Heading into the 2020-21 season, the Warriors' roster is top-heavy with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green all on large contracts. If Golden State were to select and sign the No. 2 overall pick in the rapidly approaching 2020 NBA Draft, that prospect immediately would become the fifth-highest paid player on the team. Kevon Looney, making just under $5 million this season, would round out the top six.
With so much money allocated to the top players on the team, pushing Golden State high into the luxury tax, the Warriors need to find some key contributors on cheap deals. Luckily, those players might already be on the roster.
According to NBA analyst Nate Duncan, Damion Lee and Mychal Mulder are exactly what the Warriors need.
"I think Lee and Mulder can give them something, particularly offensively," Duncan recently said on the "Runnin' Plays" podcast.
Last season, Lee averaged 12.7 points in 29.0 minutes per game. He shot just under 36 percent from 3-point range, but contributed all around the court with rebounds, assists and hustle on the defensive end. Mulder, meanwhile, played just seven games for the Warriors last season and struggled to find consistency. He did, however, have a game in which he made five 3s, and showed glimpses of being a 3-and-D guard.
Lee currently is on a partially guaranteed minimum contract for this season and next, while Mulder's contract is non-guaranteed. Despite their relative obscurity, inexperience and inconsistency, Duncan made a major proclamation.
"I think either of those guys are better offensive players than anyone they have had coming off the bench the last couple of championship years," Duncan explained.
That's a pretty bold claim, but when you take a look back at those rosters, it's not outlandish. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, the two stalwarts of the Warriors' bench during their championship years, were incredibly talented all-around players that contributed in most aspects of the game. However, from an outside shooting and pure firepower perspective, they could not be relied upon. Quinn Cook, Nick Young and Alfonzo McKinnie all had their moments during their time with Golden State, but never established themselves as consistent offensive threats in the rotation.
Duncan thinks Lee and Mulder can do just that. Despite the fact that most assume Mulder is on the roster bubble, Duncan has high praise and expectations for him.
"I really like Mychal Mulder, I think he defended adequately, and he can shoot the ball," Duncan said. "I don't know if he's a 40 percent 3 point shooter, but they just need guys that can knock down shots. They just have missed that the last couple years. Having anyone that can do anything defensively and make shots, you saw that just having Mulder in there, even if he did not shoot it incredibly well, that was their best run of the season ...
"I'm not going to say when you get into the playoffs that Mychal Mulder is going to be some awesome player, you know he could start off shooting it cold and get nailed to the bench, but I do expect him to make the team. They desperately need cheap contributors going forward with how expensive these guys are going to be."
While Duncan has confidence in Mulder, he's less enthusiastic about 2019 first-round pick Jordan Poole.
"I think he's going to get chances," Duncan said. "He'll play 10 to 15 minutes per game and he'll heat up at some times, and then he is not going to play at all in the playoffs because he will be completely killed defensively. But I think he will have his opportunities as an on-ball guy, try to give them some scoring in the second unit.
"Start of the second quarter, you would have Klay [Thompson] and Andrew Wiggins handle the offense while Steph is off the floor, and then maybe Poole would be the initiator with that group as well, and try to give them some more offense. That is kind of how I see his role as being, if he's good enough."
The key for Poole will be continuing the growth he exhibited at the end of last season when he was given a longer leash and more opportunity to play. Over his final 13 games of the season, he averaged 14.3 points per game on 47.2 percent shooting from the field and 31.0 percent from long range. Despite that stretch, Poole still finished the season shooting 33.3 percent from the field and 27.9 percent from deep overall.
"This is going to be a real team this year, it will be totally different," Duncan added. "Jordan Poole had some moments, but he was also one of the worst players statistically in the NBA last year, and we probably should not lose sight of that either, even if he has had a chance to make some more strides."