Biggest Needs for Golden State Warriors During 2014 Offseason
Even though the Golden State Warriors won more than 50 games for only the fourth time in franchise history, the 2013-14 season has to be considered a bit of a disappointment.
Injuries derailed the campaign throughout the year, with Andre Iguodala missing time at the beginning of the year, Andrew Bogut going down at the end and a never-ending stream of maladies in between. The one constant seemed to be Stephen Curry, who legitimized his superstar status with an superstar season from start to finish.
But full squad or not, the Dubs weren't able to live up to their lofty hopes and dreams.
They earned the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, then weren't able to pull off the upset against the Los Angeles Clippers, despite the Donald Sterling drama throwing a strange monkey wrench into the opening-round series.
Now, changes are coming.
There won't be sweeping overhauls to the roster, given the talent and the nature of the contracts attached to the big names, but the bench and coaching staff will both be the subject of much attention throughout the 2014 postseason.
Another early postseason exit simply won't be acceptable for a Warriors franchise on the rise, even if 2013-14 had to be considered a bit of a setback.
Finding Stability in the Coaching Ranks
Was Mark Jackson coaching for his job during the 2014 postseason?
We'll find out soon enough, as the man who specializes in motivational speeches may soon find himself looking for new work. He wasn't able to spur his Warriors on often enough during the regular season, and the result was a bit more stress than should've been necessary down the closing stretch. Injuries played a big part in the disappointing nature of the campaign, but Jackson still struggled to make adjustments when they were necessary.
"My job will be determined on winning," the head coach said to the Associated Press, via ESPN, in early April. "I'm fine with that."
If winning is the basis for job security, the early exit from the playoffs doesn't bode well for him.
Golden State's first priority this offseason needs to be figuring out a resolution to this Jackson situation, as the personnel they add during the offseason should be—at least partially—shaped around the philosophies of the man calling the shots. Whether that's Jackson himself or one of the many potential candidates for the job, it's important to determine that philosophy sooner rather than later.
However, the stability of the coaching staff goes beyond the head coach.
Assistant coaches tended to make more noise in the Bay Area than they did anywhere else (other than Brooklyn), as Brian Scalabrine was re-assigned to the D-League affiliate and Darren Erman was fired for secretly recording conversations between members of the coaching staff.
While we won't ever know exactly how much of an impact these men had on Golden State's season, their situations were unnecessary distractions. It's important to hire assistant coaches who won't clash with their direct superior but instead will provide the value they're supposed to throughout the season.
Will these assistants make headlines? Not really, but they're important nonetheless.
Giving Stephen Curry a Consistent Backup
With Steve Blake's contract expiring and Jordan Crawford entering the open market as a restricted free agent, the Warriors are going to spend a large portion of the offseason searching for backcourt help.
Stephen Curry can't play all 48 minutes, after all.
Ideally, the guards brought in—whether done by re-signing one of the aforementioned backups, signing a new one in free agency or drafting one during the selection process on June 26 (after somehow trading for a pick)—will be capable of distributing the ball to their teammates, something that was lacking during the 2013-14 season.
Why is distributing so important?
Well, Curry is capable of playing off the ball, and two-point guard sets are going to be quite common if Golden State has the talent necessary to fill those roles.
According to Hoopsstats.com, the Warriors bench mob had a remarkably difficult time racking up assists, generating only 5.2 per contest. That number beat out just the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers, and it was a major part of the reason that the second unit as a whole failed to impress for much of the year.
Often times, the story was the same—the starters would earn a lead, only to see it relinquished as they caught their breath on the sidelines by the lackluster bench.
That can't happen again, and it starts with guard play off the pine.
"In a Western Conference race so tight that the little things could turn into a big difference, the Warriors just got a lot of little things," wrote NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper after the Dubs traded for Crawford. "They needed bench help in general and in the backcourt in particular, and got Crawford averaging 13.7 points and a career-high 5.7 assists as he served as Boston’s injury replacement at the point for the injured Rajon Rondo."
Well, the team is going to need that same type of help once more this offseason. Ideally they can begin the 2014-15 season in such a fashion that a bench-boosting midseason trade isn't necessary once more.
Gaining Depth in the Frontcourt
If you look at Rotoworld's depth charts, you're not going to be impressed by what you see in the frontcourt (minus the small forward position) for the Warriors:
- Power forward: David Lee, Marreesse Speights
- Center: Andrew Bogut, Jermaine O'Neal, Festus Ezeli, Hilton Armstrong, Ognjen Kuzmic
And it gets worse once everyone without a contract is up for grabs, as O'Neal and Armstrong's names have to be removed from the center rotation.
