When and if this lockout finally ends, the Warriors are going to have a lot of preparation and re-structuring to do. First of all, the players will have a rookie coach, Mark Jackson, and a whole new system to learn in a matter of a few weeks. There will be a period after the lockout ends that will serve as “training camp,” but with a new coach, this team really needed a full summer to work out together and learn the new system. Time will be severely limited, and chemistry could become an issue. The rotation isn’t set at all and this particular Warriors team is so young to begin with that the bench is naturally very weak. The Warriors have to address some key issues once this lockout is over.
No one knows what new provisions the new collective bargaining agreement will have and how much the new salary cap will be. Therefore, we can’t fully examine the Warriors’ options when it comes to free agency. However, we can determine what the Warriors should address once the lockout is over and what potential free agents they should go after. First and foremost, the Warriors have to address the center position. This is not shocking whatsoever, because Andris Biedrins displayed a whole new level of uselessness this past season. He was supposed to have increased his confidence and his overall game last offseason, but clearly that never happened. Yet again, he was timid to show any form of aggression because he’s afraid of shooting free throws. He was also injured for segments of the season, so he truly was the epitome of useless. The other options the Warriors have for the center position are all players that are generally thought of to be power forwards but have been “converted” to centers since the Warriors severely lack size in the frontcourt. Those players include Lou Amundson, Ekpe Udoh, and Jeremy Tyler. These players have not proven yet that they can be starting centers, so the Warriors have to assume that the center situation is of the utmost importance.
In an ideal world, who could the Warriors target for the center position? Once again, we can’t exactly determine how much the Warriors will be willing to spend on free agents because of uncertainty about the terms of the new bargaining agreement, but from now on let’s just examine all feasible options. One of the top tier centers that will be available this offseason is Nene of the Denver Nuggets. Nene averaged 14.5 points per game, 7.6 rebounds, a .615 field goal percentage, and 1.0 blocks per game during 30.5 minutes per game. Nene’s rebounding numbers aren’t outstanding, but he’s an efficient scorer and is a strong defensive presence in the paint. Nene would be a great fit for the Warriors because he’d allow other scorers such as Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, and Dorell Wright (and even David Lee) to get their usual shots, but he’d still chip in offensively and defensively without disrupting the natural flow of the game. He might require a longer-term, expensive contract though. The Warriors could also try to acquire DeAndre Jordan or Samuel Dalembert, who aren’t quite as talented as Nene, but are still solid center options. Jordan is known as an “energy guy,” who fights for rebounds and is a vicious shot blocker, and would be a valuable player to have on the Warriors. The fear with signing Jordan though is that he is a player who could easily be overpaid. He hasn’t fully proven himself in the league yet, so he shouldn’t receive a long-term, high-salary deal. Dalembert is a good rebounder, another fantastic shot blocker, and a seasoned veteran. Dalembert is also a great guy and a great leader, so his veteran presence would definitely be appreciated on a young Warriors team. His field goal percentage and points per game aren’t as stellar as Nene’s though.
Another component that the Warriors will have to address is the third guard/backup point guard situation. This can be expanded to just a general improvement in depth. Jeremy Lin is extremely overrated by Warriors management and should not be depended on for backup point guard duties. The other option the Warriors have right now is Charles Jenkins, but he’s a rookie and we don’t know if he can fill that role yet. The Warriors first round draft pick this season is Klay Thompson who could be the third guard off the bench and he could back up both Monta Ellis and Dorell Wright because of his size and athleticism. However, he’s also a rookie and the Warriors cannot rely on a rookie to provide all the scoring off the bench. The Warriors have an extremely grim amount of depth on the team and that is one of the main reasons why they weren’t successful last season. A deeper bench will create a more well-rounded team and will help reduce minutes for the starters.
The Warriors need to bring in rotation-type players during the free agency period that could play the 1-3 positions. In free agency, the Warriors should target players such as: Jason Richardson, Arron Afflalo, Sebastian Telfair, Shane Battier, and Tayshaun Prince. The Bay Area will always love Jason Richardson, and if he doesn’t sign with some championship-level team, he has said he’d love to return to the Warriors. He could fill the sixth-man role and can score quickly and efficiently, so he’d be a perfect fit. Arron Afflalo is an exceptional defender and a good 3-point shooter, but the Nuggets seem to want to keep him, so it might be difficult to sign him. Sebastian Telfair could be an inexpensive free agent that the Warriors could sign, and his experience in the league would make him a much better backup point guard option than Jeremy Lin. Shane Battier, like Afflalo, is a top-notch defender, but he seems like he wants to be on a consistent playoff team. Tayshaun Prince is a solid small forward who is an efficient scorer, has won an NBA championship, and has nine years of experience. He might require a bigger contract than what the Warriors want to pay though.
In the new collective bargaining agreement, there will be an amnesty clause, which will allow teams to waive a player and have his salary immediately come off the books instead of it coming off the books whenever the contract ends. The Warriors are one of the teams in the NBA that could benefit from this provision immensely. Based on their biased views of certain players’ skillsets and contributions to the team, Warriors management has immensely overpaid those players and given them horrible contracts (examples: Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, and David Lee, just to name a few). Although it would make sense to amnesty someone like Biedrins who has a very expensive contract and who is a player that should be waived, the Warriors often fall into the trap of being extremely illogical with their decisions. The apprehension towards waiving Beidrins would be that he’s the only true center on the roster, but if management was able to waive his contract, they could easily go after a higher-level center in free agency such as Nene. The Warriors could also use it on Charlie Bell who rarely plays, but still makes $4.1 million. However, it might also make sense for the Warriors to hold onto their amnesty clause and use it in a season or two.
Clearly, the Warriors are going to have a lot to do in very little time. Once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, it’s likely that teams will have about a month for free agency. This doesn’t give the Warriors a lot of time, but that one month or so of free agency is a key period that could really set the tone for the rest of the season. Warriors management needs to be as active as possible and try to acquire quality free agents that will address specific needs for this team. Mark Jackson will have his hands full as well. He needs to preach defense as aggressively as possible. The whole coaching staff has to establish a system that starts with defense and allows the Warriors to get out in transition and run the fast break. It all starts with defense though. Jackson should hold the players accountable, and adjust playing time based on who is playing the best, most effective defense. Jackson can’t just say he’s going to do this; he needs to execute it properly. The whole Warriors organization has to instill a new culture, and it all starts with Coach Jackson. If he can become the NBA-version of Jim Harbaugh and instill a whole new style of winning based on unstoppable defense, the Warriors will be a successful team this season and for many seasons to come. There is a lot to be done, but the Warriors organization needs to prove that they are a winning franchise with a culture that accepts nothing but greatness.