The Golden State Warriors have made two monstrous mistakes during owner Joe Lacob’s tenure.
First, they failed to amnesty Andris Biedrins—instead opting to jettison Charlie Bell, whose $4.1 million contract saved them virtually nothing in NBA terms. Second, they swapped Stephen Jackson to the San Antonio Spurs (after getting him in the Andrew Bogut deal with Milwaukee) for Richard Jefferson and the late first-round draft pick that became Festus Ezeli.
The results of those mistakes are that the Warriors are now stuck with Biedrins—a total lost cause—and Jefferson, who’s still a halfway-decent player, but definitely isn’t worth his salary. In total those two players will cost the Warriors almost $40 million over the next two years. That’s terrible on its own. But what makes these two mistakes even worse is that all that committed money means the Warriors can’t be a major free-agent player until, at the earliest, 2014-15.
The Warriors’ roster looks better than it ever has right now, but if you think this is a championship group of players, you’re fooling yourself. There’s some reason to believe the team will improve over the next couple of seasons. Maybe Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes are all-stars-in-waiting. But there’s also a pretty good chance that this team is a low-end playoff contender, and that’s about it.
The problem is that this roster is going to be really hard to change because of those two crappy contracts, and big change—via a splashy max-deal free-agent signing—is just about the only way to vault from a playoff also-ran up to the level of a real contender.
Thanks to the contracts of Jefferson and Biedrins, the Warriors can’t get in on the Chris Paul or Dwight Howard Sweepstakes after the upcoming season, when both will be free agents.
Maybe ownership can get creative. Maybe they’ll figure out how to work around the pair of contracts that are holding back the franchise. They’ll have to if the Warriors are going to be serious contenders anytime soon.