Willie Cauley-Stein

Warriors' offseason plan to sign and trade veterans worked perfectly

Warriors' offseason plan to sign and trade veterans worked perfectly

Willie Cauley-Stein was traded by the Warriors in late January, his departure reportedly followed 10 days later by Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III.

Cruel as it may seem, this always was the Warriors’ plan.

To move three veterans for as many future draft picks as possible, and they now have four more than they had two weeks ago.

Burks and Robinson were scratched an hour before tipoff Wednesday night in Brooklyn because the Warriors were deep in discussions to trade both wings before the noon Thursday deadline. As word went through the locker room, reality set in and the Warriors slumbered their way to a 129-88 loss to the Nets.

“It was a tough night to go out and play,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters at Barclays Center. “Two of our leaders, elder statesmen, guys who are really beloved in the locker room. For the team to find out that those two guys are most likely going to be traded was pretty tough. We all just found out prior to the game. There’s not a really good way to prepare for a game when something like that happens, and it showed.”

Burks and Robinson, both reportedly headed to the 76ers exchange for second-round picks in each of the next three drafts, said their goodbyes to teammates after the game.

This is the tough part of the sports business. In most instances, players are vulnerable to being uprooted. The Warriors, at least ownership and management, are willing to live with the short-term pain if it offers the possibility of long-term gain.

Burks, Cauley-Stein and Robinson were acquired with trade possibilities in mind. With Burks and Robinson moving on, it’s a clean sweep of the three veterans the Warriors signed last summer in the wake of the separations that left their roster looking nothing like the team that had spent five years terrorizing the NBA.

Even as conditions kept changing, the front office was determined to do something positive. They knew they would need more draft picks.

In the months before Kevin Durant announced he would be joining the Brooklyn Nets, the Warriors were deliberate in formulating two plans. Plan A if he stayed, Plan B if he left.

When KD ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, it was on to Plan C. That dialogue lasted two full days – until the moment Klay Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6.

The Warriors then knew that, no matter KD’s decision, 2019-20 would be challenging season. They felt forced to, one week before the draft, scrap Plans A, B and C for Plans D and E.

Needing a wing, they drafted guard Jordan Poole in the first round. Needing a big man, they chose forward/center Alen Smailagic in the second. Needing a rookie capable of producing immediately, they jumped on forward Eric Paschall, who during a four-year collegiate career proved mature and talented.

Once the draft was completed, and the Durant-for-D’Angelo Russell sign-and-trade swap completed, it was on to the final step. Plan E. CEO Joe Lacob and president/general manager Bob Myers had to confront very real issues. How to make this season matter? How to push the franchise further into the future?

The Warriors scanned a list of free agents that might be available and over a four-day span ending on July 11 signed Cauley-Stein, Burks and Robinson to low-salary one-year deals. Cauley-Stein received slightly above the veteran’s minimum and also a second-year player option.

Current assets to be swapped for future assets, none was likely to spend a full season as a Warrior. If they put up decent numbers on a bad team, well, that could inflate their value just enough to make them attractive in trades.

And now, having posted those numbers, especially Burks and Robinson, they’re gone.

“It’s ruthless,” Paschall said. “They worked so hard. And everybody loves them. They’re two guys that the fans love, that coaches love, players respect so much and see all the work they put in throughout this whole season ... it hurts to see them go.”

It appeared late Wednesday night that Russell, also acquired as a potential trade chip, will remain a Warrior past the deadline. Though at least two teams expressed interest, neither stepped forward with a proposal the Warriors considered worthy.

[RELATED: How to watch NBC's deadline show]

They’re willing to wait until June to engage in discussions involving D-Lo. He’s a big-ticket item that should yield valuable assets for a Warriors franchise light on future draft picks.

When Cauley-Stein was traded to Dallas last month, he may as well have propped open the door for Burks and Robinson to follow. And if he didn’t, the Warriors surely did. At least figuratively.

In a season going nowhere, the Warriors are using what they have to get what they need. Just as they visualized last summer.

Mavs' Mark Cuban says Willie Cauley-Stein trade a 'steal-and-a-half'

Mavs' Mark Cuban says Willie Cauley-Stein trade a 'steal-and-a-half'

Dallas Mavericks forward Dwight Powell tore his right Achilles tendon Jan. 21.

Three days later, the Mavs acquired Willie Cauley-Stein from the Warriors in exchange for a 2020 second-round draft pick.

That selection is expected to land in the mid 50s because it's the Utah Jazz's pick, and they currently boast the fifth-best record in the NBA.

According to Mavs owner Mark Cuban, it was a great deal for his franchise.

From the Warriors' perspective -- they didn't possess a 2020 second-round pick (coincidentally enough, the Mavs have it from the Andrew Bogut trade in July 2016) but now do.

They also were able to create a guaranteed open roster spot for next season because Cauley-Stein has a 2020-21 player option that he could have exercised.

In addition:

[RELATED: Kerr reveals one specific memory of Kobe that stands out]

Cauley-Stein made his Mavs debut Tuesday night -- recording four points, three rebounds, two steals and one assist in a little over 12 minutes off the bench.

In the end, the trade just might work out very well for both sides.

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How Warriors gain flexibility in Willie Cauley-Stein trade to Mavs

How Warriors gain flexibility in Willie Cauley-Stein trade to Mavs

SAN FRANCISCO -- Willie Cauley-Stein walked out of shootaround, down a long corridor that leads to the Warriors' locker room in Chase Center late Friday morning in preparation for a game scheduled hours later against the Indiana Pacers. The trek marked the big man's last as a member of Golden State.

By Saturday morning, Cauley-Stein officially was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the Utah Jazz's second-round draft pick in 2020, ending his short tenure in the Bay Area. Along the way, the Warriors set themselves up for future flexibility. 

In the immediate aftermath, the Warriors shed Cauley-Stein's current $2.17 million salary and his $2.8 million player option for the 2020-21 season, while freeing up an open roster spot for this season and beyond. From a financial perspective, it sank Golden State $2.57 million below the hard cap, according to ESPN's Bobby Marks. Additionally, the Warriors have enough salary space to convert the two-way deals of either Ky Bowman or Marquese Chriss. 

Six months ago, Cauley-Stein came to Warriors in search of career revitalization. After four years in Sacramento, he demanded that the Kings rescind his qualifying offer to make him a free agent last summer. After garnering more lucrative offers from other teams, he chose to sign a one-year contract with Golden State, which included the player option. With a new contract, the center hoped to keep the Warriors' postseason streak alive while earning a payday next summer. 

However, those wishes didn't come to fruition. A week before training camp, Cauley-Stein sprained his foot, causing the center to miss the first month of the season. His injury, coupled with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney missing significant time, led to a lost season for the big man.

Nonetheless, Cauley-Stein expressed a desire to stay with the Warriors long term, citing his relationship with coach Steve Kerr. 

"He wants to build a relationship with you," Cauley-Stein told NBC Sports Bay Area last month. "I think, in the past I hadn't had a relationship with my coach. [Former Kings coach Dave] Joerger, me and him had a pretty good rapport, pretty good, like cordial, but we never had like in-depth conversations about life and stuff like that, and the first couple of conversations I had with coach Kerr was real-life stuff and that hit home with me like, 'Damn, he really tried to get to know me.' "

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Unfortunately for Cauley-Stein, he won't get to continue that relationship with Kerr.

Now, with Dallas in need of a center with the loss of Dwight Powell, his hope to find a similar relationship with Rick Carlisle will immediately start in a Mavericks uniform.