SAN FRANCISCO -- In this year of movable assets for the Warriors, this season is dramatically different from the last five in nearly every tangible way. Perhaps nowhere is it more dissimilar than their approach to the NBA trade deadline.
After five years basically ignoring it, this time around, they’re completely dialed into it.
With the deadline fewer than six weeks away, it’s quickly approaching time to make decisions the Warriors anticipated last summer when constructing a roster specifically for this season.
They acquired several potentially attractive tradable assets, and none has been more coveted than Alec Burks, who possesses the attributes contending teams desire. He’s a wing with a respectable 3-point shot, he’s playing well, he’s low-maintenance and he’s cheap.
And, Friday night at Chase Center, Burks was clutch, scoring nine points on 4-of-4 shooting in the fourth quarter to lead a comeback that resulted in a 105-96 win over the Phoenix Suns.
As much as the Warriors like Burks, and they most assuredly do, they are willing, according to league sources, to part with him -- and several other veterans -- for the right deal. Why consider moving arguably their most proficient offensive player? Because they want to create room to accommodate two-way guards Damion Lee and Ky Bowman.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr acknowledged as much late Friday night.
“It’s an awkward situation for us, because Ky and Damion are coming up on their limit,” Kerr said. “And they’re two of our top seven players in our rotation. And yet the rules are that we only have them for another nine or 10 days each.
“Everybody is aware of that. We don’t know how it’s going to play out.”
Lee actually has 12 NBA days remaining on his two-way deal, while Bowman has 11. The Warriors have been tossing about the topic of Lee and Bowman -- and what it would take to keep them -- for several weeks. Now, though, there is a creeping sense of urgency.
“I’ll be honest: I don’t even know how many days I have left,” Lee said. “Same with Ky.”
The cleanest and most obvious path is through a trade, and multiple league sources insist the Warriors are prepared to do that. When general manager Bob Myers was adding vets to the roster over the summer, one of the goals was to bring in contracts that would be easy to move. So, they offered mostly one-year deals.
Burks is making $2.3 million this season. Glenn Robinson III is at $1.9 million. Marquese Chriss is at $1.7 million on a non-guaranteed pact. Willie Cauley-Stein’s contract is at $2.2 million for this season, with a player option at $2.3 million for next season. The Warriors traded for Omari Spellman, who is at $1.9 million, and they already have picked the option on next season at just under $2 million.
Burks’ ability to get buckets in the half-court makes him their most attractive available player. Today’s NBA is about wings, and several contenders have a need. The Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors are all evaluating their rosters, and each would welcome a solid, fearless, veteran wing.
Most appealing to the Warriors are future assets. Draft picks. Maybe a young player who isn’t ready to contribute this season in ways that a Burks or Robinson might.
The locker room is alert to rumors that Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston -- much less Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson -- never had to deal with. They were set, stitched into the fabric of a championship-caliber team.
The current Warriors are not championship-caliber, and none of the new additions, including key acquisition D’Angelo Russell, are going to take them anywhere close to that level this season.
“We talk to our players all the time,” Kerr said. “The staff does, individually. I talk to them as a team.
“It’s the NBA, so anything could happen. But we definitely wish that we could just have those guys on our roster and keep everyone because we like everybody on our roster. A lot of good, young players, so we’ll see how it all shakes out.”
The trade deadline is Feb. 6, giving the Warriors 41 days to shake things out.
There will be shaking, too, as this team was built for precisely that purpose.