OK, bad news first:
The Golden State Warriors will not make the playoffs this year.
That's about as sure a guarantee as another fluctuation in Oprah's weight. Or Randy Jackson saying the word "dude" at least three times in every critique on American Idol, regardless of the singer's gender.
As of now, the Warriors stand slightly hunched over at 17-21 and three games out of the Western Conference playoff race. They are in the midst of a two-game win streak, but we all know the balloon of false hope will soon burst by the sharpness of an even longer losing streak.
Their starting point guard can't take five steps without rolling his ankle and their starting center (recently benched) has barely scored five points the entire season.
With a playoff absence all but locked up, let's take a look at the next best outcome. There are two possible scenarios:
They continue on their current path. They win a few games here and there but fail to generate enough momentum for a realistic playoff push. Basically, the walls of mediocrity keep closing in and there's no escape.
Their final record reads 30-36 and they occupy the 10th position in the Western Conference.
An early start to the offseason and forfeiture of the team's first-round pick. Because of a 2008 trade for Marcus Williams, who is no longer on the team, the Warriors gave up their first-round pick to the Utah Jazz. The pick is top-seven protected, meaning they can retain it only if they finish with one of the seven worst records in the NBA. Anything better and they must wave goodbye to the selection.
It all goes downhill from here. Losses pile up, as do the amount of Steph Curry visits to the team doctor, and the Warriors struggle to a final record of 26-40. The abysmal win percentage is the sixth worst in the NBA.
An extended offseason, but also ownership of a top pick in the 2012 NBA draft, which features several quality prospects. With inclusion in the draft lottery, the Warriors would then cling to an outside chance of moving up even closer to the No. 1 selection. Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Andre Drummond (UConn) and Harrison Barnes (UNC) become realistic options at that point.
Which of these sound better to you?
Exactly my point.
Nowhere am I saying the team should "give up" or "quit." I never typed the words "tank" or "mimic the Indianapolis Colts." I am, however, saying the Warriors need to drastically improve their roster if they want any chance at contending. With big-name free agents clearly disinterested in the Bay Area as a landing spot, the Warriors have to turn their attention to upgrading via the draft. The only way they can do that, though, is by finishing the season as proud owners of a really bad record.
Now for the strangely good news:
The Warriors are entering the difficult part of their schedule, with over half their remaining games on the road and 17 games against teams above .500.
I suggest the Warriors ease Steph Curry's bum ankle back in to the rotation, sit Andris Biedrins on the far end of the bench and give the youngsters extended playing time. Let Ekpe Udoh, an already solid defender, continue to polish his offensive skills and hand over backup duties to the recently promoted Jeremy Tyler. Tinker with the lineup and see what works best, or what doesn't work at all. The moves may result in several losses, but it will provide some key players with two important attributes: health and experience.
So I repeat, the Golden State Warriors will not make the playoffs this year.
That may just be the best the news this franchise has heard in awhile.