As we approach another Warriors season, the Warriors World crew shared their thoughts on a few burning preseason questions.
What player are you most interested in watching/evaluating this preseason?
Sheed (@warriorsworld): Harrison Barnes. With no major addition to the team over the summer, all attention goes to the starting small forward who is looking for a contract extension. We heard stories over the summer of Barnes working rigorously on his handle and working to become a more efficient scorer. Thus far, we have not seen much from him in preseason.
Jordan Ramirez (@JRAM_91): Harrison Barnes, both for on and off the court reasons. The man who reportedly denied a four-year, $64 million extension earlier this offseason now has all eyes on him, a rarity for — at best — the fourth option on a championship team. Barnes has been a middling talent since entering the league, always having the intangibles and potential to be a top-flight forward but instead falling below expectations that once had him the highest-ranked high school player in the country.
He has won a title, making contributions to it and yet seems extremely expendable given his anticipated price tag (anywhere from $17M to $19M annually). How will he handle the newly added pressure of being that guy that denied $64 million? Can his troubled ability to handle critics finally be a thing of the past? This preseason will be a good test for that, and if no deal is reached before the November 2nd deadline, this season will be intriguing to say the least for the former Tar Heel.
Danny Leroux (@DannyLeroux): Klay Thompson. Any improvements to his dribble-drive game (or just getting to the free throw line in general) will have a major impact on the offensive ceiling of the 2015-16 Warriors. As a talented, important player with room to improve, Klay may be the non-Curry key to another title run.
Jesse Taylor (@JesseTaylor74): I don’t know – will anyone ever decide to broadcast the World Champs on TV? The Warriors had more preseason TV games averaging 19 wins a season back in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.
From a team standpoint, I want to see how Festus Ezeli performs. Andrew Bogut’s time at center is not-for-long. Is Festus the next man up or will the team need to make a move to fill the future void at center?
From a personal standpoint, I would love to see Brandon Rush get on track after his devastating knee injury in 2012. He is a fan favorite and it was tough to see him struggle so much when he returned to the team last season. While not a critical rotation player, it would be a great story to see his confidence and his game return to a level close to his 2011-12 performance.
2. Snapshot in time: At this moment, do you think Festus Ezeli should be the Warriors’ center of the future?
Sheed (@warriorsworld): Ezeli turns 26 next week and is also looking for a contract extension. With an offseason devoid of rehab, he finally got to spend the summer working on his game as opposed to working back from an injury. Ezeli’s defensive prowess is known- if he can showcase an improved ability to catching and finishing around the rim along with a consistent post move, the Warriors would be happy to move forward with Ezeli as the center of the future.
Jordan Ramirez (@JRAM_91): Yes. With no other clear option in the foreseeable future — sorry DeMarcus Cousins hopefuls — Ezeli is the obvious choice to become the next center of the Warriors. He has overcome a troublesome right knee to become a force down low defensively and has shown the ability to score when the opportunity is called upon as well, something that Bogut has never shown with Golden State. It is also worth noting that this front office values continuity very highly and Ezeli has been through the ups and downs of the team since he was drafted in 2012. With the Warriors not asking too much offensively from the center position, Ezeli can slide into the starting role seamlessly, and if the 2015 NBA Finals were any indication, he’s ready for that moment.
Danny Leroux (@DannyLeroux): I would not give him the keys right now but would be willing to sign him to a reasonable extension if possible. When he can stay on the floor, Ezeli brings the rim protection to fuel a successful defense and a very different offensive skillset. However, his age (26 when the season starts) and injury history makes locking in now a risky proposition. An extension could still work because Bob Myers can always trade him a year from now assuming the contract stays palatable to other teams.
Jesse Taylor (@JesseTaylor74): I really do not know- that is why I chose him for question #1. So I guess that means my answer is no. He needs to prove it first and he has not yet. If the question was “Can he,” my answer would be yes. He has the size and skills mixed with the right instincts on defense to one day be a stopper like Bogut. Unlike Bogut, who was once a solid offensive center but lost it due to injury, Ezeli has never shown the skills to perform on that side of the court, and he will never be the passer Bogut is now. However, Ezeli was very late to the game, so there is still hope he can make significant strides.
While the deadline is not until 11/2, will either Barnes or Ezeli get an extension done before Ring Night about a week earlier?
Jordan Ramirez (@JRAM_91): As much as I may question it, I believe Harrison Barnes receives the extension he has been seeking for around the number initially reported (four-year, $64 million). I expect the final number to be slightly higher than the reported offer but the best thing Barnes has going for him is age. Still only 23, he has more experience, accolades and potential than some recent players (Khris Middleton, Michael Kidd Gilchrist to name a couple) who received hefty new deals. The Warriors love Barnes but at what cost? I believe Bob Myers and Barnes’ camp will find an agreeable number and bank on that age and potential finally blossoming before the new deal is completed.
Danny Leroux (@DannyLeroux): Probably not. Bob Myers and the Golden State front office have used all the time available in previous extension negotiations and the incentive of having deals done before the start of the season is not strong enough to push it earlier. If we are talking between now and the 11/2 deadline as a whole, I will say Barnes and Ezeli both get extensions under the wire.
Research has shown that year three in a player’s NBA career is the one that tells you what kind of long-term career he will have. At this point, we have enough evidence to make an informed decision on what kind of player Barnes is and it is not one that merits the kind of money being floated around. The Warriors should not use that much salary space on a player who can easily be replaced for less money. If Barnes is unwilling to accept a salary based on his performance, the team could come to a stalemate and not get a deal done by Nov. 2. Bob Meyers and the basketball staff have proven to make the right, informed decisions, so I would be surprised if they overpaid by a large margin. On the other hand, if they really offered him $16 million per year, I take that last sentence back.
Ezeli and the team do not appear close on a deal either, but seem more likely to come to an agreement by Ring Night.
Assuming James Michael McAdoo gets the 14th spot as expected, who (if anyone) sticks at the 15th and final player on the roster?
Jordan Ramirez (@JRAM_91): “He’s in that right frame of mind, and I think he’s looking forward to trying to help us out in any way possible with shooting the ball,” said Andre Iguodala of newcomer Ben Gordon this past media day. He is a name that many remember but were not excited about when he was brought on just weeks ago as a training camp invite. As a career 40 percent three-point shooter, Gordon is entering his 12th season in the NBA. He is a veteran and one that will be a cheap option in a position of need for the defending champions. Iguodala spoke highly of Gordon on media day, making it seem that Gordon was already assured a roster spot. The Warriors still lack a reliable third shooter behind Curry and Thompson in the backcourt, and unless Brandon Rush finds his old self, Gordon might be the next best option.
Danny Leroux (@DannyLeroux): Right now I am leaning towards Ben Gordon. Andre Iguodala spoke highly of the veteran shooter at Media Day and his strengths would fit in well with what the Warriors would like to have in that last roster spot. Additionally, I fully expect that if they keep a 15th player, that individual will have a non-guaranteed contract to maintain additional flexibility in case a greater need presents itself in the early part of the season, presumably due to injury.
Jesse Taylor (@JesseTaylor74): Ben Gordon is barely holding onto the fur of the tail end of his career. However, he is a proven shooter who could make an impact by coming in during certain game situations when the Warriors need a scorer off the bench. If the team sees that he no longer has “it,” look for Ian Clark to gain the last spot and play the same role expected of Gordon.
Thanks for reading- we will try to have these features regularly throughout the 2015-16 season.