With the Warriors’ lavish spending in recent years, committing millions upon millions in an effort to maintain excellence, it’s reasonable to wonder if they’re too pretentious to appreciate a bargain.
They actually do, and the proof is in signing point guard Brad Wanamaker, formerly of the Celtics, to a one-year contract for a relatively paltry $2.25 million.
That’s less than half the average salary and one-third the length of the contract free agent Shaun Livingston signed in 2014, the last time the Warriors made a concerted effort to find a quality backup for Stephen Curry.
Understand, Wanamaker isn’t Livingston. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, compared to Shaun’s 6-foot-7, 195 pounds, their physiques are as different as those of a badger and a fox.
Livingston used his height to punish smaller defenders, Wanamaker uses his strength to punish opposing ball-handlers.
“I watched him quite a bit while he was in the bubble just because the Celtics were on TV a lot,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after practice Wednesday. “I really, really liked his game, admired his toughness and the stability that he brought to the game. A defensive-minded player, very physically strong, so he can hold up against anybody.”
After going undrafted out of the University of Pittsburgh in 2011, Wanamaker headed overseas. He spent seven years playing in Italy, France, Germany and Turkey. The experience was valuable for a number of reasons --teamwork is emphasized – but mostly because it eventually led to the NBA.
Wanamaker returned to the United States in 2018, signing with Boston. After splitting one year between the NBA and the G-League Maine Red Claws, he stuck with the Celtics last season as the primary backup behind Kemba Walker.
He was solid, playing rugged defense, averaging 6.9 points (44.8 percent from the field, 36.3 percent from distance, 92.6 percent from the line) and posting a better than 2-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio.
Wanamaker was a restricted free agent whose status changed to unrestricted when the Celtics declined to make a qualifying offer. He then hit the free-agent market, along with four or five possible backup point guards.
Dennis Schroder was traded to the Lakers for the final season of a four-year, $70 million contract. D.J. Augustin landed in Milwaukee, getting a three-year deal worth $21 million. Kris Dunn got a two-year contract worth $10 million from the Hawks.
As the Warriors were reaching an agreement with Wanamaker, the Celtics were reaching an agreement with veteran Jeff Teague, paying the 32-year-old $2.56 million.
There is reason to believe Wanamaker, exceedingly low maintenance, will be steadier than Augustin, sturdier than Teague and more reliable than Dunn. And more versatile than any of those three.
“I could see him even playing with Steph, even though he's primarily a backup point guard,” Kerr said. “We could for sure put him out there with Steph as a combination. I just like his demeanor. He’s very poised and serious and he's just a real pro.”
The idea of playing next to Curry was, um, very appealing to Wanamaker.
“It would be pretty cool,’ he said. “Obviously, everybody knows what type of player he is, how much he opens the floor for everybody. So, it would be pretty cool. I'll be out there defending, just making plays, trying to find him when I can and get him open shots and just trying to make the game easy for him.”
Warriors CEO Joe Lacob has signed off on several megadeals: Curry ($201 million, five years), Klay Thompson ($190 million, five years), Draymond Green ($100 million, three years) and the last three-plus seasons of Andrew Wiggins’ five-year, $148 million contract.
Andre Iguodala is three years removed from getting more from the Warriors than most imagined (three years, $48 million). James Wiseman is two weeks into a four-year deal worth $40 million (team options on the last two years). And there is the monster cost of adding Kelly Oubre Jr., roughly $82 million in salary and luxury taxes.
Wanamaker is a nice addition. Patience paid off for the Warriors. They weren’t going to be too extravagant, and they got what they wanted. Consider him a victory for value.