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Why The Golden State Warriors Need To Bring Back The Same Lineup Next Season

With only three teams remaining in the NBA Playoffs, it means a few “contenders” have already been eliminated from title contention. The offseason is the time for these teams to retool to prepare for deeper runs next season. The Golden State Warriors became the NBA’s Cinderella team during their playoff run this year. Though they were ultimately defeated in six games by the newly crowned Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs, the Warriors made their fan base and all of the Bay Area proud with their return to relevancy. They finished the regular season with a 47-35 record, good enough for sixth in the West. In the opening round of the playoffs they then upset the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in six games.

The key to the Warriors success this season was two things: outside shooting and health. As a team, Golden State shot an absurd 40.3 percent from deep, ranking them at the top of the NBA, and even in the playoffs, they were led by the sharp shooting of Klay Thompson (42.4 percent), Stephen Curry (39.6) and Harrison Barnes (36.5). In the injury department, starting center and key offseason acquisition, Andrew Bogut, missed a total of 50 games, while Curry’s fragile ankles only caused him to miss four games (his 78 games played is the second-highest of his career… after playing in 80 games as a rookie). However, the injury bug bit David Lee at the most inopportune time. Lee tore his hip flexor during Game 1 against the Nuggets, but battled back to appear in limited minutes in five of the team’s next 11 postseason games.

However, Golden State put the NBA on notice. This is not the same one-year, flash in a pan, type of success that the world saw in 2007. As long as Curry, Lee, Thompson and Barnes remain in the Bay Area — and San Francisco when the team moves in 2017 — this is a squad that can compete with the best in the league. Still, the Warriors have limited options for improving their roster this offseason. Thanks to the ridiculously high-priced contracts of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson, ($9 million and $11.05 million respectively) they won’t have much room left to add outside talent.

For the remainder of the post, I will assume the role of Warriors GM Bob Meyers. I will give my suggestions and analysis on who the Warriors should keep, who they should lose, and players to target in free agency and the draft.

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KEEP: Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry
Jarrett Jack was the unheralded star of the Warriors emergence during the 2012-13 NBA season. Jack’s ability to play the point guard position on offense allowed for Stephen Curry to work more as an off guard and weave his way through a myriad of screens and focus more on his greatest skill, shooting. Jack is also a stellar defender and would in turn be able to guard either the point or shooting guard, whichever was the more dangerous offensive player, on the opposite end. With Golden State, Jack posted a career-high in three-point percentage and also chipped in 12.9 points, 3.1 boards and 5.6 assists per game in 29.7 minutes. Though Jack has seen his value skyrocket during the year, he has voiced that his first choice is to remain in the Bay with the Warriors. After the team’s season-ending loss against the Spurs, Jack remained in his uniform during postgame interviews stating that he was proud to be part of the Warriors organization.

Carl Landry may not have had the same impact that Jack had on the Warriors, but he was just as important to the team’s depth and success. For the season, he averaged 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds in 23.2 minutes per game. With Bogut missing most of the season due to injury, Landry provided depth for Golden State even though he started just two games; along with Jack, Landry formed a formidable second unit duo. In the playoffs, Landry was needed even more and he upped his average to 11.8 points in 20.5 minutes per game. With Lee out for half the postseason due to injury, Landry started three of the team’s 12 games. During the Warriors small-ball success, Landry would often find himself having to play center, and though he’s listed at 6-9 and 248 pounds, he more than held his own in the paint.

LOSE: NONE
Jarrett Jack is the only unrestricted free agent on the Warriors roster. Biedrins has an Early Termination Option in his contract, but seeing as it is very unlikely that he will make $9 million on any other team, he will likely remain with Golden State. Likewise, Richard Jefferson has a player option on his contract that will pay him more than $11 million, a figure he would get nowhere close to on the open market, making him almost a guarantee to be back with the Warriors next year as well. Lastly there is Brandon Rush, who also possesses a player option for the 2013-14 NBA season. Rush missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in Golden State’s second game of the season. Due to his injury, it is unlikely he will make $4 million anywhere else. Seeing as these players hold the option of leaving or staying in their hand it is unlikely that any of them will readily choose to depart from the Warriors, even though each player is expendable.

Keep reading to hear about who Golden State should draft…

FREE AGENT TARGETS: NONE
If Biedrins, Jefferson and Rush all elect to stay and Golden State is able to retain Landry and Jack they will have barely, if any, space to make noise in free agency. While the Warriors showed this year that they are a competitive team that will only get better with time — the team’s average age is 23.7 years old — it would not be smart for them to enter the luxury tax and have to deal with the harsher tax penalties that are part of the new CBA.

DRAFT TARGETS: Nate Wolters, Grant Jerrett and Colton Iverson
The Warriors currently do not have any picks in the 2013 NBA Draft due to past trades that sent their first-round selection to the Utah Jazz and their second-round selection to the Denver Nuggets. However, with their lack of financial flexibility, the draft serves as their best chance to try and add new and additional talent to their roster. Thanks to the draft being considered “weak” by many executives, it may be easier for Golden State to buy a pick in the second round or even scour the undrafted free agents for a steal. With that in mind, I’ve selected three players that are likely to be available in both the second round and as undrafted free agents: Nate Wolters, Grant Jerrett and Colton Iverson.

Nate Wolters is a name that most college basketball fans know about because he has been lighting it up at South Dakota State for the past three seasons, often being compared to former BYU star Jimmer Fredette. The 22-year-old, 6-5 point guard shouldn’t have a problem translating his game to the NBA because he is one of the biggest gym rats in the 2013 Draft class. Wolters has great size for the position. He’s a great scorer, as he showed in college, where he averaged 22.3 points per game (good for fifth in the nation) and an underrated facilitator, averaging 5.8 dimes as a senior. It’s not hard to imagine a team falling in love with him after having him in for a predraft workout.

Grant Jerrett left school after his freshman season at Arizona where he averaged 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game, which is far from “one-and-done” numbers. Jerrett’s big and skilled, and can really stretch out defenses with his ability to shoot the ball. He would make an ideal stretch four in the NBA. Teams don’t have any idea how good Jerrett is right now, let alone how good he could potentially become. He certainly has the makings of a solid pro, and some team in the middle-to-late portion of the second round could receive serious benefits in the future if they were to select him.

Colton Iverson will turn 24 shortly after the draft, making him one of the older prospects in the draft, where youth is a very valued commodity. However, once in the NBA, his size (7-0) and willingness to do the dirty work should help him put together a long and lengthy career. Iverson has shed body fat in order to help his end-to-end speed and has put in a lot of time on his jump shot, extending his range to midrange. He has all the necessary tools to be a solid backup center and could be a cost-efficient replacement to Andris Biedrins.

What will the Warriors do this summer?

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