Head coach Keith Smart and his Golden State Warriors find themselves in all too familiar predicament.
Sitting seven games below .500 (15-22), the Warriors need to decide now if they're willing to sacrifice and grind out a push for the eighth playoff spot--currently just four games out of reach--or cash in on some of their tradeable assets with an eye toward the future.
The decision is hardly an easy one.
With a new ownership group in place, members of the coaching staff and front office know that they have a limited time to impress these owners who have no personal or professional history with them. In that case, perhaps a run at the playoffs is what's needed to re-invigorate the Bay Area fans and save some jobs.
On the other hand, the Warriors top three players--sorry David Lee, but right now Dorell Wright joins Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis as Oakland's Big Three--are all under 26 years old. The national media are always quick to point out that while a talented team, the Warriors are still a few players away from becoming a good team. So, why not use some of that $23-plus million in expiring contracts and trade exceptions to bring in a few valuable pieces that help this team make a push at an opening round home playoff series in the next year or two--i.e., more than just being the sacrificial lamb for the L.A. Lakers.
Again, this should not be a hasty decision. But a playoff spot for this year is about more than just saving jobs and "arriving." It would quickly erase that nasty taste in the mouths of the Warriors' faithful left by former owner Chris Cohan, who finally ended his 16-year run--more like a 16-year mope--last summer.
With that in mind, here are the five things that the Warriors need to do to challenge for their spot in the NBA's big dance. And who knows what could happen when they reach the playoffs, this is a team that thrives as the eighth seed after all.