Ranking the Golden State Warriors' 5 Best Moves from the NBA Offseason
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In an offseason short on big moves, the Golden State Warriors emerged at the front of the pack. Be it signing a big name like Andre Iguodala, washing their hands of unpalatable contracts or simply being fortunate enough to be saved from themselves (here’s looking at you, Dwight Howard), it was their strongest in years.
With the team coming off one of the most surprising playoff runs in recent memory, it’s no surprise that they felt the need to go out and make a splash.
Winning time is now.
The Warriors, who have seemed to be in a perpetual state of “rebuilding” over the last 20 years, used this offseason to decree that the future is no longer the answer to the question of their relevancy.
Let’s take a look at some of the offseason moves and free-agency acquisitions the Warriors made to push themselves out of the realm of pretenders, and firmly entrench themselves in the prestigious club of contenders.
Here are the five most important moves, in ascending order, made by the Warriors.
Honorable Mention: Signing Toney Douglas and Marreese Speights
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With Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry finding employment elsewhere, the Warriors had some big shoes to fill. And while the signings of Toney Douglas and Marreese Speights don’t quite fill them completely, the effects that will be felt elsewhere because of the tradeoff will tilt the scales in their favor.
While Douglas will never be the offensive player that Jack was for the Warriors, his contributions on the defensive end will make Warriors fans forget about the defensive sieve that was Jack.
And with the Warriors already boasting numerous top-notch weapons on offense, the addition of a hard-nosed defender will be a welcome sight to Mark Jackson and his team. Throw in his quality three-point shooting (38 percent last season), and the Warriors have the makings of a quality backup for Stephen Curry.
The Landry/Speights swap is a little trickier to quantify. While Landry boasts as deep an offensive arsenal as any backup forward in the league, his size was always a problem on the defensive side of the ball.
Enter the 6’10”, 245-pound Speights. Speights will bring toughness and a newfound mean streak to this Warriors club, one that Landry was never capable of bringing. And most importantly, he knows exactly what he is capable of, via Marcus Thompson II of the San Jose Mercury News:
I bring another big man who really knows the system, knows how to run the court, he said from the team's downtown facility. I bring some toughness, a guy who wants to win.
While Jack and Landry were stalwarts of the Warriors’ playoff run, they were hardly irreplaceable. The pieces the Warriors found to fill the gaps will turn out to be just what the doctor ordered. Adding defense to an offensive juggernaut is never a bad thing.
5. Signing Jermaine O'Neal
Much has been asked about how much Jermaine O’Neal has left in the tank. Whether or not the 34-year-old will be able to stay healthy enough to actually contribute to this Golden State Warriors team is a looming question for this upcoming season.
As the great (sometimes) Stephen A. Smith aptly pointed out back then, “When you take into account the fact that you’re replacing nothing, that makes you something, which is a plus.”
And, ladies and gentlemen, therein lies the beauty of the O’Neal signing. Anything the Warriors get out of him this season will be a vast improvement over the wasted roster spot that was mercifully vacated by Biedrins.
It gets better, though, because we don’t have to expect the bare minimum out of O’Neal this season. He had something of a career renaissance last season, ably playing the center position for the Phoenix Suns, who got more out of him than they ever could have hoped for.
If he can mirror his production of last season, where he appeared in 55 games and averaged over 18 minutes, 8.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, all while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor, the Warriors will have gained a very valuable piece to the puzzle.
With a capable backup to Andrew Bogut finally morphing into existence, Jackson will be able to disperse the minutes judicially among his frontcourt, ensuring health and fresh legs for the playoff run.
This was easily one of the more underrated moves of the offseason.
4. The Move of Harrison Barnes to the Bench
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Yes, I know what we saw from Harrison Barnes in the playoffs last season left our mouths watering over the untapped potential the young man has yet to reach. And I know that many of us were hoping to see what he would do in his second season with an increased workload and role in the offense.
Moving him to the bench, however, is the smartest thing Mark Jackson can do.
