Guest Writer: Jesse Scardina
After capturing the country’s heart during a surprising second-round playoff run that saw the Warriors push the mighty Spurs to the brink, it’s going to take some top-notch cap finagling to maintain a deep, successful team that hopes to contend in what could be a wide-open Western Conference in the coming years.
One of the top knocks on this Warriors club was its lack of depth — going nine players deep most of the season. That cause for concern was apparent when in the first game of the playoffs, David Lee tore his hip flexor, extremely limiting his ability during the postseason.
This lack of depth becomes crippling once Warriors’ fans realize that two key cogs — Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry — have most likely outworked their $4 million player option and will obtain some long-term economic stability elsewhere.
Even then, leaving off those two key bench players, the rest of the existing roster gets much more expensive next year and beyond.
Stephen Curry’s extension kicks in next season, jumping his salary from a shade under $4 million to a shade under $10 million. Andrew Bogut, Lee and Richard Jefferson each get a million-plus raise. Coming off an ACL injury, Brandon Rush is going to opt-in to his $4 million option.
Taking into consideration all the raises and the loss of Jack and Landry, the Warriors are over the cap and just $5 million away from a presumed $70 million luxury tax.
Also, without the benefit of any late first round or second round draft picks, the Warriors can’t pick up any cheap, late draft gems that other small-market, successful teams has compiled.
With that said, here are three potential replacements for Jack and Landry that the Warriors could potentially lure to the Oracle on a cheap deal.
Despite a promising start to his career, Harris petered off and became a journeyman point guard, playing for four teams in his career. Despite his journeyman status, Harris has been overpaid recently, coming off a contract that paid him at least $7.8 million the last four years. If he’s interested in helping a team win rather than lining his bank account, he will accept a large pay decrease to become someone’s backup point guard.
Harris put up 10 points and 3 and a half assists in under 25 minutes per game for the Hawks last season. He’s a below average three-point shooter, but Jack wasn’t known to stretch the floor. Jack’s and Harris’ Per-36 minute stats compare well to each other, with Jack scoring about a point more. If Harris doesn’t mind around $1.5 million for two years, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Golden State to take a flyer on the former All Star.
The Brooklyn Nets backup has a year left on his contract, but he’s outplayed his player option of $1.1 million. Watson, who started his career with Golden State, was a serviceable backup for Chicago before heading to Brooklyn last year. He doesn’t have the skill set for a starting role, but is a good option for any team coming off the bench for 20-25 minutes a night. He shot a career-high 41 percent from beyond the arc last year.
He’s a little smaller than Jack, which would pose a problem when the Warriors wanted to go super small and play Thompson at the 3 and Barnes at the 4. Watson will probably be looking for a slight raise if he declines his player option, but the Warriors could do worse than offering Watson their bi-annual exception.
The former lottery pick of the Clippers turned a gruesome knee injury that derailed his promising career into a mediocre backup point guard, averaging six points, two rebounds and over three assists in 22 minutes per game for the Wizards and Cavs. However, he blossomed in his 49 games for the Cavs, scoring seven points and dishing out 3.6 assists in 23 minutes per game.
While Livingston has never been known as a defensive stalwart, he’s long enough for the Warriors to play small and spread the floor. Unfortunately, Livingston’s three-point range is nonexistent. Still, a year or two on the league minimum would be a low-risk high-reward chance.
The four-year man out of Missouri showed quite a bit of improvement from 2011-12 to 2012-13, improving all his numbers across the board. He’s never played more than 17 minutes per game, so taking on Landry’s 23 minutes may be a stretch, but distributing those minutes between Landry’s replacement and Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green, the Warriors could cover Landry’s production without hitting the luxury tax.
Probably the most talented of the bunch, but also the most dangerous with his unpredictable attitude, Blatche is coming off a season in Brooklyn where he put up over 10 points per game in under 20 minutes per game, shooting over 50 percent from the floor. Blatche’s 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last year measure up nicely with Landry’s 10.8 points and six boards, while Blatche provides a bit more length down low.
The downfall with Blatche is his attitude, which has been an issue at times and saw him sent out of a rebuilding Wizards team, which makes you wonder if you want to put him next to other young talent. If Blatche agreed to a one year deal following his amnesty season with Brooklyn, it may be worth to bridge the gap until the salary cap flexibility returned.
The two-time NBA All Star has rebounded well in his late career after irking Philadelphia for years with an exorbitant contract and lackluster play. Yet, after getting amnestied from Philly last season, Brand signed for a year with Dallas and proved to be a viable backup and spot starter for Dirk.
Brand scored over seven points per game and picked up six boards and a block for the Mavs while “making” $2.1 million (plus the rest of the contract Philly was paying him). For someone who has made over $140 million in salary thus far in his career, a twilight ending in California for a budding playoff team could be a good way to go out — for the veteran’s minimum, of course.
Despite their potential cap woes for next year, the continued improvement of Curry, Thompson and Barnes — plus the inclusion of one or two players mentioned above — should keep this team in the playoff hunt before Jefferson, Bogut and Biedrins’ salaries come off the books in 2014.