The Warriors’ biggest mistake in 2024 NBA free agency

Is the sun setting on the Golden State Warriors dynasty? Some would argue that the sun has already set on them. But as long as Stephen Curry is on the team and playing at an All-Star level, the onus is on Warriors management to put together a winning team as they look to maximize the remaining elite years of the 36-year-old franchise cornerstone.

The good news is that the Warriors, despite not signing any All-Star-caliber free agents or trading for a major piece like some believe they should do to increase their championship chances, did improve their roster this offseason.

Letting go of Klay Thompson in the middle of the NBA free agency period may be heartbreaking, especially considering how important he’s been in establishing the Dubs dynasty, but it opened the door for the additions of three players: De’Anthony Melton, Buddy Hield and Kyle Anderson, all of whom would make the Warriors one of the deepest teams in the NBA once again.

However, any team with competitive aspirations knows that having a high-calibre player of this archetype is essential to forming a championship team. At the moment, it is worrying that the Warriors have not yet improved in this position of need.

This isn’t to say that the Warriors have had a bad offseason. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. But for them to truly be a competitive team in the stacked Western Conference, they’ll have to make a big trade to upgrade at the small forward position.

The Warriors need an upgrade from Andrew Wiggins

When the Warriors acquired Andrew Wiggins in 2020, his value was at rock bottom. He failed to blossom as the cornerstone of the franchise as Minnesota Timberwolves brass had hoped, but the Warriors knew that adding a player of Wiggins’ size and skill set to the wing was a necessity if they wanted to compete again.

While they had faith in Wiggins, no one could have foreseen how he would step up for the Warriors during the 2021-22 season. He looked like a new man, someone with a renewed will to reach the pinnacle of NBA success. Wiggins became one of the best 3-and-D players in the association, embracing his role 100 percent, and was rewarded with an All-Star appearance for it.

In the 2022 NBA playoffs, Andrew Wiggins became the player many believed he could be. He may have become a meme for his tendency to score 17 points a night, but his perimeter defense was incredible, stopping Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in the final two rounds of the playoffs as the Dubs claimed their fourth ring in the past decade.

But since then, it’s all been downhill for Wiggins. Wiggins looked to be keeping the momentum from that legacy-defining playoff run going, but an adductor injury halted his progress. Additionally, he had to deal with some personal issues, as his father, Mitchell Wiggins, was battling a serious illness. He was limited to 37 games that season and couldn’t seem to get back on track as the 2023-24 season turned out to be a disaster.

Andrew Wiggins had the worst season of his career last year, posting 13.2 points and 4.5 rebounds on 45/36/75 field goal percentage. He even lost his starting job for 12 games as the Warriors searched for answers.

Simply put, this level of production isn’t going to cut it for a Warriors team looking to reclaim their spot as a playoff team in the West. That’s why it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that the Dubs were interested in a buyout-and-trade option for Paul George to try and give the team an upgrade at the small forward position.

George, for all his flaws, averaged 23/5/4 last season with a career-best 61.3 true shooting percentage; he would have feasted with the Warriors, playing with Stephen Curry. But that trade didn’t materialize, perhaps because of the Dubs’ reluctance to include their quality young players in potential deals.

Now, it’s understandable that the Warriors want to retain players like Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis. Curry and Draymond Green aren’t getting any younger, so the franchise wants to at least have players who can develop and be capable of taking over in the near future.

But players like Curry, a generational superstar, don’t come around very often. If the Warriors aren’t rebuilding their team anytime soon, and their free-agent additions indicate they will be, then they might be better off using the trade chips they have to find an upgrade at small forward. Waiting for Wiggins to figure it out may not be the best option, so the Warriors need to be more proactive.