May 12, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson (left) instructs small forward Harrison Barnes (40) against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter in game four of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Spurs 97-87 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors: How Can Their Frontcourt Improve In 2013-14?

Carl Landry is expected to leave as a free agent this summer, but the Golden State Warriors’ frontcourt should be able to improve going into next season, complimenting an already elite backcourt.

The easiest route to a superior frontcourt comes through internal improvements. Improved health from Andrew Bogut could give him increased mobility and comfort in the offense, potentially improving the Warriors both offensively and defensively. Festus Ezeli  was a rookie in the 2012-13 season and should naturally improve as he increases his understanding of NBA rotations and positioning.

May 10, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) reacts after a play against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of game three of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 102-92. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Ezeli’s offensive game was close to non-existent this season, mostly due to an inability to catch less-than-perfect passes from penetrating guards, especially when on the move.  If Ezeli’s “hands” improve, he may become more of a threat to finish pick and rolls, secure offensive rebounds and take advantage of opportunities when opposing big men abandon him to play help defense.

At power forward, Draymond Green showed promise during the Warriors’ playoff run. Green is already a very good defender and has the potential to be a stretch four. He shot only 20.9 percent from three in his first year but that improved to 39.1 percent during the playoffs. Even as a poor shooter, Green’s position on the perimeter forces defenders to take a few steps further out of the paint that David Lee typically would offensively.

Green often shows good court vision and was a very good rebounder in college. He finished the season with an assist percentage of only seven percent and a total rebound percentage of 13.5 percent, (many of his minutes came at small forward, effecting rebounding numbers) but he has the fundamentals and physical abilities to be an above average rebounder. Any offensive improvement from Green would be a welcome addition to his already excellent defense.

Harrison Barnes, like Green, had success playing power-forward during the playoffs. While it is unlikely that the Warriors would rely on Barnes as a full-time power-forward, he stretches the floor and could help the Warriors replicate their playoff success.

At power forward, Barnes is able to attack slower players from the perimeter and he has fewer defensive big men to account for at the rim. Many power forwards are not accustomed to defending players on the perimeter, giving Barnes, a 35.9 percent three point shooter, open opportunities. Even when opponents add a perimeter player to match the Warriors, defensive help schemes often force opponents to leave open shooters on the perimeter against four-out lineups.

Both Barnes and Green will also get significant time at small forward next season.  The offseason improvements of both players will change the Warriors’ outlook at both small forward and power forward.

While a free-agent signing is unlikely due to the Warriors’ salary situation, there are several valuable front court players on the market that could potentially be obtained through sign-and-trades or outright signings using the mid-level exception. Players like Marreese Speights, Elton Brand, Earl Clark, Lamar Odom, Chris Anderson, Mike Dunleavy and a few others could all potentially be signed under the mid-level exception. However, the Warriors would choose to sign a power-forward if they are willing to enter the luxury tax, as retaining Jarrett Jack is likely a higher priority for the front office.

The Warriors could pursue alternative routes, including a sign and trade or actual trade, but most of the necessary frontcourt improvements can likely be made within the organization

Tags: Carl Landry Draymond Green Festus Ezeli Harrison Barnes

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