This series started back in September, 2014. Things were slow around here, so I perused some of SB Nation's other basketball communities, looking for interesting talking points and potential trade partners. I eventually made my way over to Brew Hoop, the community for the Milwaukee Bucks, where I discovered an intriguing exercise created by mad scientist and site editor Dan Sinclair. He called the exercise Ranking the Roster: Counting down the Bucks' most valuable players.
Here's his explanation:
"Imagine the NBA was having an expansion draft, and the Bucks were able to "protect" their entire team from being taken by a new expansion organization, except for one player. Whoever is left unprotected will be selected in this hypothetical and totally unfair expansion draft. After this player is chosen, his salary comes off the Bucks' books instantly, as though he was never on the team at all. Then (and this is important) the Bucks' future plays out for some number of years, however long you care to imagine, only they no longer have the chosen player on the roster or on the cap sheet.
The question, then, is who would you leave unprotected?
That's what we're doing with this series of posts. One by one, we'll pare down the roster, eliminating the consensus "least valuable" player after each round and starting the scenario over."
Let's get started
I know that the roster hasn't been finalized, and that there are more players to vote on than roster spots available. I tried texting Bob Myers about maybe narrowing it down to the top 15, but he just replied with some weird emojis. No, that didn't happen, but he told me that he needed your help. OK, that's not really true either, but in last season's poll (much to my surprise) Kevon Looney outlasted Marreese Speights, Leandro Barbosa, Jason Thompson, Brandon Rush, and Harrison Barnes... just like the real life roster. Hmm. Is this yet another instance when the real Warriors followed the path blazed by the most knowledgeable fans around? Probably not, but we'll do our part just in case.
Our roster for this exercise will be the same one that Kevin Pelton (ESPN.com) used for his player projections: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West, Patrick McCaw, Anderson Varejao, James Michael McAdoo, Ian Clark, Looney, Damian Jones, Elliot Williams, and JaVale McGee.
In considering each player's value, be sure to consider age, injury history, and contract amount/length as well as production and team need. I think team need was largely ignored in last season's iteration, but I hope most fans recognize that Zaza and the other centers have different value here than they might with another team. We only care about the players' values to the Warriors.
Understanding where the team is at and what the team is trying to accomplish is an important consideration here. For instance, I contend that Looney had almost zero value to the team that lost in the Finals last season, while many of the players voted out ahead of him played significant minutes. A few more minutes of LB/Rush/Speights instead of Barnes/AV in Game 7 might have made a real difference; a few more minutes of Looney and we might have had a 23 minute rookie season from him.
So let's not pretend that we're a 19 win team hoping to find a superstar with a late pick. That's the old us. Championships are the goal for the Warriors' foreseeable future, but they aren't guaranteed and they don't come easy. The classic example might be the Detroit Pistons.
Detroit's Eastern Conference dominance started with a quick rise, led by a surprising superstar and a great coach who used all of his pieces right, and then a championship over the heavily favored Lakers. They drafted Darko in 2004, since they were already good enough (they thought) and they could take their time developing him. The team returned to the Finals the next year but lost. The next year they added ten(!) regular season wins but lost in the conference finals, their final stop for three seasons before a last gasp first round exit in 2009.
Detroit made a big mistake when they took Darko Milicic's enormous potential over Carnelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh, even coming off a championship (their last). No disrespect to the Pistons, but we don't want a conference dynasty; we want to dominate championships. And no one can say for certain what would have been for Detroit if they had prioritized a little differently, perhaps with less hubris following that championship season. Or what if Darko had lived up to the billing? Still, there are parallels worth avoiding and the Western Conference is almost always difficult to get through, so put yourself in the room with the Warriors' front office for this scenario.
Of course, value is always going to be subjective, so please share your perspective in the comments! The Voltron of Minds (all credit to Evanz) includes YOU now, so sit down, have a drink, and tell us why you feel the way you do. As anyone that's witnessed the unlikely rise of the Golden State Warriors will attest, there's a lot of opinions that go into trying to build the greatest team ever. Player evaluation, role, age, need, health, and financial impact are all important considerations going forward. Also, the Warriors only have Klay, Dray, McCaw, Jones, and Looney (team option) under contract for the 2017/18 season, so expect a very busy offseason next summer.
One more time, so everyone is clear:
1) Vote for the player you think is the LEAST VALUABLE TO THE WARRIORS
2) Tell us why
I've included the players' salaries (in millions, mostly) and contract length/options in the poll to make things a little easier. I went ahead and adjusted the veteran minimum contracts to reflect CBA rules. From Larry Coon's NBA CBA FAQ:
When a player has been in the NBA for three or more seasons, and is playing under a one-year, 10-day or Rest-of-Season contract at the minimum salary, the league reimburses the team for part of his salary -- any amount above the minimum salary level for a two-year veteran. For example, in 2011-12 the minimum salary for a two-year veteran was $854,389, so for a ten-year veteran, with a minimum salary of $1,352,181, the league would reimburse the team $497,792. Only the two-year minimum salary is included in the team salary, not the player's full salary. They do this so teams won't shy away from signing older veterans simply because they are more expensive than younger veterans.
Kapiche? Good. Let's get on with the proceedings.