On paper, the Golden State Warriors don’t appear to be that far off from competing for a spot in the Western Conference Playoffs. Adding a couple pieces this off-season and getting Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut, and David Lee 100% healthy will certainly be crucial if Mark Jackson‘s team is going to take that next step.
Golden State Warriors (23-43 last year)
2011-12 Season Summary:
First year head coach Mark Jackson didn’t exactly make good on his introductory press conference promise of leading the Warriors to the playoffs this season. It wasn’t Jackson’s fault though that he fell short of his guarantee.
Injuries affected the core of the Warrior roster. Stephen Curry was bothered by an ankle injury and only played in 26 games. His backcourt mate, Monta Ellis, was dealt for center Andrew Bogut who didn’t suit up in a single game for Golden State also because of a banged up ankle.
David Lee was shut down late in the season due to a torn abdominal muscle as rumblings began that Golden State was tanking late in the season to keep their first round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. (The Warriors need their first round pick to fall in the top seven otherwise it ends up going to Utah.) For one game late in the season, Golden State actually started five rookies.
Of those new faces, Klay Thompson proved that he can also score at the NBA level. Thompson averaged 18.6 points per game over the final month of the season which certainly helped fill the void left by Ellis. Second round picks Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Tyler were thrust into larger roles that quite honestly, they weren’t ready for which contributed to the Warriors’ poor record. Golden State also got solid offensive production from veterans Brandon Rush and Dorrell Wright but remained one of the worst defensive teams in the league.
Golden State now enters the off-season with little flexibility in free agency since Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins are eating up more than $19 million in cap space for next season. Those contracts are likely untradeable since both players own player options for 2013-2014 worth a combined $20-plus million. With a solid core of veterans and some promising youngsters, the Warriors aren’t that far off from reaching Jackson’s initial goal of getting Golden State back to the post-season.
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Andrew Bogut/Andris Biedrins/*Mickell Gladness
PF: David Lee/Jeremy Tyler
SF: Dorrell Wright/Richard Jefferson/*Chris Wright
SG: Klay Thompson/*Brandon Rush
PG: Stephen Curry/Charles Jenkins
NBA Free Agents:
*SG-Brandon Rush (RFA)
*SF-Chris Wright (RFA)
*C-Mickell Gladness (RFA)
PG-Nate Robinson (UFA)
C-Mikki Moore (UFA)
F-Dominic McGuire (UFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: Approximately $55.4 million
1. Get Healthy:
Andrew Bogut was sidelined due to season-ending ankle surgery and Stephen Curry underwent ankle surgery this off-season. Both should be ready for the start of next season and the Warriors need that duo at full strength next season if they have any hope of competing for a Western Conference playoff spot.
2. Frontcourt Depth:
Andris Biedrins suffered through an embarrassingly horrendous season and the team dealt Ekpe Udoh as part of the Bogut trade. Jeremy Tyler did show promise as a young big man but the Warriors would be wise to add some depth up-front especially since Bogut has experience some injury-riddled seasons the past couple of years.
3. Distributing Point Guard:
After signing Nate Robinson to fill the short-term role of back-up point guard, Golden State should look to add a true distributor to play behind Curry and also provide insurance in case Curry does not return at 100%. Charles Jenkins did see time at the one but is more of a combo guard than true floor general. Bringing in a true distributor would also give Jackson the flexibility of allowing Curry to play off the ball some more.
4. Re-sign Rush?:
Brandon Rush becomes a restricted free agent this season and has a qualifying offer worth almost $4.1 million which the Warriors will certainly extend his way. The question becomes whether or not Rush is worth signing to a long-term extension that would almost certainly result in a raise. Thompson appears to be the shooting guard of the future but it never hurts to have a bench player like Rush. It just depends on what the price tag ends up being.
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.