The happiest week in a Warriors fan's basketball life is coming to a close on Thursday. Out of the playoffs again, too many wings, third-and-fourth-option players on playoff teams with star player contracts, no hope in sight.
So we assemble on the internet full of hope for next season, and play armchair GM. Some of us even start fake rumors–cough 'arenas' cough–and hope someone bites.
Unfortunately, our armchair GM's are frequently taking the wrong approach. The Warriors' focus is on:
1) Selling tickets on a promise of future success
2) Staying under the luxury cap
3) Getting to the playoffs
As fans we make an innaccurate assumption that the Warriors are focused on building a playoff contender, so we create trades and evaluate players based on their ability to get us to the Finals.
This mismatch in expectations would normally get us into trouble, but this year the lines are blurred. The Warriors are feeling the pinch, with 30 percent of season ticket holders not renewing. Ticket brokers are abandoning many of their locked-in seats because no one has the money to purchase high priced seats at a premium. Longtime season ticket holders are telling me that they are opting to downgrade ( to maintain their seniority) and hold out until the team gets better. Combine this with Don Nelson's short coaching shelf life and his quest for the all time coaching win title, and even die-hard fans realize it's business as usual in Oakland.
The Warriors need to put a winner on the court, get Don his record, and compete for the 8th playoff spot.
What are the Warriors strengths?
*One of the youngest teams in the league, with and average of 3.75 years experience
*Anthony Randolph as an emerging force at the 3 or 4
*Decent center who rebounds, blocks shots, and can move to the basket
*One of the better benches in the league, even if many of them are starters
Where do the Warriors need to improve?
*Better starting 5
*Veteran leadership that can run a team
*Rebounding and defense
*Players that can defend at their positions
*A defined 5 man rotation, with 2-3 players off the bench
What can the Warriors do?
There isn't a difference maker in this years draft that will be there when the Warriors pick. Curry is a volume shooter with good basketball smarts, but he isn't going to be able to corral this team. Jennings has a lot of upside but won't come in and lead, and his defense is also questionable. Flynn can be a leader and get to the hoop, but pairing him with Monta is essentially begging every other team in the league to post up our guards. If you thought the Warriors didn't play defense last year…
This makes the 'what' fairly clear. The Warriors need to trade some of their young pieces for veteran talent. A veteran playmaker, or big body that can clog the lane to take pressure off Beans.
Of course, there's who we should trade and who we can trade, and unfortunately they aren't the same. Let's concentrate on who we should trade.
Monta Ellis: Tough one. Monta is part of the Warriors' marketing plans, their only real star player, and they have already spent a lot of money putting his face on literature. You have to factor merchandising and Kinkos costs into this one. He is quick to the hoop, has an improving mid-range jumper, but he has no real position. If you believe he can become a dominant, Iverson type player you keep him…
Jamal Crawford: Like Ellis in many ways, and they can't coexist. I like his game smarts more than Monta's, but he is another volume shooter who is streaky and doesn't play defense. He also hasn't shown he can run a team. With 2 more years on his contract he might be someone the W's can move at the deadline as other teams look to dump salary. (unexpected awesomeness, he was traded today for expiring contracts)
Corey Magette: A sixth man being paid starter dollars. Looks to get his all the time as if every year was a contract year, or his contract has a poorly written stats-based bonus structure to it. The Spurs were our best hope for dumping him, and they made a move for RJ, so we are likely stuck with him.
Anthony Morrow: Nice pickup who looks like a keeper because the Warriors style of play makes almost anyone look good. If every GM hasn't picked up on the fact that you take any Warriors player and give their stats a 30 percent across the board haircut, you can package him in a deal. Love him, great work ethic, great shooter. Hasn't proved he can handle the ball, create his own shot, or defend, in fairness neither has any other Warriors player.
Kurz, Watson, Davidson, Azubuike: Filler
That leaves the Warriors with a core of
PF: Randolph, Wright
C: Biedrins, Turiaf
Of that group only Jackson, Randolph and Biedrins are starters. The Warriors need a playmaking, penetrating, athletic point with an IQ in triple digits. A shooting guard that can outscore the opponent's SG, and a change-of-pace PF who can rebound, block shots and put back garbage. If you think back a couple of years, how good would the Warriors of '06 be if you replaced Barnes with Randolph? The Warriors were a 48 win team with just Baron Davis in there, so it's pretty clear that veteran leadership, physical pt guard play paired with Ellis, and decision making are what's missing. Why keep going with an experiment, in Ellis, that you know isn't going to succeed?
What will the Warriors do on draft night? My gut says make a trade for veteran help, trade depth for a starter if they can. Try to sneak into the playoffs this year.
My head says they'll draft best wing player available, refuse to play him at all until the last 10 games of the season, and prepare for next years draft.
Counterpoint from Fed-Up
In a draft full of good prospects at the 1, you don't pass them all up to get a less talented wing player.
Trading young pieces for a veteran player to help us squeak into the 8th playoff spot is also not a wise idea. That's the type of thinking that got us here in the first place. Our roster is not strong enough for us to adopt this strategy. The team needs to start thinking about – and planning for – long term success. Stop with the band-aids already and build a good core for once. We need to continue to collect young talent until we can find some real pieces to build around. We finally found one in Randolph last year, but we need at least one more legitimate young talent before we can start trading away some of our young guys to get better veteran chemistry.
Also….not picking Flynn due to Monte's defensive shortcomings is not a good reason to not draft Flynn. Monte's shortcomings will be there no matter who you pair him with. His best role is as a sixth man anyway, so get the starting PG in Flynn – who has a lot of winning qualities and fills a huge need – and keep searching for a better SG to put Ellis on the bench where he would be a real asset.
Belinelli is better than Morrow IMHO. But that's just my opinion, and I'm sure many people disagree.