Baron Davis is gone so what looked like the Warriors' best chance to compete for a Western Conference Finals appearance has morphed into the beginnings of a rebuilding process. Chris Mullin now has the most available cap space of any team under the salary cap. He's like a kid in the candy store, but there are only a few worthy free agents this summer that Mullin should throw his money at.
Fans are saddened by sudden departure of their star player to LA, and many put the blame on the Warriors front office for not giving Baron anything close to the extension he felt he deserved. Mullin did not feel that a 5 year / $65 million deal was worth offering because of his injury history, even though he played all 82 games last season. Mullin feels the pressure to bring in a big name like Arenas and Brand and is paying far too much for them if you consider their age and injury history. Any injury setback will cripple future movements and there is going to be a natural downturn in productivity with Brand. The Warriors should steer clear of such a deal for the same reasons they decided not to extend Baron Davis.
With the Warriors in rebuilding mode, they should look for the best young talent to have grow along with the already promising players on the roster. They need a rising star who's peak playing years will coincide with that of the rest of the roster. They need a player that can get the fans excited about going to games, even if the result isn't likely to be pretty. There are only two that fit the bill in this free agency and they are both Restricted Free Agents, Andre Iguodala and Josh Smith. They need to acquire one of those two players and build around them, making the necessary moves and signings to assemble the best possible team with the best chance to eventually compete and contend with the likes of the Blazers, Hornets, and Lakers in the not too distant future.
In order to have this 'best chance to eventually compete and contend', the Warriors need to make a commitment to developing the youth, giving the lots of playing time, not signing aging vets that could stunt growth, and insuring that they get a high draft pick in 2009. The latter does not entail sandbagging and out-right 'tanking' games, they should naturally be bad (but highly entertaining) if they play the youngsters heavy minutes and make free agent signings that might not have an immediate impact on the win column, but down the road will pay off huge dividends. It will be a tough season, but like the Blazers, Cavaliers, Sonics, Celtics, and many others have found out, a terrible year can quickly turn in the brightest of futures if the Warriors end up striking it rich in the 2009 NBA Lottery.
Resign Andris Biedrins to a deal worth 6 yrs / $59.1 million.
Sign Josh Smith to a front-loaded max deal for 5 yrs / $74.8 million.
Sign Shaun Livingston part of the MLE to a deal worth 3 yrs / $6.5 million w/ 3rd Yr. Team Option.
Resign Monta Ellis to a deal worth 6 yrs / $66.7 million.
Resign Kelenna Azubuike to a deal worth 3 yrs / $9.9 million w/ 3rd Yr. Team Option.
Resign Austin Croshere to the veteran minimum.
Sign Anthony Randloph to rookie salary scale
Sign Richard Hendrix to rookie salary scale
Sign DeMarcus Nelson to the minimum.
Josh Smith - $14,500,000
Al Harrington - $9,226,250
Monta Ellis - $8,800,000
Andris Biedrins - $7,800,000
Stephen Jackson - $7,140,000
Adonal Foyle - $6,700,000
Kelenna Azubuike - $3,000,000
Brandan Wright - $2,497,320
Shaun Livingston - $2,000,000
Kosta Perovic - $1,944,000
Marco Belinelli - $1,446,720
Anthony Randolph - $1,424,400
Austin Croshere - $800,000
C.J. Watson - $711,517
Richard Hendrix - $500,000
DeMarcus Nelson - $442,114
Total salary - $68,732,321
PG: Monta Ellis / C.J. Watson / Shaun Livingston
SG: Kelenna Azubuike / Marco Belinelli / DeMarcus Nelson
SF: Stephen Jackson / Al Harrington / Anthony Randolph
PF: Josh Smith / Brandan Wright / Richard Hendrix
C: Andris Biedrins / Kosta Perovic / Austin Croshere
This team is young but will be extremely exciting to watch. Monta Ellis brings the lighting on the offensive end, while Josh Smith anchors the defense with his filthy rejections and ability to rebound from any of the three positions he will be playing.
- Resigning Andris Biedrins to eliminate his approximately $10 million cap hold should be the first order of business. A deal in the neighborhood of 6 yrs / $59.1m would be reasonable ($7.8m, $8.6m, $9.4m, $10.3m, $11.6m, $12.5m, $13.4m). Biedrins may want a shorter deal which would also work well for the Warriors for capspace reasons and flexibility.
