The Golden State Warriors face a dilemma regarding their current roster. They are nearing the luxury tax threshold, but they’re likely to lose Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, two of their better players. In the near future, there is no question that the Warriors will likely have to pay some sort of luxury tax, but ownership has yet to give an indication of how much. Therefore, monitoring this offseason is important to Warriors fans to gauge what kind of moves the team is willing to make.
The obvious needs of the team this offseason will be to replace the solid contributions of Jack and Landry. Both were part of the second unit and frequently helped to close out games. But in terms of expendability, Landry’s production may be easier to replace than Jack’s.
Jack is an unrestricted free agent that earned $5.5 million this season while Landry, who officially opted out Wednesday, earned $4 million. So in order to keep one, the other is going to have to take less money, and the likelihood of that in this day in age is slim, despite their vocal affinity for the Bay Area, their teammates and the fans.
In terms of analyzing the options, Golden State will likely have to pay more than they did for either player to keep them and pay a replacement with their mid-level of excception, unless, of course, Joe Lacob is willing to go into that luxury tax. For either player, it is likely not worth facing the future penalties for either player at this point, because neither is a certified game-changer, such as a Stephen Curry.
The goal should always be to improve the team without handcuffing management financially, in the short term as well as the long term. Both guys are complementary players with a certain niche, and teams should not sacrifice future financial flexibility to simply keep them around.
Jack had a lot of responsibility this season as the backup point guard to Curry. Questions arose regarding his decision-making in the playoffs, but Jack was integral in getting the Warriors to the playoffs.
Jack’s ability to take over offensively sets him apart for other backup point guards. In addition, he is able to start in a pinch in the event that Curry has recurring ankle issues. But his leadership and energy is something that may have helped drive the team to its recent success.
Moreover, there is not anyone on the roster that can play point guard behind Jack, since the Warriors traded Charles Jenkins at the trade deadline to Philadelphia. In terms of a replacement, the free-agent pool does not offer an option that is on par with Jack but only options that would be considered “stopgaps” for the most part. There are potential cheap options available, such as Will Bynum of the Detroit Pistons, C.J. Watson of the Brooklyn Nets, Keyon Dooling of the Memphis Grizzlies or even Shaun Livingston of the Clevland Cavaliers, who are all decent or average backup point guards with the ability to provide some scoring and can start if needed.
On the other hand, there are existing pieces on the team that could take the place of Landry’s power forward minutes with the backup unit and become part of the closing squad during close games. The mostly likely candidate is Harrison Barnes, who played the stretch- four position beautifully in the playoffs and will likely earn more minutes this season as a result. This may lead to smaller lineups for some stretches, but it proved to be an effective strategy against both the San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets.
Draymond Green, with his 7’1″ wingspan (Landry is measured at 6’11″) can also play power forward position, albeit he would be a bit undersized. Landry was is a similar situation, as he’s also undersized. Green may even be a better option for the job because of ability to rebound and defend multiple positions.
So by simply increasing Barnes and Green’s production, the Warriors may be able to compensate for Landry. In addition, when Brandon Rush comes back, Green shifting to power forward seems more likely than him playing small forward. Free agency also offers some options, such as Marreese Speights, Brandan Wright (may be too expensive), Jason Maxiell or Earl Clark. All are below Landry’s level in terms of consistency and professionalism as a teammate, but they could suffice.
Overall, the Warriors have a good problem on their hands–two guys who both want to stay and make a contribution to a winning team. Obviously, other things can happen and they may be able to keep both, but if forced to choose, Jack, with this free-agent pool, should be the higher priority to retain. Landry provided something nice to the team with his energy and occasional flexing of offensive dominance down low, but his position can be filled without much investment by the team, just by simply reconfiguring responsibilities and minute allotments.