Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Warriors fans can dream again whether it's about Kevin Love or not

By Justin Taylor
Trapped in Golden State

Things are so different on the Bay Area basketball scene these days that it's easy to forget just how far we've come in just a few short years. Talent evaluators will always say that you can't truly judge a draft until the kids get at least three years under their belts and that's the approach I've taken with Joe Lacob's ownership group and management team.

The handling of Mark Jackson's departure left much to be desired but when you look at the body of work it's kind of like saying that Stephen Curry is no good because he makes a couple of careless turnovers per game. Nobody thought we'd be talking about Curry getting snubbed for First Team All NBA during his first three seasons just like nobody thought a Defensive First Teamer like Andre Igoudala would come play here at a discounted rate.

I'm of the mind that ownership and management will always be more important than the coach because talent wins games and there's only one Phil Jackson and one Gregg Popovich. The mandate for Bob Myers and his staff has been to land the big fish from the moment he was hired and after a few swings and misses the mission remains the same.

Just like the scarcity of coaches, there's only a few players in the league worth selling out for. Thankfully the early pursuits of Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan didn't work out because now there is a chance to take a shot at Kevin Love. If there was any inclination that clearing the deck to get him would stop this group from spending money and improving the team at every turn I'd be against it but their short track record precedes them.

Had to give Love the Felton Spencer/Ralph Sampson number 50 cause people got so mad when I let him use Nate Thurmond's number 42 in last year's version that is all over the internet now. Hopefully I don't get nasty emails this time.

Five years ago my first reaction to hearing a star player say he wants to play for the Warriors would be that it’s total bullshit. It might sound something like, “The only reason a 25 year old superstar would mention Golden State as a potential destination would be to give him additional leverage in contract negotiations with another team.” The very next sentence thought would be, “Even if we broke the bank to get him he’d just walk away in 12 months and we’d be screwed for another 10 years.”

If he didn't see a real opportunity to win it all Steve Kerr wouldn't even have considered coming to Oakland and neither would Love. After decades of absentee, incompetent, cheapskate owners I've seen enough to place my completely tortured faith in their hands even if it means trading Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in a deal they deem worthy. (Funny that Draymond is ahead of Barnes on the list of guys I'd hate to see go list already isn't it?)

It’s no small thing to have an owner who is willing to put all his chips in the middle of the table for a shot at the biggest prize out there and then buy back in on the next hand after losing just to do it all over again and again; because don’t forget, Draymond Green is due for a massive raise since he was making pennies off of his 2nd round pick rookie contract that is set to expire.

For the first time since the seventies the Warriors are knocking on the door of true contender status but you can’t open it if you’re sitting on your hands. Going from 23 wins to 51 is a cakewalk compared to the struggle of getting to 60 wins and the Western Conference Finals. Standing pat and expecting incremental improvements each year is as dangerous of a game as taking a swing for the cheap seats is.

Firing a popular coach after a successful season or to trade your most exciting player takes balls but those stick out as examples of why we have a shot to take the next step. Between the press, fans and now social media there will always be someone trying to bury the franchise every time a corner is turned. Everybody wants to be the first to print the obituary but the rumors of the Warriors demise are ridiculous.

Thank god we have an owner that will put big money where his big mouth is.

Anatomy of a potential Kevin Love deal and the Klay Thompson balancing act

If Minnesota would accept Harrison Barnes, David Lee’s albatross of a contract and our super mediocre 2015 1st round draft pick  it would be a no brainer. Fans say, “MAKE IT HAPPEN LACOB!” as if that was a good offer at this point. The problem is that David Kahn is no longer running the Timberwolves and even he wasn't that dumb. 12 months ago Kahn was in power and Barnes value was higher than Klay Thompson’s (when I got raked over the coals for proposing the same deal everyone is clamoring for now) but those days are over. If “Klay” isn’t the first word out of Bob Myers mouth when he calls Flip Saunders it won’t even be a three second conversation.

Personally, I’m doing the deal if that’s the price. Love is already a star at 25, compliments Curry perfectly and would also create more space in the paint for Igoudala, Bogut and whichever slasher gets our Mid Level Exception. Those are things that no two guard in the league can do no matter how much we love Klay.

