The Warriors, as presently constructed, are a much better team than they were at the beginning of last season. Perhaps you disagree. Perhaps you fret over what was lost in Jarrett Jack heading East, or in Carl Landry heading up the I-80. I’m here to assuage those fears to the point where your computer screen might give off the faint, homerisitic musk of Warriors Optimism. 

The first (understandable) fear is that the Warriors will no longer have a backup point guard nearly as good as Jarrett Jack. I strongly disagree with this notion because I believe shooting guard Andre Iguodala to be a better point guard than Jarrett Jack. On its face, that statement doesn’t add up. Iggy projects to be a starter and he’s listed with an “SG” next to his name. But tell me: What does a point guard do that Iguodala doesn’t? 

Golden State’s big free agent signing led all shooting guards in assist percentage last year. That’s unless you count Kirk Hinrich as a shooting guard, which the Bulls do. That Chicago can list two starters as “shooting guard” gives you some idea of just how arbitrary and dumb the traditional positional designations are. Today, positions do more to organize who guards whom based on height, as opposed to determining offensive role. Iguodala is a worse shooter than Jack, but he’s a better slasher, and a better defender to a hilarious degree.

If Iguodala and Kent Bazemore can absorb some of Jack’s old role, the Warriors should be OK. If Bazemore isn’t up for the job, then there will be some backup point guard available in the D-League, Europe, or via trade. Smarter teams don’t tend to cash out backup point guards because there’s a wider talent pool among shorter players. You can stuff blue whales into the talent gulf between starting big men and bigs who can’t make a roster. Nate Robinson came back from the fringes of the league to power his team past the Nets in a playoff series.

The second fear is that Carl Landry’s exit will hurt the Warriors. I’m more concerned with that one, as Landry was a quality backup big in a league with very few of those. Fortunately, it appears that the Warriors are signing Marresse Speights to what looks like a smallish deal.

Speights has good size and a sweet shot from long two-point range. Expect him to play Landry’s role of pick-and-pop specialist. While I do believe Landry to be the better player, mostly based on Speights’ worse defense, this was a good pick up at a time of year when decent big men are near impossible to find. The Warriors should have an overall improved defense this season, but the thin front court is a bit of an issue–at least until Festus Ezeli returns from injury. If Bogut gets hurt before Ezeli comes back, there won’t be much resistance at the rim.

But why dwell on the negative when the Warriors are in such a better position than they were at the start of last year, with a pained, out-of-shape, staggering Bogut? Iguodala will allow them to experiment with various smallball lineups and we should see a lot of Barnes at the 4, where he thrives. Stephen Curry used the second half of last season to expand his shot selection, and by extension, Golden State’s horizons. Good things are happening out here.

Right now, the only bad contract is for a guy who played on the last All-Star team. Little over a year ago, the roster was rife with bad deals and it looked like Stephen Curry was angling for a way out of town. And a week ago, the Warriors almost wooed Dwight Howard. Yes, “almost” means little to many, but I appreciated how this ownership group nearly leveraged their way into a big signing when other franchises might have quit on the process.

I’m nearly sickened to give this much credit. It’s not in my nature, as I’ve come to understand a correct appraisal of the Warriors as one that’s critical of management and bitterly pessimistic. But if the front office keeps acting rationally and prudently, I don’t know what else to do. The same guys who stumbled out of the gate with that terrible Charlie Bell amnesty have been great since that point. Much as some of you might be confused by a shooting guard who plays back up point guard, I’m confused by a competent Warriors reality. But it’s happening.

One Response

  1. devarajaswami

    Ethan, love your articles here and on ESPN. But did you write before the Jermaine O’Neal deal become known?