NBA Trade Rumors: Golden State Warriors' GM Larry Riley Faces Tough Decisions
Head coach Keith Smart and the Golden State Warriors find themselves in two difficult positions: one very unknown and one all too familiar.
By matching a season-high three-game winning streak with a narrow victory over the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night, the Warriors find themselves in familiar territory: close enough to the playoffs (4.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Portland Trailblazers) to be aggressive buyers at the quickly approaching deadline, yet far enough away to consider cashing in on their many assets and giving this a go next season.
The new position, though, leaves plenty to the imagination for Warriors fans hoping to see this club bring in talent to help this club reach the postseason for the first time in four seasons. The typically vertically-challenged Warriors actually have big bodies this season—too many big bodies.
With new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber aggressively pursuing difference makers for this team, which members of this unique Bay Area log-jam will survive the cut?
The Golden Boy: David Lee
The golden boy with the silver spoon (both inherited and earned) from St. Louis, David Lee was brought in to be the complement to the Warriors dominant backcourt.
So far, he's left Warriors fans wishing for more. His play has been what his career suggests it would have been (15.5 points, 9.6 rebounds), but any time a team throws $80 million a player's way, the fans rightfully expect more.
He's proven to be the best passing big man the Warriors have seen in a while and his streaky mid-range jumper opens up the offense when it's on.
His rebounding tenacity, outstanding character and leadership abilities are all qualities every contending team would love to bring in.
But his lackadaisical defense, and let's not forget $80 million owed over the next six seasons, make Lee virtually impossible to move.
Prediction: David Lee is a Warrior come playoff time.
The 24-Year-Old Veteran: Andris Biedrins
As recently as last week, Warriors fans were calling for Biedrins' head after the formerly promising center appeared to be an injury-plagued, disgruntled player possessing one of the NBA's historically bad free-throw forms.
But after posting at least eight points, five rebounds and two blocks in his last three games (again, all Warriors victories) perhaps the fans are coming back around to the big Latvian.
If Biedrins is able to regain the form that saw him post a double-double average for the 2008-09 season, he is the (main) missing piece of the Warriors' puzzle. At his best, he contests shots, runs the floor well for a big man, rebounds at a high rate and scores efficiently.
While it's becoming clearer every season that he may not be worth the $60-plus million that the Warriors are paying him, one thing is clear: the only other center on the roster is Dan Gadzuric and the trade market for upgrades at center is always thin (or non-existent).
Prediction: Biedrins finishes the season (and at least the rest of his 6-year deal) with the Warriors.
The Rookie: Ekpe Udoh
Despite his status in the NBA as such, calling him the nickname just doesn't feel right. After all, he's 23 years old (an elder statesmen for Warriors' rookies) and plays with the confidence of an NBA veteran.
His college nickname, "The Nightmare", seems like a better fit. After all, he's shown the ability to be a nightmare for opposing players during his stints on the NBA hardwood. Despite seeing just 12 minutes per game and appearing in just 17 Warriors games thanks to a summer injury and a short leash from Smart, he's the only Warrior averaging at least one block per game.
He's shown flashes of offensive abilities in the post and that, combined with his shot-blocking ability, makes him a valuable asset to this club. And he's already had co-owner Joe Lacob lobbying for minutes for him.
Prediction: Udoh averages 20-plus minutes for the Warriors come April.
The Expiring Contract, Pt. 1: Vladimir Radmanovic
Radmanovic has battled Reggie Williams, Stephen Curry and Keith Smart for the title of "Most Frustrating Warrior" all season long, although his play of late has likely pulled him out of this race.
His three-point shooting—so bad at one point that Smart commented how the perception of his three point ability was drawing out the defense—has once again started falling (42.4 percent) and he's shown the ability to make key baskets for this club.
But his defensive lapses (the effort is there, it's the talent that's lacking) and his mostly one-dimensional offense are the reasons for the Warriors' fans frustrations. Even during his recent hot stretch, his production has remained spotty and he's not the reliable option that his 17.0 minutes off the bench suggests that he is.
As much as Smart seems to want Radmanovic on the floor, his expiring contract (nearly $7 million) will certainly be a part of any deal that brings back the type of player that Warriors ownership is seeking.
Prediction: Vlad Rad joins his fourth club in four seasons.
The Expiring Contract, Pt. 2: Dan Gadzuric
The second player brought back in what was essentially a dump of Corey Maggette's contract, fans have to pleased with what Gadzuric has brought has brought to the table this season.
If nothing else, he's proven to Smart that he's capable of logging 10 minutes per night and banging with the better front courts in the NBA.
At the same time, he's proven to be someone very expendable considering how attractive his $7-plus million expiring contract will look to the cash-strapped teams in the league.
Perhaps Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith will look to strengthen his bench and provide his club with financial relief over the summer.
Prediction: Biedrins will have a new back-up by the deadline.
The Energy Man: Lou Amundson
Amundson has epitomized the Warriors bench this season: an up-and-down, mildly impressive at times.
Amundson appeared to be another under-the-radar steal for Riley when the Warriors inked him to a 2-year, $5 million deal (second year is a player option) late in the offseason. Always a productive, high-energy player off of the bench, Amundson looked to continue to thrive in a system similar to what he excelled in with Phoenix.
The career 52.6 percent shooter, has connected on just 43.9 percent of his shots. His 3.9 rebounds lead all Warriors reserves, but his putrid free-throw shooting (28.6 percent) hurts his effectiveness on the offensive glass.
His apparent discounted price now appears to have overtaken his market value with his play and his looming player option is not nearly as attractive as a team option could have been.
Prediction: Amundson remains a Warrior for this season and next.
The Unknown: Brandan Wright
Were it not for an ankle injury to Lou Amundson in the second quarter in Wednesday's win over the Pacers, Wright would have presumably never seen the floor, nor provided timely baskets and defense in a must-win game. After all, he hadn't played in 10 days and has only appeared in 13 games for the team all season.
While his injury woes have been well documented, they can't be the cause for his DNPs this season. The frustrating thing for Warriors fans, however, is that the cause of DNPs remains unknown. Warriors' beat reporter said on Twitter recently that Wright struggles with the little things and that's why he finds himself so far on this suddenly deep bench.
When he sees the court, he's been impressive. He leads the team with a 57.1 field goal percentage, and his 4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds are impressive considering how inconsistent his playing time has been.
At the same time, he might be the most attractive piece on the Warriors bench for his talent alone. Add that to the fact that his contract is also expiring and expect the Warriors to field plenty of calls about his availability.
Prediction: It pains me to say this, but Wright leaves and Warriors fans watch him develop from afar.