The 2013 offseason poses some interesting questions for the Warriors. They are coming off a nice playoff run with a young core, who looks to be a consistent playoff contender for years to come. The warriors have already locked away Stephen Curry at a below market value contract through 2017, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes are both on rookie contracts for atleast 2 more years (2015 and 2016 respectively). David Lee is still owed 3 years/44 million but with Andrew Bogut's $12 million deal expiring (and future uncertain) and Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins combine $21 million albatross' expiring, the warriors are sitting in fine position in 2014 with anywhere from 12 to 24 million in cap space based on the $58.5 million cap figure floated around (the 12 million gap is depending on if they keep Bogut's cap hold or outright release his rights). Releasing Bogut's rights and not signing any free agents beyond one year. would have the required cap space for a max-contract player without having to trade a single one of the core 4.
That raises the question of what to do this off-season? Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry were both integral parts of this team in 2012-13, and without these two, the Warriors likely miss the playoffs. Barnes and Klay developed later on in the season, Steph really only came into his own as a legitimate star in the second half, and Bogut missing the first 50 games. All this meant Jack and Landry in addition to David Lee did a lot to keep warriors afloat in first half and off to a good start.
Keeping either would mean most likely committing atleast 2 years to them, and cutting cap flexibility in 2014. Jarrett Jack is a nice 6th man, but is he worth losing your chance at a max player? What about Carl Landry? Both players will likely earn over $6 million next year (pay raises). Is that worth it? I would say probably not. At most you could keep one and even then it's only at a certain price. Both turn 30, committing 3 years to either could be a move which backfires very quickly.
In a recent Grantland article, Zack Lowe poses a question as to where do the Warriors go from here? A few specific quotes from Warriors GM Bob Myers, give you deep insite into his thoughts-
"What you see in the playoffs," Myers says, "is the top six or seven guys on a roster really determining the outcome."
"The best thing about working for Joe and the other owners has been that the mandate from day one has been to win," Myers says. "If that means going into the tax to sign a player or players who can help us win, the owners are willing to do that. But we have to be prudent about it, and not inefficient and wasteful."
"This year, the goal for us was to make the playoffs," Myers says. "We were lucky enough to accomplish that. Now the goal is to see if we build on that accomplishment."
My take from this Myers belief, while depth is always helpful, to overpay for depth, when your starters aren't title challenging level is not worth it. As warrior fans we can all agree, we've seen years of guys like Maggette, Troy Murphy, and on and on get bloated contracts which cripple Warriors flexibility and keep them in the land of irrelevance without ever being truly bad enough to draft a star or have the cap space to sign one. That's not how you get better. For the Warriors to get legitimately better, to be title contenders better, they need to get better the starting 5.
This can happen a variety of ways, free agency, draft or just internal development. It's reasonable to assume Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes will improve. David Lee is in his prime now, so it's unlikely he'll improve, and will always have his defensive flaws. Bogut being healthy alone will make the team better. But if that enough to truly challenge for a championship? Probably not.
The logical move then becomes, how can we improve 1 of our starting 5? The odds we can trade someone other than Curry for a 'star' are low and we'd have to very opportunistic. It'd have to be a situation where a player demands out. If that happens, you jump but you can't just plan to wait for it. So the next route would be the draft. Well, we have no pick in 2013, and it's unlikely we'll get a top 3 pick anytime soon, which is where you'd need to be to really have a shot at that 'final piece'. That brings the final way, free agency. We are capped out in 2013, so the obvious answer is wait till 2014 summer, don't sign anyone beyond a 1 year deal this summer and look for the best possible 'cheap' replacements for Jack and Landry as you can. Get Jose Calderon or Devin Harris in Jack's place, maybe get Brandon Wright in Landry's place or something comparable. You'd like to keep Jack or Landry, but if it risks your opportunity to get a real all-star caliber player you can't do it.
As far as I'm concerned signing Jack or Landry to a deal which cripples our 2014 flexibility is not an option worth considering and it seems as though, Warriors management feels the same way.
There is one offer which has not been considered. One thing, we could attempt to do in the immediate summer to give ourselves a shot: Trade an expiring contract of Richard Jefferson + future pick or picks for Kevin Garnett. Boston is looking to unload Garnett and Pierce and fully rebuild. The upside to this is obvious. Garnett is a future hall of famer, and still one of most productive big men in NBA. Bogut's lack of durability and DLee's lack of defense would be protected with Kevin Garnett. In a rotation with those 2 and Draymond Green, minutes could also be kept down for both Bogut and Garnett, the way San Antonio has for Tim Duncan. Think about a team where you could play Garnett 26-28 minutes a game (less than he did this year), Bogut the same (preserving the ankle), David Lee could keep his minutes closer to 33 than 38 and Draymond Green picking up the remaining 10 or so minutes. That's potentially the best front court rotation bordering on what the Lakers were able to do with Pau, Odom and Bynum (not as good, but still much better than any other team).
The downside is obvious though. Getting Kevin Garnett and his 2 year $23 million contract would take the Warriors out of running for a 2014 free agent. Is it worth giving up a first round draft pick for a 37 year old, great as he may be?
Should the Warriors make a run at it? Should they attempt to lure KG to the Bay? Fill out the roster afterwords and try to make a real run at the West and a title? Would Curry, Klay, Barnes, Lee, Kg, Bogut, Draymond, Rush + a back up PG be enough to win a title in 2013/14? I'm not sure, but I know I'm really intrigued.
Let me know your thoughts.
Added thought- If the Warriors did go this route, in 2015, when Kevin Garnett likely retires, the Warriors will have cap space to make a run at a free agent big man as a replacement, with Marc Gasol and Roy Hibbert being two of the better fits. The move would take the Warriors out of the Lebron sweepstakes in 2014, but at some point, you have to ask, how realistic is our shot anyway?