The Golden State Warriors were mocked for something they didn’t even discuss during their historic regular season run. When Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski brought up the obvious back in early February — the Warriors are a “serious threat” to sign Kevin Durant — heads shook and eyes rolled.
How could a team like this NOT stand pat? This is just clickbait from Woj to get The Vertical some pageviews.
Um, after a loss like Game 7, how CAN they stand pat?
The Warriors are still an excellent team, but they weren’t capable of the kind of postseason dominance that would’ve mirrored their absolute steamrolling of the rest of the NBA during the part of the season that now barely matters at all. Not only that, but they lost the Finals in such a way that they can’t help but doubt themselves and each other. If they brought the same group back, The Collapse would show up in the form of painful memories almost every time they looked at each other.
We saw this from the 49ers, who didn’t make any drastic changes after losing the Super Bowl other than trading Alex Smith. They didn’t add or lose any stars after losing the NFC Championship in Seattle either, and that loss in some ways was even more difficult to reconcile. After a while, the pain was just too much. Jed York and Jim Harbaugh couldn’t work together anymore, and the foundation crumbled quickly.
This isn’t to say Joe Lacob is like York, or Steve Kerr is anything like Harbaugh other than their shared competitive drive. But even worse than the idea of paying Harrison Barnes more than anyone else on the team is his presence reminding everyone — including the fans who turned on him at different points throughout the last two seasons, and all came to an agreement by the time Game 7 of the NBA Finals began that he needed to STOP SHOOTING — what he couldn’t do for this team when it needed him most.
The nextus Festus
The sight of Festus Ezeli may bring up horrible visions — like LeBron James getting whatever he wanted behind the three point line — as well. Only the Warriors know this for sure. But it didn’t seem like a vote of confidence when Golden State took another center from Vanderbilt yesterday, four years after they selected Ezeli with the same pick at the end of the first round.
From @DraftExpress on Damian Jones: “He finishes his non-post up attempts at a very solid rate … thanks to his soft hands, nice touch”
— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) June 24, 2016
In other words, he’s everything Ezeli isn’t. From The Ringer:
The comparisons between Jones and Festus Ezeli, another Vanderbilt center whom the Warriors took at no. 30 in 2012, are obvious. I asked then–Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings about his two big men after their game at Baylor this season, and he dismissed the comparison out of hand, saying that Festus is bigger and stronger while Jones is faster and more skilled. Given the increased emphasis on big men playing in the two-man game and less in the post, the advantage in that comparison has to go to Jones, who could end up being a cheap replacement for Ezeli, who is entering restricted free agency this offseason.
Jones also has a torn pectoral muscle that will keep him out of summer league, training camp, and probably the beginning of the regular season. So maybe the Warriors are following the 49ers’ … um … lead a little too closely when it comes to drafting injured guys with upside. But even Bob Myers’ remarks on that seem to be a knock on Ezeli.
But besides the pectoral injury, he’s really healthy as far as knees, ankles, back, which is also another thing that’s hard to find with big guys. He was one of the best-rated players we looked at it in the entire draft as far as his health.
Ezeli looked like an up-and-comer in the first half of the regular season … until he had knee surgery again. The Warriors can’t help but be hesitant to match another team’s big offer for a player who’s played in just 92 out of a possible 246 regular season games since his rookie season.
Out with the old
It’s not just Barnes and Ezeli who could be on their way to other teams.
In this league, we’re not an old team, but we’re not really a young team any more. So we want to keep that cupboard filled in some respects with youth.
We’ve got Looney–he’s got to get healthy. We’ve got these two guys. Other than that, you can argue that some of our players are younger, but they’re getting older–they’re getting into their mid-20s and things like that.
So it’s going to get really expensive to add veterans in the next few years, so having youth, having these types of picks, purchasing a second-round pick, it’s always a gamble, but if you get it right it pays off in a huge way.
The second-rounder the Warriors bought was used to grab Pat McCaw with the 38th pick. McCaw is an intriguing wing player from UNLV — athletic (38″ vertical) and long (he stands 6′ 6.75″ in shoes and has a 6′ 10″ wingspan), with the ability to handle (especially in transition) and play multiple positions, possibly including point guard. He seems like a possible replacement for Shaun Livingston and/or Andre Iguodala, whose contracts end after next season.
But will Livingston or Iguodala be back this fall? Will any of the over-30 club?
Myers said adding vets will be expensive, and they’ll need to ditch a few from the 2015-16 team to sign Durant or any other top-tier free agent (Al Horford seems like a likely fallback player if Durant stays in Oklahoma City). The Warriors are clearing their roster, because the plan now is clear: Create one of the best core-4s in league history (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Durant), and surround them with as many young, controllable, bargain-priced players as possible. For now, those players include Kevon Looney, Jones, McCaw, and possibly Robert Carter Jr., the Maryland forward who Golden State signed after the draft. Carter is 6′ 8.5″ in shoes with a wingspan that measures 7′ 3.25″.
Dynasty in the balance
Who else is only under contract for one more year? Stephen Curry. So the Warriors need to (1) entice him to stay with the best possible team around him and (2) prepare for an emergency if he has actually been dreaming of playing in Charlotte this whole time.
If Durant says yes, Andrew Bogut could be dealt for pennies on the dollar within hours. Mo Speights, whose outside shooting will make him an overpriced free agent in this market, will depart. Ian Clark and James Michael McAdoo could be too expensive, and both Brandon Rush and Anderson Varejao are near the end. Livingston, Andre Iguodala and even Leandro Barbosa would be great to keep around because of their unique skills and leadership qualities, but the Warriors don’t seem to be attached to anyone besides their three (hopefully going on four) stars and the guys on rookie deals.
If Durant says no, and the Warriors can’t settle on a Plan B in this crazy market (Joakim Noah is already reportedly getting max offers, so he’s out), they’ll probably have no choice but to keep the band together. But that’s not what Joe Lacob wants — what he wants is change, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he doesn’t see a radically different team next year from the “Strength in Numbers” squad. One that matches the changing demographics of this nation, as the “middle class” of the Warriors roster will shrink as the summer progresses.