NBA 

What’s Next For The Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors and their fans faced a demoralizing defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday evening. This loss game at the end of what may have been the most tumultuous series in NBA history on the court and off of it as well.

The entire Donald Sterling scenario is one that effected the NBA as a whole in some way. The Los Angeles Clippers may have faced the bulk of the turmoil that was exuded from the situation, but the Warriors had to play ball against them as well. Though some believe that the Warriors gained an advantage out of this, we can’t forget that the Warriors were also very close to protesting themselves.

It was a situation that had to be dealt with extremely carefully. Not only by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, but by NBA players themselves. And to be in the middle of a playoff race in an intense series with an in-state rival while thinking about things like racism and whether you’re playing for the right reasons can be pretty distracting.

And on the floor, the Warriors lost one of their key pieces. Prior to the series, Golden State lost their defensive workhorse in Andrew Bogut. Bogut had been relatively healthy up until the end of the season and that really dealt a big blow to the playoff prospects of the Warriors. Bogut was in competition for the defensive player of the year award and is one of the best in the game when it comes to protecting the rim.

Bogut was holding opponents to just a 45% mark at the rim prior to his injury. Out of players who play at least 25 minutes per game that ranks 8th in the league. He’s a top notch rim protector and that’s why Golden State gave him his immense deal.

So the Warriors competing and making this a seven game series was a major feat in its own right. Still, you can’t help but be disappointed after a close loss like that when the series could’ve been in your grasp. And those are sentiments shared by the bulk of Warriors fans today.

But now, the Warriors have to look toward the future. It seems to be something of a certainty that Mark Jackson won’t be the Warriors head coach next season. The situation between Jackson and the front office has decayed into something resembling a post-apocalyptic zombie realm where there seems to be no repair in sight. Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Jackson doesn’t have one ally in the Warriors front office that will vouch for his job security, either.

Stephen Curry says that Jackson deserves to be the head coach of the Warriors with all that he’s done but it seems that the politics within the organization are stronger than the voices that the players have. That doesn’t send a very good message to the players and what they’re playing for, but that’s how the business works sometimes. The vibe coming from the organization has just been a weird one–things that we’ve just never really seen or heard in public before. Darren Erman was fired for secretly recording conversations. Brian Scalabrine was fired, but then wasn’t fired, and then assigned to coach for the Warriors D-League affiliate.

Things are obviously just a mess in the Bay area as far as their coaching staff is concerned. At this point, it seems like there is no turning back. Zach Lowe reported last week that the consensus within the Warriors’ organization was that, barring a deep playoff run, Jackson will be let go of as the head coach.

So the Warriors number one priority this offseason is to settle the head coaching position. There have been rumblings that Steve Kerr may be interested in the position even though the Knicks seemingly have Kerr in hand already. This isn’t something that should surprise us, though. The Warriors job is an attractive one that many coaches are going to want should it become available. Plus, Kerr really loved Stephen Curry when he was the GM in Arizona and tried to make a move in the draft to acquire him.

Aside from Kerr, we’ll get the normal rumors about both Stan and Jeff Van Gundy coming down from the broadcast booth and coaching this team. It’s a talented team with a roster that is already in place barring a few minor tweaks here and there. It’ll be interesting to see what other names come up in the flotsam of potential candidates, but it seems like Kerr is the leading candidate here should he show any interest.

As far as their roster goes, the Warriors have things pretty much set in stone. They’re going to be on the books for about $65 million next season should they choose to retain Jordan Crawford on a qualifying offer and pick up Draymond Green’s team option. The Warriors have a lot of work to do to build the back end of their roster, though. Their bench had plenty of struggles all season long and the acquisitions of Crawford and Steve Blake, via trade, didn’t to very much to help.

Their main needs next season are going to be that backup point guard position, bench scoring and finding more shooting to bolster what they already have. Steve Blake will come off of the books after this season, but he’ll still have a cap hold during the free agency period. I doubt that the Warriors will look to bring him back at the same $4 million amount that he was paid this season and he could probably go somewhere else and find that same money. Should he come back to the team, it’d be for a chance to play with a real competitor in the NBA and that’s something he’ll likely consider.