Right now the Wolves say they’re not trading Love before the season and that is actually a good thing for the Warriors who can’t trade our crappy 2015 pick till after the draft anyway. I’d probably beg them to accept my offer of Klay, Lee and the pick right now but Joe Lacob and Bob Myers are a lot smarter than me.

Instead of blowing their wad, they publicly state over and over that they won’t do it if Klay is involved and let other teams present their best and final offers. Then they go around telling everyone that will listen that the younger Splash Brother is well worth a max contract and they’re going to give it to him no questions asked. “Klay Thompson is a top five shooting guard in the NBA and he’s only getting better.”

Stop and ask yourself why anyone in their right mind would be trying to convince Klay, his agent and the rest of the league that he is the greatest thing since sliced bread one month before entering contract negotiations. The answer is a two fold bit of genius because it’s both trade posturing (letting them know he’s the best player available) and a preemptive strike against Thompson’s suitors when he becomes a Restricted Free Agent on July 1st.

This is a high stakes game of chicken because (1) you don’t want one of your most important players thinking you’re ready and willing to trade him and (2) you don’t really want to give him a max contract if you can help it.

Make no mistake, multiple teams want Klay and would be perfectly happy to pay him $12 million a year. The question is whether or not they want to make that offer and tie up their free agency salary cap space for almost a week (while every other two guard worth signing accepts offers from other teams) only to have the Warriors match it at the 11th hour. Would you be willing to risk being handcuffed like that just to be left with a ton of cash and only someone like J.R. Smith to offer it to? Didn’t think so.

With Bob Myers publicly taking the stance that they will be paying Klay there is only one reason another team would tender an offer. Some Western Conference team might want force the Warriors to pay the absolute top dollar to keep him and screw up a tightly managed salary structure.

The other big splashy name out there is Carmelo Anthony. The Warriors have been attached to those rumors too but I think it’s just more Kevin Love trade posturing. That’s Bob Myers saying, “Hey Minnesota, don’t like our offer? We can have Melo for way less so enjoy all the worthless draft picks you get from other teams.”

Signing Carmelo wouldn't be as painful as trading for Kevin Love but he isn't the same type of foundation piece.
Anthony is interesting in that he would be signed as a free agent so you wouldn’t have to give up much to get him. Theoretically Barnes, Thompson and Draymond Green could all remain in the fold with only Lee’s contract really having to go. Sam Esfandiari made the best case for that deal here.

None of this logic would occur to Chris Cohan or Robert Rowell. If the Love deal fell through they’d probably end up trading Klay for 50 cents on the dollar just so they didn’t have to pay him. After all, there is no need to break the bank when Curry would sell out the arena all by himself.

Lacob knows will get a ton of grief from fans and some media members if Klay Thompson is traded whether it's for a top 10 player or not. The fact that he's more interested in what Bob Myers and Jerry West think is the reason I'm going to back him one way or another.


Monday, February 17, 2014

The Warriors are on the rise, enjoy the ride

By Justin Taylor


Before talking about anything negative it is important to recognize something overwhelmingly positive

Trade Klay Thompson! Trade Harrison Barnes! Fire Mark Jackson! Bench Klay! Start Barnes! Fire Mark Jackson!

Hearing these comments after a crushing loss to a terrible team is almost as bad as the loss itself. Sure, four or five more wins at the All Star break and the conversation is about competing for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs instead of fighting for an invite but what is the big difference?

The Warriors could completely miss the playoffs this season and nobody could convince me that their long term prospects aren’t better than they were one year ago. Mark Jackson is never going to be Greg Popovich but he’s also not going to be Brian Winters. Harrison Barnes isn’t going to be a superstar but he’s not Mickael Pietrus either. I never thought this would be the year we win it all but we’re closer to the Finals now then we are to being the Warriors team that spent a season in San Jose.

It is comical how the introduction of real expectations removes any semblance of patience. Here are the top knee jerk reactions that get brought up on a daily basis and are especially amplified after losses.

