After Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinal loss against the San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry did not shy away from any questions. He acknowledged his team’s collapse and knew he had let a blow-out win, slip away. Curry said of his own performance that night, “I’ve still got to find another gear.”
It took six hard-fought games for the Spurs to dispatch the Warriors, and Curry’s assessment of his Game 1 performance applies whole-heartedly to the entire Warriors franchise. They have got to find another gear if they want to win another championship.
To reach that next gear, they need certain breaks and need to play their cards perfectly, and then some. Salary cap restrictions and the lack of a draft pick certainly can hinder the Warriors, but should be something that holds them back in the long run.
The reality of their offseason is that either Jarrett Jack or Carl Landry is going to leave via free agency. The other hopefully signs a more lengthy extension with the team and is a core piece of their future.
Landry is the piece worth keeping. He is a back to the basket post-up player, the kind of big man that countless teams lack and struggle defending. With David Lee and Festus Ezeli recovering from injuries and the threat of another Andrew Bogut injury always in play, the need for a quality big-man off the bench is exponentiated.
Even though point guard Jarrett Jack flourished under coach Mark Jackson this past season, he is far more replaceable then Landry. Ideally, the Warriors would be able to keep Landry and add cheaper backup point guard, options that would only be slightly less productive.
Possible replacements for Jack include: Deven Harris, Jose Calderon, C.J. Watson and even Jordan Farmar. These four guards, while either older or less productive than Jack, will likely be available for a much cheaper price and could be available once the top free agents sign. With the Warriors’ constricted salary cap, signing one of the four guards above becomes even more crucial.
Try To Dispatch Jefferson or Biedrins’ Contracts
Another ideal scenario for the Warriors would involve a trade shipping away the corpses’ of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins.
To the surprise of no one, both Jefferson and Biedrins picked up their options for next season. They are are incredibly tough to deal because of their diminishing talent and enormous price tag. In a dream scenario, the Warriors would be able to deal Biedrins and a future second-round pick to Cleveland, a team with tons of cap space, for Marreese Speights. Speights is still a talented big man, and in turn, Cleveland would receive another center and a draft pick. Neither team benefits greatly, but the Warriors accomplish the ultimate goal: getting rid of a bad contract.
Add Ognjen Kuzmic
The Warriors should also attempt to bring in the services of Bosnian center Ognjen Kuzmic.
Kuzmic, the Warriors’ second-round pick from 2012, spent 2012 developing overseas, but he is likely to join the team for summer league play, and possibly beyond. Kuzmic would immediately jump Biedrins on the depth chart, and due to Ezeli’s injury, he would be the Warriors’ backup center. A possible price tag for Kuzmic could be between $1 million and $3 million.
Lock Up Mark Jackson
On top of all the possible personal improvements the Warriors could make, locking up Mark Jackson to an extension would also be part of the plan. Jackson has done a fantastic job transforming the identity of the Warriors, taking them from the bottom of the West to the breakout team of the 2012-13 NBA postseason.
Jackson, a Top 5 coach, is due for an extension similar to the recent extension of elite Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Coach “Thib” signed a four-year, $17 million extension this past offseason. A similar extension for Jackson would double his salary, and in turn, he would continue to change the culture of the Warriors for years to come.
If the Warriors push all the write buttons, then they will surely improve and continue to progress, but if they flunk out this offseason, then a step back is imminent.