COMMENTARY| Head coach Mark Jackson often commented throughout the 2012-13 NBA season about how his Golden State Warriors were a special group of guys. It's the kind of thing that coaches and players will often say, but rarely is the camaraderie and energy as obvious as it was with this year's Warriors team.
They battled their way into the second round of the playoffs and gave fans a reason to be optimistic with a gritty effort against the Spurs, even with key injuries limiting their ability to cope with the four time NBA champions. It's hard not to imagine what might have happened with a few different bounces of the ball at the end of Game 1; what could have been without Curry suffering yet another sprained ankle late in the first round and David Lee tearing his hip flexor in the first game of the playoffs. Maybe Lee's solid midrange jumper and ability to finish lets them run more pick and roll to keep San Antonio from crowding Golden State's perimeter shooters. Maybe a healthy Curry is able to shake off the pesky and physical defense of Danny Green. The Spurs went on to sweep Memphis after finishing off Golden State, and will represent the West while seeking their fifth NBA championship. That could have been Jackson's Warriors.
Every offseason inevitably has a few surprises, but the core of Golden State's roster will likely remain intact.. Let's take a look at the contract status and likelihood of remaining with the team player by player.
Steph Curry PG (under contract through 2016-17): Curry signed a four year extension at the start of the year and played All-Star level basketball. He's not going anywhere.
Klay Thompson SG (under contract through 2014-15): The team should be in no rush to see him go, but Thompson is the most likely to garner trade interest around the league.
Harrison Barnes SF (under contract through 2015-16): Barnes has so much potential, it's scary. He made good on that promise in the playoffs as a rookie, and should be considered virtually untouchable.
David Lee PF (under contract through 2015-16): Always an All-Star level scorer and rebounder at the PF position, Lee's weakness in the past has been sub-par defense. There are a few forwards out there that might fit better, but none are likely to be available to the Warriors.
Andrew Bogut C (under contract through 2013-14): When Bogut played even limited minutes, the Warriors gave up an average of 98.39 points per game as opposed to 101.52 without him. Given his injury history and large cap hit, he won't return equal value in any trade. Best to work hard on rehab in the offseason and hope for a strong return.
Jarrett Jack PG (unrestricted free agent): After a phenomenal season as a heavy-use reserve for the Warriors, Jack has indicated a desire to stay with the team. Money could be a big factor, though, given that some teams may be willing to pay him and play him more than Golden State can offer. He's the biggest contributor that is at risk to not be with the team next season.
Carl Landry PF (player option for 2013-14): Landry is likely to decline his player option at $4 million for next season as he would be expected to receive more on the open market. A very solid contributor this season with averages of 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, Landry is a perfect fit with the sometimes offensively challenged bench of Golden State. He isn't a lights out post scorer, but he is capable of creating. Resigning Landry should be the highest priority for the Warriors this offseason, even more than retaining Jarrett Jack.
Brandon Rush SG-SF (player option for 2013-14): Brandon Rush tore his ACL in just the second game of this season and missed the rest of the year. Given the fact that he's coming back from a serious injury, there is hope that he will remain with the team under his current contract rather than opting out. Rush could have been a huge boost to this team with solid perimeter defense and excellent three point shooting, and the team will gladly welcome him back into the fold next season.
Draymond Green F (under contract through 2014-15): A surprisingly solid contributor as a rookie, Green will continue to be in the rotation next year.
Rest of the Bench
Festus Ezeli C (under contract through 2015-2016): Festus played a lot of minutes in 2012-13, and was sporadically effective. A strong defensive presence and active rebounder, he is a player worth developing and will be with the team next season. Needs to develop his hands and overall offensive game.
Kent Bazemore SG (under contract for 2013-14): Kent Bazemore didn't play many minutes, and likely won't next season either. If Rush does return, Bazemore will probably spend most of the year with the D-League affiliate Santa Cruz Warriors.
Richard Jefferson SF and Andris Biedrins C (both under contract for 2013-14): Golden State is eager to be free of these two monstrous contracts which weigh in at $11 million and $9 million, respectively. Both veterans are still capable of playing solid enough minutes when needed, but the day their huge salaries come off the books will be a blessing that may give Golden State enough financial flexibility to either lock up their young stars-in-the-making or try to lure a high-profile free agent following the 2013-14 season.
Also Under Contract
Scott Machado PG and Dwayne Jones F/C (both under contract for 2013-14): Neither player was a significant contributor for the team, but both have contracts in place for 2013-14.
Offseason Game Plan
Barring any trades, the only players not certain to return under contract next season are Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, and Brandon Rush. The Warriors have no picks in the upcoming draft, having dealt their first rounder as part of the Marcus Williams trade (2008) and their second rounder was included in the package sent to New York to acquire David Lee (2010.)
There are bound to be some opportunities that crop up, but unless something too good to pass on comes along, the Warriors should be relatively content to work toward returning next season with the same roster intact. For a team that was within reach of the Western Conference Finals, there are worse things than coming back (hopefully healthier) and giving it another go with more or less the same roster.
Nathaniel Pulliam is an avid San Francisco Bay Area sports fan, and has been following the Golden State Warriors for 16 (mostly brutal) years. He currently covers the team for Yahoo! Contributor Network.
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