There is no need to fire Mark Jackson

I am not a huge Coach Jackson supporter and if you follow me on Twitter you already knew that. No coach in the NBA can be successful with subpar talent but as the talent here has increased some things remain the same. I’m sure he has helped Stephen Curry’s development but does anyone think that the best shooter in the NBA wasn’t going to progress if PJ Carlisimo were his coach? Klay Thompson’s transformation into a solid defender has to be attributed to coaching so why can’t they make the seemingly easier adjustments with him on offense?

If Joe Lacob, Bob Myers and Jerry West thought he was the Pastor that was going to lead us all to the promised land he would’ve had his contract extended already. The guy they want hasn’t come available yet and until that day comes Jackson will be the guy. The jury is still out on whether or not he can be more than a “leader of men” or a motivational speaker but we owe it to ourselves to find out for sure before we act like he’s the one preventing the championship parade through the Bay Area in June.



There is no need to trade (or start) Harrison Barnes

You couldn’t choose a worse time to trade Barnes even if you know for a fact he’ll never be a star. I’ll never forget the heat I took for recommending that we sell high this offseason to get Kevin Love for him and David Lee but we don’t have to worry about that happening anymore, do we?

I completely disagree with anybody that says we should be starting him. If he wants to start he’s got to prove he’s worthy. Brian Scalabrine would look better playing with Curry, Lee, Igoudala and Klay but that doesn’t mean we should start him over Bogut to get more out of our bench players. He should be closer to a sixth man of the year candidate then an afterthought before that switch is made.

There is no need to trade (or bench) Klay Thompson

Watching Klay jack 18 shots on his way to 17 points is depressing but the suggestion that he needs to be traded is just as ridiculous. On his worst day he plays good defense, stretches the opposing defense and makes you scratch your head when he nails 28 footers but can’t hit from two feet. On a championship team he MAY be a sixth man but I’m not concerned because there is no denying that he can be a vital piece of a winner. The point is that Klay has at least one elite skill where Barnes does not and you don’t give up on that.

This management group is smart enough to know that you never sell a kid like that for 60 cents on the dollar unless that 60 cents is the last piece to get you into the Finals and as a Warriors fan, that is a great feeling. Imagine if Klay played for the Spurs right now for a second. Considering what Pop has done for lesser players it’s a blessing that we no longer have to worry about giving guys away only to watch them become All Stars for somebody else.

There is no need to worry about Andre Igoudala (unless we’re talking free throws)

He hasn’t been the same since he pulled that hammy and if the team wasn’t already squandering winnable games I’d be recommending that the front office shut him down for a few weeks. Either way, he can be the third best player on a contender and I’m still ecstatic with his addition to our team. Andre is a true lockdown wing defender and his skillset on offense is an absolute perfect fit for this roster.

The only team with more talent than the Warriors Igoudala ever played for was Team USA. With the pieces surrounding him here he can literally play the same role he excelled at in the Olympics. He’s been waiting his entire career for someone to say, “Hey Andre, go shut down the opponents best player, get some boards, run the break, attack the rim and make your teammates look better.” We’ve seen flashes of that and once he’s fully healthy I’m confident we’ll be seeing a lot more of it.

No matter how the bench has looked there is no doubt that Draymond Green belongs on a contender

There is no need to worry about the pathetic bench play

Our bench has sucked this year, there’s just no other way to say it. No matter how true that is everyone should be happy that Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack got paid to play somewhere else. They were huge for us when they were bargains on our bench but they’re also part of the reason their current teams suck. When you pay bench players starters money you sacrifice dollars that can be invested in the core.  At the end of the day it’s a hell of a lot harder to get a solid core that goes six deep than it is to find players seven through ten.

Going into this offseason Bob Myers only has to focus on rounding out the rotation which will feel like a breeze compared to the work he’s had to do the last two seasons. Of course this ownership group always has one eye out for a blockbuster deal. That’s what the good teams do. If your team is in the free agency market hoping Rudy Gay signs I hate to break it to you but your bench isn’t the problem, it’s your core.