But if the Warriors can’t sign Blake back and they don’t want to match a potential Jordan Crawford deal, they’ll need to look elsewhere for backup ball handling duties. Stephen Curry already played a bulk of the minutes at the position and played with the highest usage rate of his career at 28.3%. Though he put up career numbers across the board, you don’t want to burden one player like that on the offensive end.

Curry also struggled with turnovers throughout the season because of that offensive burden that was placed on him. He had a whopping 3.8 turnovers per game and turned it over on 16.1 possessions per 100. That’s not a good mark by any means–especially when that number was closer to 13 last season. The Warriors need to find a player that can spell Curry and give him a breather. Jarrett Jack did that perfectly two seasons ago. Jack was able to come in and run the offense without it skipping too much of a beat and he was also able to play with Curry and Thompson on the floor as well. If the Warriors can find that type of player again, it’d go a long way in improving their offense.

The issue is that the Warriors don’t have that much money to play with. They’re already at $65.1 million and the NBA’s salary cap is projected to be $63.2 million. While that isn’t an egregious violation of the cap rules, it still gives them less than other teams who are looking for some of the same players that they are. They’re going to need to find a way to work things out with the Mid-Level exception. The projected tax threshold is $77 million, so they’re going to be able to work someone else in with an exception and re-sign some of their guys if needed.

Speaking of their guys, Klay Thompson is due for an extension. And this season has made it evident that he’s more of a piece to their puzzle than Harrison Barnes is at this point. It would be wise for them to go ahead and extend Thompson while they have the chance instead of letting him hit restricted free agency and face a potential overpay from a team that desperately needs his shooting skill.

The Warriors need Thompson’s shooting by Curry’s side. Not to mention that he’s carved himself out into one of the better defensive wing players in the league as well. His 3-and-D skill is a valuable commodity that is sought after by every team in the NBA, so the Warriors must make it their top priority to keep him around. The question is this, though: At what price?

That’s not very easy to answer. There’s no way that Klay Thompson should get anywhere near a max deal from the Warriors, but he’ll have a pretty ripe market to draw his figure from. Trevor Ariza is likely to get a lucrative deal this season and will probably command somewhere between $7-9 million on the free market. I expect Thompson to try and draw a similar figure–maybe even more. When you count Thompson’s value on both sides of the floor, his youth and his lack of an injury history, you can certainly imagine a case where he’ll demand somewhere close to a $10 million figure.

But the Warriors have months to start preliminary negotiations and once the league transitions into its next fiscal year, they can start discussing hard figures with Thompson. They’ll have time to figure out his value after this year’s free agent market settles down and they determine what kind of cap figure they’ll have.

It’d be best for the Warriors not to commit too much cap to anyone this season in the long term. They want to keep money around for Thompson, but they also need to make sure that they’re major players in the summer of 2015. They’ve only got $50 million committed to that year right now, but that’ll go up with potential extensions to Thompson and also Harrison Barnes.

Right now, the Warriors are in a good place. They’ve got a superstar player in Stephen Curry, a good defensive core around him and a bunch of complimentary pieces on both ends of the floor. They need a legitimate second fiddle superstar to help Curry out with the offensive load, but they’ve got room in their pockets for the future and that helps. They don’t have a first round pick in this year’s draft so that doesn’t help them as far as the trade market goes. But with Thompson and Barnes as potential pieces and future picks to work with, don’t be surprised if they attempt to get in on deals for Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Love.

The Warriors settling their coaching situation comes first and then everything else will fall into place. The front office needs to find a coach that they’ll be able to stand behind and will coach the team the way that they envision. This is a 50+ win team that meshes really well together. It won’t be hard to find a great candidate to take this coaching job. They’ve got a bright future and plenty of paths that they can take. They just need to make sure that it’s the right one.

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