I’ve been on vacation for the past week, attending a family wedding, and was unable to find any free time to put together anything of worth regarding the vast amount of Warriors news that has broken during that time frame. I have a lot to catch up on. In order of importance:
Finally, the process that began in July 2009 has become reality. When I first heard that Chris Cohan was considering selling the team, it was the best news I’d heard about this franchise in a long time. You can look at the drafting of Stephen Curry, the trade for David Lee, Don Nelson setting the wins record as major, important headlines for the Warriors in the past year. But nothing compares to the sale.
Under Cohan, the Warriors were stuck in a eternal underachieving bog. Besides a nice run in 2007 and 2008, the Warriors have been a horrible team for the past 16 seasons. That is a very long time and Warriors fans — arguably the best group of fans in all of sports — deserve so much better. I was glad to see that Cohan thanked the fans as part of his exit statement. One of the main reasons the Warriors sold for a record $450 million is because this team’s fans have supported the Warriors no matter what. There aren’t a lot of fan bases like that in any sport. It’s fair to hope now that the new owners — Joseph Lacob and Peter Guber — will do what is necessary to improve the team’s on-court product.
The Warriors have a strong foundation in second-year point guard Stephen Curry. If he continues to improve the way he has thus far in his career, he will be an All-Star and potential all-NBA performer. The trade for David Lee gave the Warriors a skilled, rebounding big man (finally). There’s still a lot of work to do, but if managed correctly, the Warriors could easily become a flagship team for the NBA.
It’s hard to know what’s going to happen next. The sale still has to be approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors, which could take a few months. It might be that the wholesale changes many Warriors fans are hoping for won’t happen as quickly as some would hope. Most expected that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison would be the one to purchase the team and that he would gut the front office and let Nelson go. But the new owners seem more intent on treading lightly, at least initially. I wouldn’t be surprised if general manager Larry Riley and team president Robert Rowell are kept on for now. It’s possible Don Nelson will coach his final season, too. Possible trades for Andris Biedrins or Monta Ellis might be put on hold.
There is hope for Warriors fans. The Chris Cohan era is over. Let’s hope Lacob and Guber can take this team in a new direction (the only way to go is up).
I don’t care what anybody else says, until further notice, I love this trade. There have been many who have criticized this trade, mainly because of Lee’s lack of defense and because the Warriors gave up Anthony Randolph. And they’re right about Lee’s defense. He’s not good. I question the source that said Lee makes Amare Stoudemire look like Bill Russell on defense. Seems a little sensational to me. But the fact remains, if you were looking for a defensive dynamo to come in and save the Warriors, Lee isn’t your guy. That being said, he’s a major upgrade at power forward. He will wreak havoc on opposing defenses, especially with Curry as his point guard. Lee is one of the best pick-and-roll big men in the league. I am confident that Curry and Lee will develop a Stockton-to-Malone-type chemistry on the court during the next six seasons.
I think that the biggest problem with the Warriors’ defense last season wasn’t the inability to defend (though that does need to improve). When motivated, the Warriors were decent first-possession defenders. But they were such a putrid rebounding team, especially on defense, that it made their defense look much worse than it was. It’s so much easier for a team to score on second and third possessions and the Warriors were far too generous with extra possessions last year. Lee is the second-best rebounder in the league. He averaged almost 12 per game last season. The top rebounder on the Warriors last season was Andris Biedrins, who averaged 7.8 rebounds per game. Is it any wonder the Warriors were so bad on defense? You can’t be a good defensive team if you don’t rebound on defense. If Biedrins comes back and can prove that last season was the exception to what had been a great start to his career, the Warriors will have two post players who are capable of averaging 11 or 12 rebounds per game. That alone will make the Warriors a better team on defense.
