After a long, laborious season that left the Warriors in the awful yet familiar position of NBA purgatory — out of the playoffs with little to no chance of winning the NBA Draft Lottery, one is left to wonder: is there a chance in hell Golden State even sniffs the playoffs next year?
Well, nothing is impossible, but it’s going to take a lot more than praying for Tony Randolph to become Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson or Shaq in his sophomore season (I’d be ecstatic with a harder working, better rebounding version of Josh Smith because I think his shooting can get much better than that of a normal center, even though according to Free Darko’s breakthrough positional chart Randolph’s game is much closer to that of a 5 than a 3). The Warriors have a massive to-do list this offseason, and must be quick and decisive if they want to have any chance at even winning 10 road games next year, let alone finishing eighth in the Western Conference.
1. Hire a General Manager
Obviously Chris Mullin can never come back to the Warriors, a development that is sad on many levels. OK, now that we’re over that loss, who the hell is going to handle the draft and trade away all the Warriors’ terrible contracts? Robert Rowell? Please, he was the one who decided it was necessary to sign Stephen Jackson and Don Nelson to unnecessary extensions. I’m not even sure Rowell knowsÃ‚Â Don Nelson? Talk about conflict of interest. Nellie wants the all-time wins record and will do anything to speed up the process of garnering those last few wins, damn the future. Larry Riley? Since a vote for Riley is a vote for Nelson, that won’t work either. Jerry West? West didn’t exactly leave Memphis in better condition than when he started there and is getting pretty darn old. However, the Warriors do need to go outside the organization and find someone who can work with Nelson (since he isn’t going anywhere) while at the same time make moves to create a team that isn’t 100% suited to Nellie’s style (since he won’t be around forever).
2. Don’t let this Jamal Crawford thing linger
Crawford has played his last game as a Warrior, but what to do now? It would be a bigger shock than the Warriors upsetting Dallas in the playoffs in 2007 if Crawford opted out of his last two years and $20M, meaning the Warriors are going to need to trade him for 10 cents on the dollar, or package him with someone more valuable (Brandan Wright?) in hopes of getting somebody who has one or two years remaining on their contract. The worst thing Golden State can do is bring back someone with three or more years left on their current deal, which is likely since Crawford’s value as a no-defense combo guard is at an all-time low right now, regardless of how many times he’s scored 50 points in a game or how many 4-point-plays he’s made.
3. Get a point guard
A starting backcourt of Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson sounds fine, except that the Warriors will be horrendously inconsistent offensively. Sure, when the shots are falling the Warriors will be a long, athletic squad, but more often they’ll be fighting each other for shots, constantly firing long jumpers early in the shot clock without anyone to facilitate the offense. Unfortunately, the Warriors have no cap room or much chance of moving up into one of the top three draft positions to get a chance at Ricky Rubio (the only pure point guard worth coveting in this year’s draft). Working out a sign-and-trade for a veteran like Andre Miller, Jason Kidd or Mike Bibby could be an option, but most trade discussions with other teams will probably go like this:
Opposing team’s GM: Hello?
Warriors: We’d like to do make a trade with your wonderful NBA franchise.
Opposing team’s GM: Sure, but only if you include Anthony Randolph.
Warriors: How about Corey Maggette?
Opposing team’s GM: (dial tone)
No matter what, the Warriors have to find some way to make sure their only point guards aren’t Monta Ellis, C.J. Watson or Marco Belinelli, none of whom are actually point guards at all. As much as we all complain about the Warriors’ lack of defense, that’s more a question of effort than the collective defensive acumen of the team’s players. The Warriors are capable of playing defense, but it’s the team’s overall selfishness and lack of cohesion that are more worrisome (and one could argue those issues have led the team to play worse defensively, since team defense is about helping each other). A point guard who worried more about achieving a assist/turnover ratio over 3.0 would do wonders for this team on both sides of the floor.
4. Settle on a consistent rotation before next season
The Warriors’ injury troubles have been widely documented (and for good reason, since they’ve barely had enough players to even play an official game over the past few weeks), but there’s some things the Warriors can do to stay healthier last year that have nothing to do with mopeds. Call me crazy, but it seems like there’s a chance Jackson wouldn’t have had such a problem staying healthy if Nellie didn’t wear him out for two straight years. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both Stack and Baron Davis had injury-plagued seasons this year after Nellie overused them in ’07 and ’08 like Dusty Baker with Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.
Including playing every minute on Opening Night, Jackson only played less than 40 minutes in two of the Warriors first fifteen games. Jackson missed time due to injury several times this year; check out how many minutes Nellie played him on his first games back from each injury — it borders on abuse:
Dec. 1 vs. Miami (after missing 1 game): 49:24
Dec. 10 vs. Milwaukee (after missing 1 game): 41:02
Dec. 26 vs. Boston (after missing 5 games): 46:03
Jan. 16 vs. Atlanta (after missing 4 games): 42:39
Mar. 3 @ Minnesota (after missing 1 game): 29:00 (in a 118-94 blowout win)
Mar. 7 @ Milwaukee (after missing 1 game): 44:31
Mar. 19 @ Lakers (after missing 1 game): 31:50
41 minutes per game on average. Way to ease him in there, Don.
This wasn’t just a problem with Captain Jack, but with Ellis as well after he returned from ankle surgery (Ellis averaged just under 36 minutes per game this year in 25 games). Nellie isn’t blessed with any superstars, but the Warriors are one of the deeper teams in the NBA (really, it’s true). If Nelson can settle on a consistent rotation early on and stop acting as if every regular season game is the seventh game of the NBA Finals (of course maybe we shouldn’t blame Nellie, since he’s never been to the Finals as a coach), the Warriors might not have to contemplate suiting up Jim Barnett, Keith Smart or the guy who used to dress up as Thunder during the last two weeks of the season.
5. Trade Andris Biedrins
This is going to be the most controversial inclusion on this list, but hear me out. The Warriors need to make changes, but now that Elgin Baylor’s unemployed there aren’t any GM’s around the league who will be too interested in trading for Crawford or Maggette. The Warriors are built on a faulty premise, that a team led by Ellis and Biedrins will be a top team in the Western Conference for years. Ellis isn’t a good enough playmaker for his size, while Biedrins isn’t a good enough defender for a player who’s 6’11”. While Ellis has his faults, even following his ankle injury he showed flashes of a player who could become one of the most exciting (and unique) players in the league.
Biedrins, like Ellis, could garner much more in a trade than Crawford or Maggette (who are both making the same annual salary as Biedrins, about $10M per year) because Biedrins is young, tall and can be counted on for double-doubles. Unfortunately, there isn’t one decent power forward or center in the league that Biedrins can guard one-on-one. Astute GM’s surely know this, but not all NBA GM’s are that great at their jobs. There’s sure to be a GM or two who believe that Biedrins is actually a good defender trapped on a horrible defensive team, even though the Warriors were a more effective team with Ronny Turiaf in the lineup the entire season. If the Warriors can somehow get an impact player without parting with Randolph this offseason, they have to do it. Biedrins gives them their best chance.