Pay Your Rates
The Warriors have bought out the last two years (via this Tom Ziller FanHouse article) of Adonal Foyle's albatross contract, signifying the end of Chris Mullin's purge of his less-than-stellar first few years as GM. I'm guardedly excited to get arguably the worst contract in the NBA off the books, but, without knowing the exact terms of the buyout, I will reserve judgment and simply lament that I won't get to say that one of the best guys in the league plays for my favorite team. What really excites me about this buyout is that it suggests another move will occur soon. If that doesn't happen, though, I fear Mullin will have missed a chance to take advantage of one of next offseason's best expiring contracts.
On Draft Night '97, I remember yelling at the radio (we did not yet have cable) that the Warriors should have taken Tracy McGrady. History has proven me correct, but I've always been a fan of Adonal, even if more for his off-court personality than for his on-court performances. That said, he was a decent rebounder/defender in his best years, and I still think he could be moderately productive on a slow-it-down team. The Warriors are not constructed to do anything close to slowing it down, of course, so getting rid of the contract was a good move if only for that reason. I'll miss the guy, but only on an emotional level.
In terms of depth, I'm not sure the buyout really changes anything. The Warriors had little post depth last year and weren't going to have much this year either. The deal could have some effect on team chemistry and general locker room morale, but this team belongs to Baron Davis. I'm not even sure any players have been around long enough to truly appreciate what Adonal's ten years of service stood for.
The roster implications of this deal are quite interesting. Before buying out Adonal, the Warriors had 15 players under contract. That number does not include Mickael Pietrus, who was given a qualifying offer at the beginning of the summer and thus has the choice to return. So, as of now, the Warriors have 14 players under contract, leaving one spot open. That means one of the following things has to happen: (1) a trade that brings back one more player than they give up, (2) Pietrus comes back, (3) a sign-and-trade involving Pietrus, (4) the team keeps an open roster spot (unlikely). Of these options, I think (2) and (3) are the most likely, although I won't speculate about the specifics of any deal right now.
I want to make it clear that this buyout needs to lead to a real trade for it to be an incredibly smart move instead of just a good one. The buyout money still applies to the salary cap, so there's not a great difference between paying Adonal for sitting on the bench and paying him for sitting at home; this situation is not analogous to that of Steve Francis, who the Blazers brass thought might be a bad influence on the young 'uns in Portland. If no move happens, Mullin just squandered an opportunity to hold one of the most coveted expiring contracts in the league next offseason. The Lakers outright released Brian Grant instead of waiting for his expiring contract a few years ago, and I bet Kupchak now wishes he'd kept and moved it for a serviceable player.
But that's all idle speculation. For now, let us appreciate one of the most impressive people in the NBA and perhaps the only GM in the NBA with the balls to admit that he made five poor decisions in his first years on the job. Quite shockingly, Mullin has rectified all of those mistakes, and the Warriors' future looks brighter for it.
For those of you haven't already, it's worth checking out Adonal's website democracymatters.org. Some good work going on there.