he’d be ineligible to be traded next season, an extra bit of leverage for Markkanen and an added layer of information to dictate Utah’s ultimate decision on his future.

The Sacramento Kings put a substantial picks-based package on the table for Markkanen last week, but they had a time crunch, so it was an exploding offer, league sources said. When the Jazz couldn’t give an answer in time, the Kings pivoted quickly to DeMar DeRozan, executing the three-team sign-and-trade for the next big fish on their board before he disappeared.

The Warriors are not operating with that type of urgency. They’re willing to wait for an answer on Markkanen, believing a level of clarity will arrive on Aug. 6, at the latest, considering the contractual dynamics.

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In the intermediate, there isn’t much business left for the Warriors to shore up this offseason. They’re comfortable entering the season with the current 14-man roster, league sources said, believing they shored up the middle of their rotation with three value signings early in free agency: De’Anthony Melton at $12.8 million next season, Kyle Anderson at $8.7 million and Buddy Hield at $8.7 million.

Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green are the established veteran starters. Jonathan Kuminga, Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis are the younger players returning to a substantial role. Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II are attempting to reclaim one. Moses Moody is again trying to graduate to that level.

Those are 12 legitimate rotation players with Lindy Waters III and Gui Santos entering a theoretical training camp, if no other moves are made, as capable 13th and 14th men. Waters was added because of an internal belief that he is a plug-and-play piece who can defend, hit 3s, operate smoothly within coach Steve Kerr’s system and accept a reduced role whenever asked. Santos won the hearts of the coaching staff last season as a spark on any given night.

That group, as a 14-man collective, will not be picked as even a fringe contender entering next season. There’s an understanding, even internally, that the Warriors appear at least one large move — perhaps a Markkanen-sized move — away from making legitimate noise. But, team sources said, that move doesn’t have to be made in the weeks or months ahead, if the correct opportunity doesn’t arise. There’s enough of a runway to be picky until the next trade deadline, especially since the Warriors are currently out of the aprons of the collective bargaining agreement and able to make some flexible offers with their varying contracts.

The Warriors’ front office showed an increased willingness to use their future draft capital in their failed pursuit of Paul George and stalled chase of Markkanen. Their future first-round picks and pick swaps have some real appeal, league sources said, because of the dire prospects of a post-Curry world. It’s part of what has appealed to Utah in discussions, league sources said.

But if this drags into the season, if the Warriors are still in need of a major upgrade (Markkanen or otherwise), the performance of their current roster could dictate the front office’s appetite to either add or subtract. With sizable development from Kuminga, Podziemski, Moody and Jackson-Davis, with a fully available Green, with their offseason additions and better late-game performance, the Warriors believe they can win enough in the regular season to remain firmly in the playoff mix. If that’s the case in January and February, they’d be a team to watch.

But if everything goes haywire similar to a season ago, if development stalls, if Green is unavailable too often, if they become buried in a crowded Western Conference, motives could shift quickly. Controlling owner Joe Lacob has again green-lit a roster that is currently more than $7 million into the tax (and fewer than $1 million below their hard cap). Those in the franchise maintain his (and their) desire to remain competitive.

It wouldn’t be all that difficult, however, to duck the tax during the season. The Warriors have plenty of mid-tier contracts (Looney, Payton, Hield, Anderson) that, if shed, could help them dip below. The last time this franchise was entirely uncompetitive at the trade deadline — during that 15-50 season in 2019-20 — they maneuvered their way out of the tax at the deadline.

But that’s a question for down the line. In the meantime, the Warriors remain in the Markkanen market while building out a roster ready to compete without another move. Waters and Santos are both on non-guaranteed contracts, allowing some back-end flexibility if needed, though both are in the current plans, team sources said. Quinten Post, the second-round pick, is currently ticketed for a two-way contract, team sources said. There is no financial room under the hard cap for a 15th man.

(Photo of Lauri Markkanen: Alex Goodlett / Getty Images)



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