What Warriors' Bob Myers learned in most challenging season of tenure

What Warriors' Bob Myers learned in most challenging season of tenure

It’s fair for the Warriors to consider 2019-20 a throwaway season.

A blight on basketball. The revenge of the law of averages. Or, perhaps the most common euphemism, “a gap year.”

For the first time in nearly a decade, they were a “W” circled on the schedule of every opponent. They’re 15-50, with the worst record in the NBA when the season was suspended in March. And as most of the league yearns to resuscitate the coronavirus-interrupted season, they’re practically begging to be euthanized.

But not rinsed away completely.

For amidst the calamity that followed Klay Thompson’s torn ACL, Kevin Durant’s departure, Steph Curry’s fractured hand and the failed D’Angelo Russell experiment, the Warriors believe there were lessons from the mud.

Lessons that go beyond the favorable trade of Russell for Andrew Wiggins, even beyond the mental and physical refreshing afforded their stars.

That’s why coach Steve Kerr has spent a portion of the hiatus studying video from their lost season and forwarding requests to video coordinator James Laughlin for clipping and storing.

“I’ve watched some of our games, mostly to brush up on a player or check out an opposing player for something I might want to explore further next year,” Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area. “It’s so easy now, because we’ve got all the games on the computer. I can pull up anything I want. So, it’s still very valuable to have access to all of that.”

While Kerr is looking to see what worked and what didn’t, general manager Bob Myers and his player-personnel lieutenants take a more intensive approach. They break down individuals on the roster knowing it will influence strategies for the draft, free agency and trades.

“We learned what some of our young players can do and not do,” Myers told NBC Sports Bay Area. “We took some chances on a lot of guys and had the ability to give guys a lot more rope than we normally would, whether it was our rookies or our 10-day guys, and not live and die with every win or loss.”

The Warriors gave up on guard Jacob Evans as a rotation player. They cycled out big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Omari Spellman when neither was as effective as Marquese Chriss. They auditioned Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III before trading both while remaining open to the possibility of either returning next season.

They also went through seven rookies, the most since 1992-93.

The Warriors discovered that rookie Jordan Poole may be better suited, at least initially, as a combo guard rather than a pure wing. They discovered that rookie forward Eric Paschall doesn’t flinch. They discovered that Chriss can provide productive minutes, mostly at center. They’re beyond pleased that all three are on modest contracts -- fewer than $5 million annually combined -- and none is older than 23.

“We looked at more developing and because of that I think we grew his coaching staff,” Myers said. “It was tough because the injuries -- not to blame our record on it -- didn’t allow us to fully see what we had or didn't have. We traded for Wiggins and how he played with Steph, well or not well, and Klay being out the whole year, it’s a very incomplete picture.”

The Warriors concluded, definitively, that forward Alen Smailagic is a project and Damion Lee can score off the bench. They believe Mychal Mulder, originally signed to a 10-day contract before getting a multi-year deal, can fill the role previously occupied by Ian Clark and Quinn Cook.

Above all, the Warriors saw enough to believe their inviting culture is unshaken and still can be attractive to players exploring free agency.

“We also learned that, in this league, you might see the top of the mountain but you’re going to see the bottom sometimes,” Myers said. “How are you going to live with it? How are you going to deal with it? How are you going to act? Will you be able to maintain your culture? These things are my best takeaway from this season.

“Through it all, having the worst record in the league, I don’t think we lost our identity as far as people still enjoying coming to work. Or people respecting our processes, respecting what we’re trying to do. I think we maintained that in a big-time losing year. Sometimes when you lose at that level, some of the other foundational things can be stripped away. I think we kept those intact.”

[RELATED: Why Rivers' 'lucky' comment on 2015 Warriors is silly now]

Yet the factors that will dictate their fate in 2020-21 lie with the stars. How successful will Draymond Green be at silencing whispers that he’s an “old” 30? Can Thompson be effective after 16 months to heal and rehab? Will Wiggins take another step toward his highest level?

Curry? The only lesson there is how dreadful the Warriors are without him.

Warriors bizarrely only NBA team with no pending 2020 free agents

Warriors bizarrely only NBA team with no pending 2020 free agents

To say the Warriors had a rough season in 2019-20 is an understatement. The team ended the season with a 15-50 record, and stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson missed almost the entire season with injuries.

They do, however, find themselves alone in one very unique category when it comes to the current roster.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Thirteen players under contract, all of them extending into next season. But the Warriors didn't begin the season that way. This was the Golden State roster when training camp opened in September of 2019.

From the current roster, Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney all entered the 2019-20 season with multiple years remaining on their contracts.

Jordan Poole, Alen Smailagic and Eric Paschall were 2019 NBA Draft picks and received standard rookie contracts with multiple seasons of team control.

Andrew Wiggins had three years and almost $100 million remaining on his contract when the Warriors acquired him at the NBA trade deadline.

[RELATED: Ranking Warriors' five best free-agent signings since 2000]

Ky Bowman signed a multi-year extension with Golden State in February, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole. Bowman originally started as a two-way player for the Warriors and spent time with the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League as well.

On the same day Bowman's contract was converted to a standard NBA deal, big man Marquese Chriss also signed a reported multiyear extension with the Warriors. Chriss had been a two-player for a few weeks after being released to make way for Damion Lee, who himself was converted from a two-way player to a full-time member of Golden State's roster.

Local product Juan Toscano-Anderson began the season in Santa Cruz with the Warriors' G League team, playing 31 games there this season before being signed to the Warriors' roster in February on a multi-year deal.

Finally, Mychal Mulder impressed Golden State's front office enough during his 10-day contract that the Warriors inked him to a multi-year deal in an announcement on March 10, just a few days before the league's coronavirus suspension.

Trades could open up roster spots for Myers and the organization, but free agency won’t be much of an issue this offseason, as all 13 of the players on the active roster are locked up for next season.

NBA free agency: KD among Warriors' five best signings since 2000

NBA free agency: KD among Warriors' five best signings since 2000

It's been four years since the Warriors broke NBA Twitter with the news that Kevin Durant was signing with the team as a free agent.

The 2014 NBA MVP just had been eliminated from the previous postseason by Golden State while playing with the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a thrilling series.

Durant won two NBA Finals MVPs and was vital in bringing two titles back to the Bay Area. This signing got us thinking, who are the best free-agent signings the team has made over the franchise's history?

We kept it specific to the last 20 years, so you won't be seeing Rick Barry or Sarunas Marciulionis among the five selected. We also eliminate sign-and-trades from the equation, as these aren't the same as standard free-agent contracts. So icons like Andre Iguodala and David Lee also don't make the cut for this list.

So who will be included?