COMMENTARY | Golden State Warriors fans are thrilled with their NBA playoff run, and for good reason: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes all showed great promise, and veteran bigmen David Lee and Andrew Bogut impressed in the regular season and postseason, respectively.
But success can often be fleeting in the NBA, as even the best franchise outlook can fall apart with one bad personnel move or catastrophic injury. Consider the Los Angeles Clippers: the 56-win team is a Chris Paul decision away from likely dropping out of the playoffs altogether. And don't forget the Los Angeles Lakers, who are suddenly facing the prospect of entering next season without Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.
If the Warriors want to keep themselves on this upward trajectory, here are three things that head coach Mark Jackson and the Warriors must get done before next season.
Say goodbye to Jarrett Jack
Veteran point guard Jarrett Jack was one of the team's more valuable players, simultaneously providing insurance for Stephen Curry's frequently twisted ankles and also serving as a fourth quarter facilitator for crunch time minutes. But for the Golden State Warriors to improve as a team, they must move on from Jack.
The biggest reason is simple: the Warriors probably won't be able to afford Jarret Jack. He has a player option for $4 million in 2013-2014, but he is likely worth more than that on the open market. Consider that the Milwaukee Bucks just offered combo guard Monta Ellis a contract extension for three years and $36 million--Jarrett Jack will have a hard time seeing this and settling for three years and $15 million, no matter how much he loves Golden State.
The Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons both have huge needs for a starting point guard and reliable back court scoring. And they both have more than enough cap space to outbid the Warriors for Jack's services with room to spare. Because the Warriors are just under the luxury tax line, they can offer the mid-level exception to Jack, which should be about $5 million in year one with 4.5 percent raises, according to Hoopsrumors.com.
Rather than offer Jack a three or four year deal, the Warriors should look for a cheaper back-up guard who will accept a lesser role to give the core players more minutes and touches to develop next season.
And say hello to Harrison Barnes
Letting Jarrett Jack walk also solves a new problem before it starts, and it concerns Harrison Barnes. For much of the season the rookie wing man went to the bench in the fourth quarter as the Warriors went to the following lineup:
Point Guard - Jarrett JackShooting Guard - Stephen Curry Small Forward - Klay Thompson Power Forward - David Lee Center - Festus Ezeli (or Andrew Bogut when healthy, although the Warriors did experiment with David Lee and Carl Landry in the fourth quarter lineup in select situations)
This lineup was very effective on offense, and reduced the pressure on Curry to create shots every play in crunch time. With Curry off the ball, the Warriors freed him and Thompson for catch-and-shoot jumpers using a variety of screens and their horns set.
However, this attack doesn't have room for Harrison Barnes, who may have more remaining upside than anyone else on the roster. What the Warriors offense needs is an athletic wing who can attack the rim and draw fouls, and Barnes is the perfect man for the job. Developing Barnes and getting him more touches is absolutely necessary to balance the Warriors' jump shot offense.
Additionally, moving Curry back to point guard and Klay Thompson to shooting guard upgrades the crunch time defense in a big way. Curry and Jack are too small to defend shooting guards effectively, and the Warriors don't want to exhaust Curry as a primary defender. Klay Thompson (6'7") and Harrison Barnes (6'8"), however, improved defensively over the season and have the length and discipline to be plus defenders in the NBA. Defensively, playing Barnes and Thompson at the wings makes a lot of sense.
According to basketball-reference.com, there is reason to believe the Warriors can maintain their winning ways, even without Jack. During the regular season, the Warriors were 1.7 points per 100 possessions better with Harrison Barnes on the court, compared to 0.4 points per 100 possessions better for Jarrett Jack, largely because the team suffered defensively. And when Harrison Barnes was called on to start in David Lee's place during the 2013 playoffs, those numbers grew even more in Barnes' favor as the rookie developed as a player.
Warriors' playoff lineups featuring Harrison Barnes had an excellent +10.0 points per 100 possessions differential. Jack's playoff lineups, however, posted a poor -6.9 points per 100 possessions differential primarily because the team again performed worse defensively with Jack on the floor. The playoffs represent an extremely small sample size, but when you combine the regular season numbers with Barnes' tremendous upside and Jack's potential salary requirements, making Barnes a bigger part of the offense is just common sense.
Continue to develop the young role players defensively
Without Jarrett Jack the Golden State bench shrinks by one man. That means the young role players must fill the void for next season, as the Warriors don't have the cap space to make major personnel upgrades. If the youngsters can't improve, or if the youngsters experience a bad sophomore slump, the Warriors will not have the depth to weather an injury or two.
Brandon Rush will likely return from his injured ACL, along with Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green, Kent Bazemore and possibly Carl Landry (who has a player option at $4 million). If the Warriors want to continue to improve as a team next year, this second unit must contribute consistently.
The Golden State starting lineup features plenty of firepower, so having defensive-minded specialists off the bench is a must. If Mark Jackson's staff can continue to coach these players up and integrate Barnes into the offense, the Warriors' future will continue to shine brightly.
Jared Stearne lives in San Francisco and is a lifelong Warriors fan. He enjoys using advanced statistics as well as game footage to create basketball analysis. Did we miss one of your offseason priorities? Let us know what you think about it in the comments section.
- Sports & Recreation
- Golden State Warriors
- Harrison Barnes
- Stephen Curry
- Jarrett Jack
- Klay Thompson
- David Lee