As far as giving up on Randolph — you have to give up talent to get talent. It’s possible that Randolph becomes a star in New York. But it’s no guarantee. Lee is already guaranteed. He’s a star. I’m not opposed to trading potential stardom for established stardom. I’ve also heard the criticism that the Warriors traded away one of their best defenders in Randolph for a guy who plays no defense. I disagree with this. Just because you’re athletic and block shots, doesn’t mean you’re a good defender. I never thought Randolph showed much on defense last season. Dave Decker of Blazersedge.com wrote something the other day that made me think about Randolph. He wrote that good defense is the combination of athletic ability, brainpower, will and experience. Thus far in his career, Randolph possesses only one of those attributes. Maybe he develops. Maybe he doesn’t.
I will miss Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike. They were the other players the Warriors sent to the Knicks in the trade. Both were professional, hard-working and fun to watch. I wish them luck with the Knicks.
The 24-year-old Miami Heat small forward signed a three-year deal worth $11.5 million with the Warriors. I really like the potential upside of this signing. Wright is young, he’s long (6-foot-9), he’s athletic, he has good defensive instincts, he’s a pretty good rebounder and he’s a decent offensive player. If he develops, he fits this team’s needs at small forward.
With the current lineup of Curry, Ellis, (small forward), Lee and Biedrins, the Warriors need a small forward who can play good defense. The Warriors need a small forward who will defend the opponent’s top offensive guard or forward each game. If the small forward can hit an open jump shot or a corner 3-pointer, that’s a plus. But defense should be the main criteria, especially if Curry and Ellis are the team’s guards.
I’d like to see Wright start next season and play at least 30 minutes per game. Let him develop on the court. He’s a better option than Reggie Williams at that position. Williams is a better fit as a backup. Again, per-36-minute averages aren’t a perfect indicator of a player’s ability, but they’re fun to look at and possess some truth. If you look at Williams’ stats from last season, adjusted to 36 minutes per game (starter’s minutes), he would have averaged 12.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks. Considering he’s a good defensive player, that’s not bad for about $3 million per year.
I’m OK with the Warriors letting Morrow go. He’s one of the best 3-point shooters in the game, but he isn’t good at anything else. I hope he improves his defense and playmaking and has a nice career in New Jersey. The Warriors got a second-round draft pick and a $2.6 million trade exception in a sign-and-trade, which I suppose is better than nothing.
Udoh will miss 6 months after having surgery on his wrist. It’s not a major blow to the Warriors, he should be ready to take the court in December. But I was really looking forward to seeing him play in summer league. He’ll get a late start on his rookie season, but he’s a backup so the Warriors will survive.
Without Udoh and with Brandan Wright playing only two games, summer league has been a bit of a snore. Reggie Williams has scored a lot, but there’s been little else to maintain interest. I don’t get that excited about non-NBA players in summer league and so the fact that the Warriors have had only one NBA player in most of their summer league games has made it less fun. I haven’t had a chance to watch any of the games yet (again, wedding vacation), but I’ve read recaps and studied box scores.
Here’s what I’ve gleaned: Williams scored a lot (22.6 points per game) but he shot under 40 percent through the first four games before a 7-for-12 performance in yesterday’s game got his shooting percentage to 41.1 percent. His lack of defense and rebounding (only 4.4 per game in 31.1 minutes) furthers my commitment to him as a backup shooting guard next season and not a starting small forward. But all things considered, Williams has been one of the summer league’s best players.
Wright was disappointing. He scored (15.5 points) but not efficiently (42.9 percent from the field). He didn’t rebound (4.0 rebounds per game for a 6-9 power forward in summer league is laughable). He’s coming off surgery and probably rusty, but I was expecting more from him, especially in the rebounding department.
If the Warriors are looking for a backup point guard from this summer’s roster, no player has stepped forward. Brian Chase, the diminutive guard from Virginia Tech (5-10, 170 pounds) averaged 8.8 points and led the team in assists with 4.6 per game, but he shot 29.8 percent. No other point guard stood out. The Warriors finished their five-game summer league schedule with a 2-3 record.