Without the veteran big men, the Dubs are looking at a solid starting duo and an extremely limited crop of backups. Speights is an offensive talent who can be a liability on defense, and he's by no means a worldbeater coming off the bench. And as for the centers, you're dealing with a ton of limitations and youth.
That's not going to get the job done.
If the Warriors make any sort of splash during the free-agency period—and according to ShamSports, they're already on the books for over $64 million, so they'll be limited to low-salary players—that splash has to come at center.
Especially because all of the team's draft picks have already been traded away.
Going into the season with an injury-prone starter and a few inexperienced backups is not a recipe for success, especially at a position that's expected to clean up for Curry's defensive mistakes. And yes, it's safe to call Bogut injury prone at this stage of his career, as the fluke injuries just never seem to stop coming.
Bringing back O'Neal almost seems to be a must at this point, even if the big man is going to turn 36 years old before the start of the 2014-15 campaign. Once he returned from injury late in the season, he appeared to be completely rejuvenated, averaging 9.0 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while shooting 51.5 percent from the field and playing solid defense during his final 27 appearances.
Given the capped-out nature of the budget and the dearth of draft picks, it might be hard to find a better option.
Capitalize on Harrison Barnes' Potential
When the Warriors used the No. 7 pick of the 2012 NBA draft on Harrison Barnes, he was supposed to become a future star. But that hasn't happened yet.
Not even close.
The small forward from North Carolina started every game during his rookie season but struggled throughout the year. Then he broke out over the course of a dozen postseason games, allowing hope to spring eternal for his sophomore season.
However, the arrival of Andre Iguodala during the ensuing offseason pushed Barnes to the bench, and he regressed.
During his second season, the former Tar Heel averaged 9.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, shooting 39.9 percent from the field and 34.7 percent beyond the arc. According to Basketball-Reference, his player efficiency rating slipped from 11.0 to a putrid 9.8, and he failed to showcase any sort of consistent improvement all the while.
But unlike his rookie season, Barnes' second go-round didn't feature a postseason surge, and the Warriors now need to seriously question his future with the team. Fortunately, the athletic 21-year-old is brimming over with untapped potential, upside that's just waiting on him to figure out how to shoot efficiently and pass the ball effectively.
There are two ways for the Dubs to capitalize on this unrealized potential, and they need to act upon one of them this offseason.
The first option involves putting him through a rigorous series of workouts and training sessions, ones designed to shore up his primary weaknesses. Turning him into the player he was supposed to become is vital, but that's a risky course of action.
It's by no means guaranteed to work.
Of course, the second is fraught with peril as well because it involves trading him before the rest of the NBA decides he's not worth an investment. Getting back draft picks, guards or big men would be extremely beneficial, because any of those assets could be used to shore up actual weaknesses.
Souring on Barnes should no longer be considered a crime in the Bay Area, but the Warriors must strike quickly before everyone gets on the same page.
Keep Having Stephen Curry Work on His Flaws
Superstars never stop improving.
LeBron James has spent the last few years honing his jumper and working on his post moves. Kevin Durant used this offseason to blossom into an all-around player, one capable of affecting games with his passing, defense and rebounding, not just his scoring. Carmelo Anthony made more of a defensive effort and crashed the boards better than ever in 2013-14.
So, what's Curry going to improve?
Two flaws stand out as ones in dire need of some work during the offseason—turnovers and defense.
The first has been problematic throughout contests, but particularly in crunch-time, when Curry draws even more attention than ever before. He's a bit too aggressive with some of his passes, and he could stand to either hone his accuracy or corral those instincts that compel him to squeeze the ball through the tightest gaps.
According to Basketball-Reference, Curry's turnover percentage jumped back up to the level it maintained throughout his first few years out of Davidson (16.1), rendering the 13.7 turnover percentage in 2012-13 a bit of a fluke.
It's time to prove it wasn't.
Then there's defense.
On the less-glamorous end of the court, Curry improved throughout the latest go-round, even if those strides were largely overshadowed by his offensive prowess and other more publicized storylines. Mark Jackson no longer had to treat him like a complete liability, though he was still switched over to a weaker offensive player when the matchups allowed it.
Curry is never going to be a defensive stalwart. He doesn't have enough athleticism for that, and his lateral quickness is compromised by the energy he's asked to expend when trying to score.
However, he can continue to hone his instincts and reactions, much as Tony Parker has done throughout his career with the San Antonio Spurs. The better he understands the game, the better he'll play.
Game film, meet Curry.