Things are looking up for the Golden State Warriors, since they might have finally found the core that they have long been searching for.
Entering the 2012 NBA draft, the Warriors may not have had the highest expectations with what they could get with the seventh overall pick. However, instead of trading their pick, they stuck with it and saw several players fall, including one that may turn out to be a perfect fit.
That man is Harrison Barnes, the small forward coming out of North Carolina. It was a pleasant surprise to see Barnes slip out of the top five, even as the projected second-best player in his position in this year's draft.
Barnes adds to the talented core of the Warriors, which already includes Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee and Andrew Bogut. While he may not be a starter from the get-go, Barnes is slated to be the small forward of the future for the Warriors. He may even benefit more from playing behind a seasoned veteran like Richard Jefferson, who was once a great player in his own right.
Even with this current core in place, there may be some growing pains, especially with the young talent. That's why it may seem like a better idea to get some experienced, proven players in free agency instead of giving the young guns a few seasons to fully mesh and develop.
The problem with that, however, is that the Warriors are not exactly in a position with much cap-space flexibility. Without even having new rookies Barnes, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli on the payroll yet, Golden State has about $56 million committed to their roster. Big contracts like Bogut's, Lee's and Jefferson's are all taking up a lot of the cap room, which means that the Warriors are unable to really make any significant pick-ups.
The biggest needs for Golden State are in the depth of their roster, as they could use some extra help at the big-man positions. Though they do have several options for players to re-sign from free agency (Mickell Gladness, Mikki Moore, Dominic McGuire), they do also have options already on their roster.
Big-man rookie Festus Ezeli was a value pick for the Warriors who may be trying to shed the ridiculously overpaid Andris Biedrins. Even if they kept Biedrins, he and Ezeli could form a decent backup crew for the power forward and center positions on the Warriors. Biedrins does only have one more year on his contract, plus a player option, so the burden isn't overwhelming for the Warriors in terms of cap room.
In terms of other depth within the team, the Warriors still also have Dorrell Wright, Brandon Rush and Charles Jenkins, who can all play multiple positions if needed. Of these players, Wright may be expendable since the small forward of the future appears to be Barnes.
On top of that, rookie Draymond Green could become Barnes' long-term understudy with the anticipated departure of the aging Richard Jefferson sometime in the near future. If the Warriors dealt Wright to a team in need of a good-shooting wing player, they could get a decent pure power forward in exchange or maybe an upgraded backup for Stephen Curry.
What I'm getting at here is that the Warriors don't have to go out and look for some good free agents to overpay, because they have some good talent already signed to them. The current starting lineup is a very promising one for Golden State—if they can all stay healthy.
Curry and Thompson are two very good offensive threats that can shoot the lights out in the backcourt. Barnes will benefit from not having to carry his team offensively right away, and it will give him ample time to come off the bench and learn the game at a more steady pace. Lee and Bogut may be one of the better frontcourt tandems in the NBA, and they will do a great job cleaning up the glass on both ends of the floor. They also bring a nice veteran presence to a young team that still has plenty of growing to do.
Overall, this Golden State Warriors squad is looking like one of the best ones in recent memory. One of the greatest parts of this is that they are relatively young, with Jefferson being the only potential starter over the age of 30.
The results may not come right away for the Warriors and their fans, but this is a patient franchise and fanbase that will certainly give this young group time to develop their games and grow as a team. Though the past few years have been tough in Oakland, there may finally be a reason to instill some hope into this season's Golden State Warriors.