- The most realistic candidate to target in free agency is Josh Smith. Although Andre Iguodala would probably be a better fit considering the current make-up of the roster, the 76ers are less likely to not match and allow him to go to the Warriors. Atlanta ownership is in disarray, the franchise is having financial issues, and they will look to keep as many players as they can without exceeding the luxury tax, so a sizable offer for Josh Smith will deter the Hawks from matching. Currently, the 76ers are set to offer around $12.5m (the maximum they are able to offer based on estimated salary cap increase) to start. If the Warriors offer $14.5m to start, they should be able to get Smith into a Warriors uniform. Add a signing bonus and Warriors blow any 76ers deal out of the water. Offer him 5 yrs / $74.8m front-loaded with dips in 2010 and 2011 to allow for increased cap space for those big free agent years ($14.5m, $15.7m, $14.5m, $14.5m, $15.7m).
- Signing Shaun Livingston does two things: it gives us a very skilled and talented 6'7" PG that could pay off huge dividends when he recovers from his devastating knee injury, AND the fact that he will not be able to contribute heavy minutes this year insures that Monta gets most of the run at PG to log experience and Livingston won't contribute to meaningless wins that jeopardize the Warriors' chances of landing a high draft pick in 2009. Sign him to 3 yrs / $6.5m with a 3rd year Team Option ($2m, $2.2m, $2.3m). This deal will allow the Warriors to shed his salary in the Summer of 2010 if it is apparent that Livingston cannot return anywhere near his previous level of play.
- Monta Ellis can now be signed with the major free agent signings out of the way. Lock him in for as long as you can - 6 yrs / $66.6m ($8.8m, $9.7m, $10.6m, $11.6m, $12.5m, $13.4m) Like Biedrins, he may prefer to sign a shorter deal so he could keep his options open. This would be ok for the Warriors capspace and flexibility as well.
- Kelenna Azubuike did a good job on the defensive end, as was best exemplified when he held Kobe Byant in check during crutch time of their win in LA last season. His size, versatility in scoring, and toughness make him a good SG to pair next to Ellis. Azubuike probably wants a longer deal but Warriors should offer him more money on a shorter contract so that they don't tie up salary in 2010. Give him 3 yrs / $9.3m with a 3rd year Team Option ($2.8m, $3.1m, $3.4m).
- Austin Croshere did an adequate job spreading the floor with his outside shooting when he was healthy. He played hard and crashed the boards, so he would be a decent guy to bring back. He knows the system and a familiar face in practice could add some stability to a lineup shaken by the loss of their leader and a few other rotation players. If there is additional money left before hitting the Luxury Tax, perhaps the Warriors can pursue a younger option instead, but for now, Croshere will do.
- Sign the rookies. Richard Hendrix may be able to contribute more this year, but Anthony Randolph looks to be a steal because of his skills, size, and athleticism. Hopefully, Hendrix will be the Milsap-type of big we desperately need and Randolph will blossom into an All-Star in the mold of Lamar Odom or Chris Bosh.
- If DeMarcus Nelson impresses in Summer League play, sign him for the year. He has a reputation for being a tough defender and isn't bad as a combo guard player willing and able to dish out assists.
It will be a rough season, but fans will pay to see exciting basketball engineered by Don Nelson. Ellis is one of the most electrifying players in the game. They don't call him the 'One Man Fastbreak' for nothing. Josh Smith brings thunderous jams not seen since the departure of the beloved Jason Richardson. More importantly, he brings a future Defensive Player of the Year that could intimidate in the post and help Biedrins on the glass. The fans will continue to pay if the Warriors show them a future full of hope.
(click image to enlarge)
This assembled roster is not meant to make the playoffs. In fact it is meant to increase our chances of landing one of the top player in the 2009 draft. Top talents include:
- Ricky Rubio - a franchise PG that's a cross between Steve Nash and Manu Ginobili
- Demar DeRozan - a franchise SG that reminds many of Vince Carter
- James Hardin - a heady SG with advanced leadership and terrific all-around game - see Brandon Roy and Dwayne Wade
- Blake Griffin - franchise PF with tremendous skills and strength - Boozer with more athleticism
- Brandon Jennings - the second best PG if Rubio stays in the draft
- BJ Mullens - fluid moving 7-footer with an advanced post game - Chris Kaman
- Tyreke Evans - a great SG prospect that would fit perfectly next to Ellis
Josh Smith's 27pts,9reb vs KG&Celtics Game 3 Playoffs 2008
Shaun Livingston Mix
Ricky Rubio Mix
Brandon Jennings Mix by Runway