We saw Barnes attack an elite defender in Kawhi Leonard and routinely beat him in Round 2 of the playoffs. We also saw him beat anyone else put in front of him. Now imagine the possibilities of him feasting on second units.
As the focal point of the bench, Barnes will be able to continue to progress as a force on the offensive side of the ball. And it’s not like his minutes with the starting unit will be negated completely; his versatility allows Jackson to experiment with numerous lineups.
At this point in his career, a move to the bench as the sixth man of the dangerous Warrior attack adds depth to a bench that was earlier thought to be the weak link of the team.
It is a brilliant move that will allow him to grow as a first option as well as add layers to an already potent offense.
3. Trading Away Terrible Contracts
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I know I’m reaching here, but if there’s ever been a better trade in franchise history, I’ve yet to hear it.
It’s not even the fact that they were able to add one of the most versatile players in the league, although, yeah, that helps. Ridding themselves of two of the most onerous contracts in the league is what made this trade so impressive.
We’ve already gone over the value that Biedrins had to this team (none), but Richard Jefferson wasn’t much better. Age and injuries had sapped him of everything that used to make him special. He was a shell of his former self.
The fact that those two contracts had been preventing the Warriors from seriously upgrading their roster for so long was the icing on the cake.
Anyone who says that the price they paid to rid themselves of those contracts—two future first-round picks and a lethal three-point shooter and defender in Brandon Rush—was too steep simply doesn’t understand the direction the Warriors are going.
It is a play from the Los Angeles Lakers playbook.
What good are first-round picks if they are late in the first round anyways? And what value did Rush have if there weren't enough meaningful minutes for him in the rotation?
The trade allowed them to upgrade their starting lineup with Iguodala as well as upgrade their bench with the smart signings of Douglas, Speights and O’Neal.
This was phenomenal work by the front office.
2. Whiffing on the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes
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Ok, so this isn’t a move, per say. But the fact that the deal didn’t go down still ranks as one of the biggest moments of the Warriors’ offseason.
Nobody will argue the merits of Dwight Howard as a basketball force. Even in the midst of an injury-riddled, tumultuous season with the Lakers, Howard was able to put up stellar numbers. A line of 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game attests to that.
His play is not being brought to question. His attitude, however, is a whole different story.
Fool me once, Dwight, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
It’s no coincidence that Howard’s resume includes two broken franchises and two fired coaches (with Mike D’Antoni somehow escaping his wrath). Dwight Howard has always been all about Dwight Howard.
And for a team as tight-knit as the Warriors, adding a player like that could have unraveled it all.
Superstars are nice, but not when they bring their superstar mentality with them.
Iguodala will never be the caliber of player that Howard is. But his voice in the locker room trumps the gap between them. By the end of the season, Warriors general manager Bob Meyers will be sending a thank you note to Daryl Morey for saving him from himself.
1. Trading for Andre Iguodala
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This is the move that trumps all the others.
And yes, I understand that it coincides with the third spot on our list. But the addition of Andre Iguodala warrants its own discussion.
This move was the very definition of a win-win for both the Warriors and Iguodala. The Warriors got a respected star who can come in and be a team leader right off the bat.
Iguodala, however, got far more. For the first time in his career, Iguodala will be able to be cast in exactly the role he was meant to be.
The Philadelphia 76ers and the Denver Nuggets each tried to cast him as the face of their franchise, marketing the star as the type of superstar he clearly wasn’t. That will not be the case for the Warriors.
With Curry clearly the supreme star on the team, Iguodala will now be allowed to play more of a complementary role, one that perfectly suits his “jack of all trades, master of none” style of play.
Just like Barnes, his versatility allows Jackson the opportunity to do whatever his mind can come up with on offense, something that will be sure to put other teams in a tizzy.
The addition of Iguodala has no doubt made the Warriors a far more fun team to watch. Even more importantly, however, he has made them far better on the court.
The move that cemented the Warriors as contenders is clearly the No. 1 spot on our list.
What do you think? Agree with the list? Sound off in the comments below!