After years of being a laughing stock in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors seem to have carried over their momentum from the 2013 playoffs into this offseason. They were even one of only a handful of teams mentioned with a shot at Dwight Howard.
They may have missed out on the superstar center, but that hasn't dampened spirits in Oakland. The new-look Warriors have made quality move after quality move this summer.
Between their signings and other happenings since the season ended, the Warriors are winning the offseason. In other words, their moves have improved their team more than any other team's activity thus far.
And it all starts with Dwight Howard. They were a dark horse in the race for the All-Star big man but ultimately lost out to the Houston Rockets.
And that's a good thing.
The Warriors did not have the cap space to sign Howard in free agency, so they were only players from a sign-and-trade angle.
Howard wasn't going to come cheap from the Lakers either, as they were rumored, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein, to be looking for a package of Andrew Bogut plus either Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes, and maybe even an additional first-round pick.
That's an awfully steep price for a guy who had a rocky season in L.A., didn't play to his full potential, and has serious concerns about his basketball mentality. Giving up a young building block is too high of a price for that kind of a player, take it from Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson.
To be clear: The Warriors' core of Thompson, Barnes and Stephen Curry is one for the future. They're great now, but in a couple years and with the right pieces around them they should be even better.
Cutting down that core before it really gets a chance to mesh is a high price to pay for a question mark like Howard. Sure, surrounding Howard with Golden State's shooters was a tantalizing proposition. But if it hadn't worked, Warriors fans might be destined for another decade of futility.
But some good came out of the Dwight Howard chase, after all. In order to have cap room for Howard, the Warriors had to explore ways to get rid of some of their atrocious salaries—e.g. Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins.
When they got rid of Biedrins, Jefferson and Brandon Rush in a salary dump with the Utah Jazz, the Warriors became major players in the free-agent market. And though they couldn't land Howard, they still made a splash.
His signing was certainly a big deal, but he didn't come without questions. Thompson, Barnes and Iguodala all seem to play similar positions. Iguodala isn't a fantastic shooter, and he could take playing time away from the younger Warriors.
Grantland's Zach Lowe doesn't see a problem with the signing, and neither do I.
Iguodala is a much better playmaker than either Thompson or Barnes, and in an entirely different world as a defender. He's a different kind of player, one who complements what Barnes and Thompson bring to the table.
And Iguodala brings something else that neither Barnes nor Thompson have: the ability and willingness to play point guard. It's a hole the Warriors need filled, and according to the San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami's interview with Iguodala, he's the man for the job:
-Q: Can you be the back-up point guard?
-IGUODALA: I can play that role. That’s going to be a great thing about this team–we won’t have any match-up problems. If anything, we’ll cause the problems with match-ups.
This is where Lowe's "souped-up Jarrett Jack" comes in. Iguodala can handle the ball and make plays, and slide right into that Jarret Jack role when need be.
So as far as a fit with the Warriors goes, he'll be just fine. Thompson can be the shooter, Barnes can be the slasher and Iguodala can be the playmaker. They'll all have different responsibilities, and their diverse skills will create matchup nightmares for other teams.
Adding Iguodala wasn't what most Warriors fans had on their minds for the NBA offseason. Re-signing Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack was supposed to be issue number one.
But with limited cap room and the signing of Iguodala, Golden State had to say goodbye to those two key players.
That's where Toney Douglas and Marreese Speights come in. The Warriors got both players for cheap, and they nicely fill the voids left by Landry and Jack.
Let's start with Douglas. He doesn't come in with the experience of Jack, but he has many of the same skills. He's a shoot-first guard who loves the mid-range game and isn't afraid of a big moment. Sound familiar?
Check out one of his best games from last season to the right. His game even looks a lot like Jack's, but as a bonus he plays better defense.
Looking at some stats from 82games.com shows us just how valuable he might be. He attacks the rim more than Jack and shoots almost as well on jump shots. And his overall player rating is higher than Jack's, which is probably thanks to the defense Douglas plays.
Now he's unproven, seeing as how he only played 18 minutes a game last year. But he's a cheap guard off the bench and does almost everything Jack did. So he's a great find.
Marreese Speights, on the other hand, should take ownership of the Carl Landry role.
Again looking at 82games.com, Speights shot almost the same percentage as Landry from mid-range, which is key to how the Warriors offense works.
Though he doesn't finish as well inside, Speights brings other skills to the table. He's bigger than Landry and protects the rim better. Landry's block rating on 82games.com is 2.2, while Speights' is 5.2. Besides physically being larger, he also plays larger. He can bang inside and rebounds better per 48 minutes than Landry, yet can also step outside and make a jump shot.
As was the problem with Douglas, Speights hasn't gotten the experience or playing time of Landry. So this is all speculation until he gets those bigger minutes. But for the money the Warriors had to work with, Speights is a nice find.
Not only have the Warriors made great signings, but some of the less-talked-about aspects of an offseason are going great too.
With their win over the Lakers on July 20, Golden State's summer league team improved to 5-0. Obviously not super important, but it's encouraging to see Warriors regulars Kent Bazemore and Draymond Green dominating Las Vegas.
And maybe one of the most important pieces of news for the Warriors offseason has to do with Stephen Curry and what he's not doing—having surgery.
Curry is healthy, which is huge for Golden State. He's what makes the team go, so the fact that he's healthy this summer bodes well for next year. Because without him, the Warriors might not even make the playoffs.
All in all, the Warriors have been ridiculously successful so far this offseason. They shed bad contracts, signed a star, kept their core together, brought in solid bench players, dominated summer league, and kept Stephen Curry healthy.
Hopefully it all continues. Knock on wood, though—don't want to jinx anything.
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