The Westgate SuperBook opened the Golden State Warriors as -200, odds-on favorites to win next year’s title, making them the largest preseason favorites the book has ever had in any major U.S. team sport.
Ready to place your wager?
But wait a second. At this moment, the Golden State Warriors is going to hit the offseason with as many as 10 free agents, including Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant! They’ve just finished the season in which they shattered the record number of times one team has been set as a double digit favorites and the price and lines on the Warriors have become so high that professional bettors very rarely did anything but bet against them. The public was heavily on their side and the books have had to fade all value. So how can a -200 can possibly be considered for a season long wager? It surely can’t. Well, unless the Warriors manage to improve. Now that’s a scary thought, isn’t it? And for those of you that don’t think it’s even possible, let me remind you of a certain 73 wins team that has added a Kevin Durant. It’s not going to happen again, but it’s an old adage – if you don’t continue to improve, you are regressing.
While everybody is thinking what other teams are bound to do in order to catch up with the champs, I’m pretty sure Bob Myers, Warriors’ director of basketball operations, already thinks about how to add more talent to already talent-packed roster. He’ll need to operate with surgical precision during the early summer, and he’ll get plenty of help from the business-conscious Warriors players who aren’t afraid of making a sacrifice for the betterment of the entire group.
Where can the Golden State Warriors improve?
Before you even start planning on making a team better, it’s all important to identify its weaknesses. That’s what all GMs do, but other teams have more glaring holes. Even some rough patches can help a team in such occasions, but it’s much tougher to find a better solution when your team has the top offense and a top three defense in the league.
People sometimes forget that the Warriors had to give up significant amount of talent to be able to sign Durant. Harrison Barnes is already key guy for the Mavs, and Bogut’s defense was huge for the Dubs. They also lost some of the bench depth. The prize was high of course, but it doesn’t mean that the Warriors should be content with Matt Barnes, David West or others, including Zaza Pachulia. There are spots where they can improve, especially considering that they should attract almost any financially secure veteran in the league.
Cap rise consequence
Beyond the obvious benefit that most of the NBA teams already exploited – fitting more good players under the larger umbrella, the cap rise also brought a hidden, probably more important and longer lasting aftereffect. If Durant was paid $20 millions per season for the last five or six years, and his paycheck was increased to 26-27 now, why wouldn’t he leave 6-7 millions on the table to play for perennial championship team? Yes, he can opt out of his current deal and take ‘less’ money, except it won’t be less than he was paid by the Thunder for his services there. This would create enough space for the Warriors to renounce their rights to all of their main guys. Curry has already been playing at a large discount, so he will likely sign the well earned supermax. It’ll drive the Golden State Warriors deep into taxpayer’s territory, so any 5 or 6 mils here and there will be important.
The Golden State Warriors precious sixth man has been a major reason the Warriors have been so successful. Unfortunately for them, his next contract will carry him into days way past his prime as he is the elder of the team. There’s little doubt they’ll work thing to sign him back and will probably do for a shorter, front loaded contract. It’s the best for him and their future, but it’ll also mean that he’ll likely see an increase to his $11 millions contract. He already has injury issues, so he’ll take as much as they are willing to give them, sensing that his career is nearing its end. However, the Warriors should take a look at the market and see if they could acquire a veteran wing to a similar role Iguodala has held, and one with much lower price tag. At 34 years of age, Iguodala is not irreplaceable.
They can do better than Pachulia
The big Georgian has long been a workhorse, tough, gritty, even dirty player who will set clotheslining screens and finish some rumbling drives. He’s a kind of player nobody loves to play against but can be favorite of his teammates for all the work he puts in. However, he’s slow, he can’t jump and he’s far from a great defender. The Golden State Warriors annihilate the opposition with their small ball units, so they can afford to have him, or McGee at the center, but that doesn’t mean they should be satisfied with the two. With Taj Gibson, Splitter and possibly Pau Gasol or Greg Monroe among others set to hit free agency, they’ll surely make calls to see what kind of salary those guys would ask for to play for a ring.
Even if the Golden State Warriors opt to stay content with the main sources by extending deals with all rotation guys, they should strongly consider adding more depth, and not just any type of depth but be specific in their additions. Last year, when Durant went down in what initially looked as a season ending injury, the Warriors endured their toughest period of the season. They did manage to adapt and cope without him, but this should serve as the warning for the next season. Truth to be told, the Warriors have experienced good fortune when it comes to injuries these last three seasons of dominance. Neither Curry not Durant have strong frames and serious injury to either could be devastating to their plans. Yes, same could be said for any team, but that’s no reason not to add more players that fit their needs.
For a top offense in the league, the Warriors have extremely thin bench when it comes to natural scorers and good shooters. Iguodala and Livingston used smarts to take only the shots they are confident in making, so they both shot high percentage (above 52 percent), but you’d have to stretch the term offensive weapon to the breaking point to fit either of them into it. McCaw, Looney and Clark played with confidence, but it’s another thing to come in and shoot freely when the lead is already in double digits and to step in for an injured star(ter).
And there are options on the market. If the Warriors play it smart and hold with extending Curry’s contract (and possibly Durant’s), they could sign some interesting free agents that wouldn’t require much tending or financing. Yes, it’s important to find a good fit, as sometimes additions can break the perfect chemistry of ingredients in a roster.
Expect greybeards like Jason Terry and Vince Carter to receive querying phone calls and perhaps Jodie Meeks would sign for a small contract to revive his career. C.J. Miles is highly intelligent scorer that would fit nicely, but is probably a bit out of reach for the champs. Whomever they choose to acquire, they’ll surely be looking to improve the bench offense. It can lower the stress on the first unit and extend their good health.
Men in suits
The Golden State Warriors are in a good position organization-wise, but will face one, maybe two big challenges before the next season. Their high consultant Jerry West is moving back to L.A. to take a similar role within the Clippers franchise, and his experience and intelligence in the front office moves will be tough to replace.
On top of that, there’s an unfortunate Steve Kerr’s situation. His medical condition is very serious and while the Warriors have already expressed faith that he’ll return to coach them next season, it’s far from carved in stone. He has been a talisman to this team ever since he came in, and while he might not be the best coach there is, Kerr is ideal guy for the relaxed bunch the Warriors are. He is loved by the players and, more importantly, listened to. After Walton left last year, the Warriors add Mike Brown, who did terrific job jumping in, same as Walton did, and under more pressure. But Brown is very different character, and staying out of character can work for short stints, nor for entire seasons. We have witnessed some good teams being ruined by poor coaching or coaches that simply couldn’t fit in, so in case Kerr needs to step down and take care about his condition, the Warriors will have to be extremely careful whom they give the maestro’s baton.
When you’re on top, it’s easier to fall down than to remain there, but I still believe the best team ever has small windows to get even better. And the small windows are at least as big at the ones to get worse, as the front office of the Golden State Warriors clearly knows what they are doing. This won’t make the -200 bookmakers’ offer for Warriors’ repeat a good one, of course.
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