The 1 player who should get Warriors’ 15th roster spot
The Golden State Warriors have until the final day of the regular season to fill their 15th and final roster spot for the playoffs. But a related deadline comes by the end of Wednesday, March 1st, at which point players must have been waived by their former team to maintain postseason eligibility with a new one.
The Warriors have known since before 2022-23 tipped off that they’d be players on the buyout market, keeping their fingers crossed the last piece of a back-to-back championship puzzle could be added once the dust settled post trade deadline.
The biggest buyout names have already signed with other hopeful contenders, though, and momentum’s been mounting for months that Golden State’s last roster addition is likely to come from within.
As the playoff eligibility waiver deadline dawns, here’s the one player should get the Warriors’ 15th roster spot.
1 player who should get Warriors’ 15th roster spot
Even the best, most proven players on a once-robust buyout market wouldn’t have helped Golden State this season.
Kevin Love’s sweeping defensive deficiencies make him a tough fit for any team come the postseason, but especially the Warriors. Though Reggie Jackson and Patrick Beverley aren’t far removed from making noise in the playoffs, the Dubs’ backcourt is stacked with impact players deserving of high-leverage minutes. Danny Green, it’s sad to say, might be cooked coming off an ACL tear at 35 years old.
Justin Holiday would’ve been a realistic target given his (admittedly waning) 3-and-D credentials, and just as importantly, his past experience playing in Golden State under Steve Kerr. But he quickly signed with the new-look Dallas Mavericks upon reaching buyout terms with the Houston Rockets, and lacks the heft needed to passably check the likes of Luka Doncic, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James in a pinch.
There are still plenty of notable backup centers waiting patiently for a call after being bought out.
The always-disruptive Nerlens Noel could juice the Warriors’ transition attack with deflections, steals and blocks, while Serge Ibaka is the sweet-shooting, shot-blocking archetype every team wants from its reserve center. Both Noel and Ibaka are major health risks, though, neither giving any indication this season they’d be ready to help a playoff team when injuries or foul trouble push them into action.
Golden State’s logjam up front is among many reasons why the front office finally moved on from James Wiseman, too. With Kevon Looney entrenched as a starter, Draymond Green earmarked for as many small-ball center minutes as necessary and JaMychal Green playing his best basketball since returning from injury on January 20th, the Warriors just don’t have room for another traditional big—especially given the uncertain health statuses of Gary Payton II and Andre Iguodala.
Who should get Golden State’s 15th roster spot, then? Anthony Lamb, who along with fellow two-way player Ty Jerome has drawn the ire of Dub Nation pretty much all season while emerging as an obvious favorite of the coaching staff.
Frustrating as it’s been for fans, Lamb’s firm place ahead of Moses Moody and even Patrick Baldwin Jr. in the Warriors’ rotational pecking order isn’t difficult to justify. Behind Draymond, Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga and a healthy Iguodala, no wing or forward on the roster prompts fewer questions and provides as many answers as Lamb.
He’s much stouter than Moody guarding bigger players, fighting on the glass and rotating from the weak side. Lamb has far better feet than Baldwin, capable of not getting embarrassed when switched onto quicker ball handlers in isolation.
Maybe Golden State could stomach a defensive drop-off toward the back of the rotation if Moody or Baldwin—or Wiseman before he was traded—offered much more than Lamb on the other end. But he’s hitting a solid 38.0% on catch-and-shoot triples and converting an extremely impressive 73.2% of shots within eight feet of the basket instead, per NBA.com/stats, consistently proving his ability to knock down open looks and remain a scoring threat while driving aggressive close-outs.
Combined with Lamb’s positional versatility and comfort moving the ball in the flow of the offense, that finishing prowess from deep and at the rim makes him a worthwhile 11th or 12th man when the Warriors are back at full-strength—or lower than that should Payton, Iguodala or someone else be unavailable at any point in the postseason.
“Lamb does a whole lot of stuff that people don’t recognize,” Kerr said after short-handed Golden State’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, a game Lamb closed alongside Jordan Poole, Donte DiVincenzo, Klay Thompson and Looney. “He’s one of our best defenders in terms of coming over and rotating and understanding our coverages, hitting bodies, boxing out. He’s a good passer. Good three-point shooter; he hit the big one from the top of the key. He can play multiple positions. We played him as a small five.”
Jerome has been nearly as impactful for Golden State throughout a topsy-turvy regular season. If Wiseman was a true salary dump at the deadline rather than the means for re-acquiring Payton, another competent secondary creator, Jerome’s prowess as a pick-and-roll operator and standstill shooter would’ve made it tougher for the Warriors to choose between he and Lamb.
But scalable size and stylistic flexibility rule in the playoffs, and Lamb is the only internal or external candidate for the defending champs’ final roster slot who gives them a real semblance of both.
“Lamb, he’s been really important,” Kerr said on Sunday.
Important enough to have his two-way deal converted to a full-time contract before end of the regular season, though? Don’t be surprised when Golden State soon makes Lamb’s long-rumored promotion official.