Top Free-Agent Options to Beef Up Golden State Warriors' Front Line

Scott Burns@Follow @ScottInTheBayCorrespondent IIIJuly 3, 2013

Top Free-Agent Options to Beef Up Golden State Warriors' Front Line

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    The Golden State Warriors are trending in the right direction with a solid starting five, but the team needs to find top free-agent options to improve the front line.  The expected departure of Carl Landry and the unforeseen injury to center Festus Ezeli have made the front line a big priority.

    The Warriors are pinched up against the salary cap as the new tax structure has been put in place with the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).  Teams are going to be hit hard with penalties if they go over the tax threshold, and now there is an even stiffer penalty for repeat offenders.

    Bay Area News Group’s Marcus Thompson tweeted out where the Warriors currently stand as of now.  The Warriors current salary is $69.8 million and the projected luxury tax will be $71.6 million.

    If the Warriors want to improve on last season’s surprising performance, they will have to spend over the cap, even if they can get a big man on the cheap.  There are obvious holes to fill, and there is no certainty that center Andrew Bogut can make it through a whole season unscathed. 

    Do the Warriors put all of their eggs in one basket and reach for Dwight Howard or do they grow with the current crop and add an experienced veteran for a lower price?

Marreese Speights (Power Forward/Center)

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    Marreese Speights is a player who could easily fit into the Warriors' system and provide them with exactly what they need in a front-line backup.  He is an oversized power forward at 6’10" and 255 pounds. 

    He is a guy who can be a very effective backup and would fit in the fast-moving Warriors’ offense.  He has been very successful running the pick and pop, and he can also stretch the floor.

    He doesn’t put up huge rebounding numbers, but he is a guy who can go up and get the ball, especially on offense.  The Warriors need another player who can keep the ball on the offensive end and open up lanes for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

    Speights is young at 25 years old and he just finished a deal that is in the neighborhood of what Carl Landry received last season.  Speights can shoot effectively from all the way out to 20 feet, which means he can draw big men out and penetrate to the basket.

    The Warriors will have to use him to back up David Lee and spell Andrew Bogut on occasion, as he should average about 15 to 20 minutes per game.  He averaged 8.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 0.7 BPG last season.

Elton Brand (Power Forward)

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    Elton Brand is by no way the dominant power forward that he used to be, but for the right contract, he could give the Warriors a solid option.  He can provide tenacity and toughness that this team needs.

    Brand was amnestied from his contract by the Philadelphia 76ers and found a home last season with the Dallas Mavericks at a lot more reasonable salary of $2.1 million.  The Warriors need to look to offer him an opportunity within the same financial neighborhood.

    He brings a veteran savvy to the court, to go along with his solid defensive abilities and his strength in the post  He is no longer the 20-point scorer of years past, but he can create his own shot and finish any putbacks by the rim.

    He would continue the team's defensive ascent by adding to the rebounding depth and could spell David Lee for about 20 minutes per game.  Last season, Brand averaged 7.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG in a little over 20 minutes, but he also average 1.3 blocks.

    He would be a good compliment to Andrew Bogut, while Festus Ezeli is out, and could even play the center position when coach Mark Jackson decides to run the smaller lineup.

Ryan Hollins (Center)

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    Another low-cost option that is a possibility is someone from down the coast, Ryan Hollins.  He made $1.07 million last season with the Los Angeles Clippers and is still young at 28 years of age.

    He can bring speed and energy off the bench and provide the necessary lift when the substitutes are on the floor.  He moves very well without the ball and can also finish at the rim.

    During the 2012-13 season, he averaged slightly more than 11 minutes per game and averaged 3.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG and 0.6 BPG.  He would have a significantly bigger role if he joined the Warriors, and he would have the opportunity to double those numbers.

    He doesn’t have the big body like an Ezeli, but he has the quickness and wingspan to be an effective stopgap measure.  With his skill set, he could definitely be a cost-effective backup until Ezeli gets back on his feet.

    The perfect fit for the backup center position is someone who could fill a roll and play extended minutes, if asked to do so.  Ryan Hollins would be a great option for the Warriors in order to fill that role.

J.J. Hickson (Power Forward/Center)

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    The Warriors might be back doing the J.J. Hickson free-agent dance again this summer.  He put up strong numbers last season with the Portland Trail Blazers, but he isn’t being pursued by them.

    The primary reason for his short stay with the Blazers was his lack of defense.  He would fit in the David Lee camp with that deficiency, but he tries to cover that weakness with increased offensive production.

    Hickson put up 12.7 PPG, 10.4 RPG and 0.6 BPG in starting all 80 games that he played.  He can play center and power forward at around 30 minutes a night like he averaged last season.

    He made the same salary as Carl Landry and he should receive something in the same ballpark this season.  The Warriors could easily sign him for a one-year contract for a team-friendly salary and let the team explore other options when Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins go off the books after next season.

Dwight Howard (Center)

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    The Warriors are heavily focused on making one big punch with Dwight Howard and entering the dance with the big boys of the NBA.  They come as an underdog, because they will have to use a sign-and-trade in order to acquire the big man.

    The Warriors would for sure lose their Australian prize of the Monta Ellis trade, Andrew Bogut, but the team would acquire one of the best five players in today’s NBA.  This move would build the perception that the Dubs are a legitimate NBA free-agent destination. Even if it doesn’t work out, Joe Lacob and company would still made their mark.

    The Warriors would lose either Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes, part of the exciting makeup of this young Dubs foundation.  The expiring contracts and their free-agency leverage in 2014 would also be sent to Los Angeles in order to free up room to offer Howard the maximum contract.

    Howard had a tumultuous year in Los Angeles with a disappointing record and a lot of disagreements with his teammates.  Even with that baggage, he averaged 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG and 2.4 BPG.

    Howard holds the cards and he is likely staying in L.A. or headed to the Houston Rockets, but he did have a productive meeting with Warriors' management.  He even played with Steph Curry at the UCLA Student Activities Center.

    No matter how this chase progresses, the Warriors have made strides as one of the go-to options when free agency begins in 2014.