Letting go of anything that brought you or someone close to you happiness is always difficult. Whether it is your favorite childhood memento, your pet, or favorite article of clothing. In the NBA realm letting go of one of your most productive players is also difficult. In the case of the Golden State Warriors, the two cornerstones of their bench, point guard Jarrett Jack and power forward Carl Landry both left via free agency to Cleveland and Sacramento respectively.
Letting Jack walk seemed likely from the mid-point of the season due to his production and the need of other teams to have a quality point guard in the NBA. But for the Warriors, letting a skillful power forward in Carl Landry walk was much harder. But letting Landry walk was actual a positive for the Warriors next season.
Landry averaged 10.8 points, six rebounds, 0.8 assists, and 0.4 blocks per game last season on the Dubs in 23 minutes of play per game. He was incredibly efficient shooting 54 percent overall. Beyond the 54 percent from the field, Landry was excellent in the paint shooting 66 percent in the restricted area and 40 percent in the paint excluding the restricted area.
Landry had a first-rate midrange game among bigmen, shooting almost 44 percent from midrange and was a quality defender as well. But all this can be replaced.
If the Warriors would have resigned Landry, then in turn they would have never signed Andre iguodala. Landry signed with the Kings for four years and 26 million dollars a contract that would have locked the Warriors in for years to come. While Landry is a nice bench player, Iggy is one of the best wing defenders in the league and a crunch-time performer, someone who has a ton of experience in big games being “the guy” on his team.
With the salary the Warriors still had open they dissected through the free agent pool, selecting players that were both relatively inexpensive but also very capable of replacing the production of Landry, i.e. Marreese Speights and Jermaine O’Neal.
We will start by comparing Speights with Landry. Speights was traded early in the season from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Cleveland Caviliers. After initially struggling Speights became more comfortable and subsequently production.
We will compare Landry and Speights statline from after the all-star break.
Landry: 9.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 0.8 assists, -0.8 +/-
Speights: 9.2 points, 4.6 rebounds 0.7 assists, -4.1 +/-
Those basic statlines are very similar. Landry did score slightly more per game as well as coral a few more misses, but the production different in the second half of the season is not large enough to warrant such a major salary difference. Speights signed a three year, $11 million deal.
Defensively, Speights is a slightly worse individual defender than Landry but in terms of team defense when he is on the floor, Speights is statically better. When opposing players isolates Speights, the opposing team scores 42.4 percent of the time. When the opposing team posts Speights up, they score 40.5 percent of the time. When Speights closes out on a spot-up shooter, the opposing teams scores 36.4% of the time. Those three defensive situations account for nearly 90 percent of all of Speights’ defensive possessions.
With Landry on the floor in the same three defensive situations, the opposing team is slightly more productive. On isolation plays the opposing team scores 44 percent of the time. On post ups they score 44.4 percent of the time and on spot ups 49.2 percent of the time. The largest difference comes from spot-up shooter close outs where the more athletic Speights closes out quicker then the slower Landry.
Another positive of letting go of Landry is that not only are they able to sign a player nearly as productive as Landry in Speights, but they still have salary left over. With some of that excess salary the Warriors signed veteran Jermaine O’Neal to a one year contract. O’Neal, now 34 is not going to play major minutes on the Warriors but his role goes beyond the numbers. O’Neal will not only serve as the backup center while Festus Ezili recovers from knee surgery, but he will also act a mentor and player coach to many of the Warriors young players, including Speights who turned 26 in early August.
O’Neal is still a banger and a good post-up defender. Of Speights, Landry, and O’Neal, the 2002 comeback player of the year is by far the best. Opposing teams score 33 percent of the time when they back down O’Neal, a figure that creates more than a ten percent difference between Landry and just less then ten on Speights.
While letting a productive player go in Landry is hard, getting two productive players that together eclipse Landry is even more of a positive. Compound that with still being able to sign one of the league’s best small forwards in Iguodala and the Warriors should be as happy as ever come next season with their new and improved roster.