So often is the case when perception meets reality that reality just doesn't live up to the hype.
The widely held perception of the Golden State Warriors is that they need to keep their core intact in order to keep playing at the same level they were last season.
The reality is that they don't necessarily have to keep their top two free agents, Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, if these two players decline the Warriors offers or the team can't afford the long-term contracts.
For a team that's been in constant upheaval for the past decade, it's surprising and encouraging to see the young mainstays remain intact despite a season that saw many a breakout.
Stephen Curry's four-year extension is just kicking in; Klay Thompson has three more years under team control, Harrison Barnes four and although David Lee and Andrew Bogut are a bit overpaid, their leadership and size is sorely needed.
With all that being said, it doesn't mean the Warriors shouldn't look to aggressively re-sign Jack or Landry, or both. In order to so, they'll most likely have to go up to and over the luxury tax, risking the chance of a repeater tax in the future, where they would have to pay more if they continue to spend lavishly.
The argument from fans is as always: it's not my money, why should it matter if the Warriors spend it or not?
As a Warrior fan, you care how the team fares in the future, and signing Jack or Landry to a three-year extension might hurt those chances to sign another player to a max contract as early as 2014. With Bogut, Richard Jefferson and Festus Ezeli off the books, there's a lot of leeway here for management.
Choosing pick or keep isn't as simple as it seems; there are variables such as player history, team philosophy and salary-cap structure to take into consideration.
I try to chart how the big two free agents matter to the Warriors and offer a bonus one at the end.
Despite starting fast and making big shot after big shot in the regular season, Jack became something of a punchline for fans and bloggers. His propensity to hold onto the ball and try to make something out of nothing—it worked sometimes—while shooting inefficient mid-range shots alienated him from some fans.
However, there's no disputing he was, at times, the heart and soul on the team, and his ability to play the point guard position, thereby allowing Curry to shift to shooting guard, was just as important.
While the Warriors shouldn't overpay him to the point of a four-year extension, they'd be remiss not to try for an economical three-year, $18 million deal that would keep him into his mid-thirties.
While most people might not want to admit it, Curry's ankle issues will surely persist and having a capable guard like Jack who can shoot and handle is as integral to Golden State's offense as Thompson's shooting ability.
Verdict: Keep at a reasonable price
So often this season, Landry provided the team with a lift off the bench. Through his energy and work on the offensive boards, the veteran forward worked seamlessly with David Lee, as they were able to terrorize defenses with their pick-and-pop and post games.
When Festus Ezeli went down with an injury, Landry's player option became that much more important to the Warriors (via SI.com).
With the market the way it is, and with forward Brandon Rush's return and Harrison Barnes' growth, one was starting to think the Warriors were shifting towards a faster, more athletic team, but Ezeli's injury pushes Landry's decision to the forefront.
The front line is now painfully thin, especially with Lee coming off hip surgery and Bogut being Bogut. A good team will play one style well but a great team should be able to play fast and slow, if needed.
The Warriors are less inclined to play two bigs if Lee and Bogut are forced to play heavy minutes, thus increasing Landry's importance.
However, Landry is most assuredly looking for more job security after his two-year deal. But a long-term deal for him would likely block the growth of Barnes, Rush and even Thompson.
Losing Landry will hurt, but it won't dramatically alter their playoff aspirations, as long as Ezeli is able to come back healthy.
Verdict: Barring player option, cut unless it's a one-year deal
The Warriors don't own a single draft pick this year, and unless they buy into the second round or late first round, they'll look in-house to develop their players.
Should the Warriors keep Landry or Jack, if options are presented as above?
Jeremy Tyler still has some potential, and there are a multitude of capable D-League players but the most interesting player is the free agent Machado. He's bounced around once he's signed out of Summer League to the Houston Rockets but got great playoff seats last season.
He led the NCAAs in assists, ahead of point guard Kendall Marshall, in his senior season. Machado can pass, but it's his lack of height that's worrisome to most scouts.
Machado would fit nicely alongside Curry, playing the distributing guard to the Splash Brothers whenever Curry needs a breather from his point guard responsibilities. If they don't want to venture into the luxury tax by acquiring a second round and drafting the likes of a Nate Wolters, Ray McCallum or Pierre Jackson, then Machado becomes a solid option.
He might not shoot the ball as well but think of Eric Maynor as Machado's ceiling: an excellent floor leader with great passing ability.
Verdict: Keep as if he is a draft pick