The Warriors cannot simply assume that Klay Thompson's return next season will vault them to title contention.
To take the next step, the team must make the right moves in the offseason to solidify their roster as a whole. There are so many different variables to consider, including whether or not they will retain Minnesota's first-round draft pick, or even their own top-20 protected first-round pick.
One key variable is, of course, the impending free agency of wing Kelly Oubre Jr. and his fate with the team. The Warriors dangled Oubre at the trade deadline, looking for the right deal as a way of avoiding the risk of losing the young athletic forward for next to nothing in the offseason.
Once the deadline passed and no deal was struck, Oubre's future with the Warriors has become much more simplified. There are practically three realistic outcomes at play.
1) Oubre re-signs with Warriors
This is the ideal situation for Golden State. Currently, Oubre is making about $14 million this season, and many assume he will be able to make at least that, or perhaps up to $20 million a year, on a multi-year deal. It would take the Warriors deciding they are willing to pay an exorbitant amount of salary and tax dollars to retain Oubre, as well as Oubre's decision to return to the team, since he is an unrestricted free agent and can decide where he ends up.
Oubre's value on the Warriors is significant, as he is an energetic long defender that willingly takes on the challenge of guarding the opponent's quickest guards, as well as attack the rim with reckless abandon on offense. His 3-point stroke and general chemistry within the offense can be streaky and inconsistent, but his overall impact could be a major benefit to the team next season.
However, what if he decides to leave or is too expensive for the Warriors?
2) Oubre signs with another team
So many changes could happen to the roster in the future to impact the plans for Oubre, but as of this very moment, it seems as if the Warriors would envision him taking a sixth-man type role off the bench, ala Andre Iguodala. Unlike Iguodala, who was more of a facilitator than scorer by the end of his Warriors tenure, Oubre would be tasked with being an offensive spark plug and scorer, while bringing his ever-so exuberant style to the defensive end as well.
It is very possible that Oubre is firm on remaining a starter in the NBA, thus finding another organization that will allow him to do so.
Again, as stated multiple times, the Warriors will also have to come to grips with Oubre's price tag as well to make this reunion work.
Yet, as Oubre's salary slot is so important to a team that is above the salary cap, is there a way to retain it if he leaves?
3) Oubre, Warriors agree on sign-and-trade
No, this does not mean the Warriors will be hard-capped and forced to go below the tax apron, like they had to do when they completed a sign-and-trade for D'Angelo Russell. That is because the team that is actually acquiring the signed player is hard-capped, not the trading team.
In this case, the team that Oubre agrees to join would be the one that needs to be below the tax apron, not the Warriors.
If Oubre were to leave, this is the best-case scenario for the Warriors. First and foremost, Oubre would have to agree to go to a team that is willing to work out a sign-and-trade deal with the Warriors, including their willingness to be hard-capped this season.
There are plenty of teams that do not plan on going over the tax apron, so finding a trade partner could be feasible. The ultimate goal for the Warriors would be, at the very least, retaining Oubre's salary slot through a trade exception.