They made history is almost every facet of the game this season, but, now, it has all amounted to nothing. Losing out in the finals to Cleveland in a series they had a 3-1 lead in, they chocked, and now, they need to make hard decisions in order to stay at the top and ensure that they don’t fall as hard again next time around.
The Golden State Warriors are in an enviable position. They’ve won a title, broken the regular season winning record and they have a team stacked with talent and heart. Albeit, a team which had their heart broken by Cleveland this finals series. Now, the lacklustre finish should not cast away the achievement they amassed throughout this season, it’s been nothing short of incredible. However, the reality of the situation is that all their achievements count for little more than bragging rights at the end of the day without the title.
Now, with the season at a close, the questions of next year are being asked. Owner Joe Lacob was quoted as saying the warriors will be ‘Aggressive’ in the off season. As they should be. They are a desirable destination, they have the two-time reigning MVP on their team and a squad that has shown they are on the improve. Well in contention for the championship over the next three to five seasons, the warriors must capitalize now, and they have the perfect means to do it. They have their core three locked down: 3-5 swing man and heart of the team, Draymond Green has another four years in Oakland, Klay Thompson has three years left on a deal which has been described as ‘team friendly’ and the reigning MVP, Steph Curry looks set to receive a max deal before long.
With the cap moving to $US94 million next season, and approximately $US74 million of that cap committed, they only have one option if they want to be ‘aggressive’ and that is to break up the record breaking team, and move on Wing defender Harrison Barnes. Having turned down a $US64 Million offer in the previous off season, he is sure to fetch a high price this off season, which gives the Warriors the perfect chance to move for their long linked target, one who would turn the NBA on its head: Kevin Durant. Should he join, the best show in the NBA will only get better.
Barnes rejected the offer in the off-season knowing full well that he was in for a mammoth offer in the off-season, but coming off the back of a deplorable performance in the last three games of the final series, his stock in the team will certainly fall compared to that of a possible swap for someone of Kevin Durant’s calibre.
It’s no doubt, a difficult decision to make with Barnes, his upside is easy for everyone to see, he’s a trusty locked down wing defender, who, on his day, can easily average 15 to 20 points a game, but, this finals series has exposed his weakness under pressure. Even if Durant were to not be the trade off, his currency and youth may play a role in him being moved in anyway, and Boston are looking likely to take up his option.
Not only do the Warriors have to look at the options at the 3 and 4 positions, but also at the centre. Backup centre, Festus Ezeli is coming onto Restricted Free-Agency (RFA) lists this off season and with his poor performances in the finals series, he too could be looking for new digs next season.
Whilst his size and his ability (when at his best) are upsides for the Warriors, is there any reason to spend in an extended cap for a backup player who has gap between his best and his worst is alarming in the big games? Probably not, especially when there is an opportunity to create reliable depth in the position and in scoring, with Al Horford also coming onto RFA lists. The Atlanta big man would suit the Warriors well. Athletic, tough and team first, he would have no issue being in a line up, where he could become the fourth or fifth option.
Not only does it fit into the team ethos of playing for each other, but he also provides a different dynamic to the rough and tumble first choice center, Andrew Bogut. Finding an alternative at the center position is key. Sure, small ball is the prevailing style in this day and age, especially for the warriors, but Draymond Green at 6 foot 6 inches cant be expected to play a full 40 minutes in the position and Horford is the perfect remedy to the situation.
It’s clear that whilst the Warriors are in a good position, and with recent odds overnight placing them as favorites for the NBA title next season, they do need to make some hard decisions in the coming days to ensure their stay at the top. Look for them to be aggressive in the off-season market and look for them to be ruthless, because, they have no other option.