Today the Hoop Diary Future Plans feature takes in the oft-maligned Golden State Warriors. With a fresh ownership group, a new coach, a host of new players and their always faithful and exuberant fans, do the Golden State Warriors have reason to believe their near future will be better than their recent past?
Golden State Warriors
With the exception of a surprising 2007 Playoff run, the Golden State Warriors are in the midst of what has been a pretty dismal period stretching nearly 20 years. The Warriors have had a run and gun mentality for a long time however the current group of players is a far cry from the Run-T.M.C. successes of the late 80s/early 90s and really need to find their own direction. That direction may come under a new ownership group headlined by Joe Lacob, by all accounts is a Basketball junkie with long ties to the Warriors and nearby Stanford, who has a long history of changing the culture of companies and building something from nothing. Lucky for Lacob he doesn’t have nothing to work with; the Warriors have one of the best crowds in all of Basketball and a decent, but miss-matched and overpaid, roster.
The Golden State organisation has long been rotten from top to bottom and the new owners have already started making moves to fix that issue, the most public facing being the replacement of coach Keith Smart with Hall of Famer Mark Jackson. Lacob has stated publically many times that he is committed to understanding the business inside and out and will make the changes and spend the money required to make the Golden State Warriors a winner. Lacob has experience in NBA ownership with his time as minority owner of the Boston Celtics, and the dependable fans of the Bay Area sure deserve to see a winner after so much heartache.
The jury is still out on General Manager Larry Riley, who replaced Warriors legend Chris Mullin in 2009. Riley hasn’t caused significant damage, but he hasn’t done anything to make the Warriors appreciably better, as drafting Stephen Curry 7th in the 2009 Draft was a no-brainer. Likewise, it’s hard to judge this early if Mark Jackson was the right choice for this franchise and roster, but the real upside for the Basketball watching public is that we no longer have to put up with him on ESPN and ABC broadcasts.
That the salary cap has been mismanaged in the past by the Warriors is no secret as they’ve broken every rule in the book “Succeeding as a Small Market Team” by R.C. Buford. Golden State has three players signed to a whopping 31 million for at least the next three years (David Lee at 11.6m/5yrs, Monta Ellis at 11m/3yrs and Andris Biedrins at 9m/3yrs). The positive in this situation is that there is still a bit of cap space (7 million) remaining due to several players becoming free agents this offseason (bye Vlad Radmanovic), and this might increase if GM Larry Riley can move Monta Ellis for anything at all. Seriously, anything. A wheel of cheese would be an improvement as wheels of cheese struggle to egregiously chuck off-balance threes with time on the clock.
The Warriors also have some nice value in productive players earning small amounts (Dorell Wright, Al Thornton, Louis Amundson) as well as several players with value who are still on their rookie contracts (Stephen Curry, Ekpe Udoh). The rub here is that some of these players may need to be shipped out to remove some of the flotsam from the roster, or to bring in a defensive minded big.
Seven Seconds or Less might work if you have Steve Nash, but the Warriors don’t. Many have projected Stephen Curry to be like Steve Nash, but the truth is he is a long way from showing the kind of well-rounded offensive game that made Phoenix hum for the last seven years. The Warriors roster also lacks any semblance of the talent that was surrounding Nash from 2004-2008.
Mark Jackson still has some talent to work with, key amongst them phenom PG Curry and power forward David Lee. These two should be able to form a solid offensive tandem which can hurt an opposing defense any number of ways. Last year’s surprise packet Dorell Wright can be counted on to provide some floor spacing but it starts to get thin on the ground after that. It’s hard to see Monta Ellis having a long tenure in the Bay Area, although if he is still around to start the season Jackson will be forced find enough shots for everyone.
First and foremost, Monta Ellis needs to go. He can be of use in a system somewhere as a sixth-man, much like former Warrior Jamaal Crawford on the Atlanta Hawks, but he cannot be the primary option on a winning team.
Several options are available including relieving Portland of Brandon Roy’s whale of a contract and picking up Marcus Camby, by swapping Ellis and Andris Biedrins. This would be a win for both clubs Basketball-wise, if somewhat of a hard PR sell for Portland. Another option would be a straight swap of Ellis for Sacramento’s free-agent big man Samuel Dalembert in a sign-and-trade. Ellis would be a nice roster fit, but probably a horrid fit chemistry-wise in an already sketchy locker room.
Beyond Ellis there aren’t a lot of issues other than a lack of overall depth, which can only be addressed through the draft. Incoming shooting guard Klay Thompson is a heck of a player and will get some run in his rookie season, but finding more talent for the roster will be a long term deal.
The coming season is very much a work in progress, and unless changes are made either through trades, or by the new coach, the results will be the same as the previous few. The Warriors are badly put together, but with a few small tweaks and a large one (please get rid of Ellis!) the Golden State crowd could again have a product on the floor that is worth cheering for.
The longer term prognosis is much brighter as the new ownership has a strong track record and the roster is not that badly placed to make rapid improvement, given good drafting and strong internal player development.
We take a look at another team and assess their fortunes in the coming seasons every few days so check back regularly.