Enjoy the ride

The Warriors fan base is really breaking new ground this year because the underdog/loveable loser mentality no longer applies. The realization is that the Warriors advanced to the second round of the playoffs in spectacular fashion, followed it up with a huge free agent signing and created expectations that Bay Area basketball fans haven’t experienced since the 70’s.

I’m not saying that everyone shouldn’t be pissed when shit teams like the Bobcats or Wizards are allowed to walk out of Oracle Arena victorious. In fact, my TV almost didn’t survive those two games. What I am saying is that you don’t alter your long term plans based on those games.

The West is so competitive it’ll drive crazy. Consider for a second that if the Warriors had won just four games that they had no business losing they’d be 35-17 and NOBODY would be bitching. We’re one more winning streak away from being happy right now and if you can look past this season things only get brighter. Appreciate where we’ve come from and enjoy the ride to where we’re headed!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Warriors championship aspirations are not a joke anymore


By Justin Taylor
  
It’s been WAY too long since I’ve done what got me such a great following in the first place. When I hear “You need to write a damn blog piece already” all I can do is shake my head and agree with the statement. I’m still offering my opinions on a daily basis in the form of tweets, Facebook posts or, when I’m lucky, through appearances on the Warriors Huddle podcast. Problem is, as anybody who has read my blog posts in the past can tell you, my opinions run a hell of a lot longer than 140 characters or a few minutes of talk time. I’ve been yelling at my TV for too many years to just sum it up and get out.



All I can say to everyone who follows me on social media and especially those who have been bitching at me for “abandoning my roots” is thank you! With that, let’s talk 2013-14 Warriors basketball.

This year's Trapped in Golden State logo update is inspired by the Warriors 1975 championship team for a reason.
My 52 win guess for the Warriors season is going to be difficult to reach but who the hell makes a Golden State predictions without accounting for and baking in a couple of nasty injuries (or more)? It was easily the most optimistic outlook I’ve had during a lifetime filled with huge letdowns and three or four pleasant surprises sprinkled in every decade or two. This year was/is different. The injuries and lack of a reliable bench may derail my season forecast but it won't change my tune when I say this is the best Warriors team since the championship season of 1975.

Even with the lack of a solid bench this team has shown enough flashes and looks so good on paper that it will be big a disappointment to many fans and observers if they don’t go to the Western Conference Finals in June. When I say this is the best team since ’75 it’s not because I expect a ring or even a conference finals appearance. My stance is that this team has the best building blocks since the days of Rick Barry and Clifford Ray, season win totals and worthless power rankings be damned. Nobody can laugh laugh when we say that a championship caliber team is being built in Oakland these days and that says everything you need to know.

Had Chris Webber stuck around long enough for Tim Hardaway to come back from his knee injury this would be a different conversation but this isn’t supposed to be a depressing exercise in Warriors what-ifs. The 2013-14 Warriors are not built for this year, they’re built for the long haul. With Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Andre Igoudala in place, the potential is there for this team to be greater than the sum of its already really good parts. 

Even with their flaws, Don Nelson would have killed for a frontcourt anchored by David Lee and Andrew Bogut. Nellie got one year out of Webber to go along with a bunch of Tom Tolbert wannabes and a couple of Manute Bol style gimmicks. Draymond Green will never be an All Star but he does have what it takes to be a role player on a contender. Bob Myers still has work to do but the days of me trying to tell the Warriors front office what they need to do are over. 

Igoudala is such a great fit in Oakland the only two players I'd take over him are Lebron and Paul George. That's high praise if I've ever heard it!
Finding players six through nine is a hell of a lot easier than securing one through five just like it's easier to jump from 20 wins to 40 than it is to go from 45 to 55. The Igoudala signing was huge because his willingness to take less to play here may be all it takes for another key piece to coming knocking on our door this offseason. 

Teams like Miami recently or Boston, LA and San Antonio in the past have never had a problem finding top notch complimentary players because their core attracted winners willing to sacrifice for the greater good. The Warriors are on that track finally but can the core get better and attract even better role players on the cheap?  We all know this core is going to get better with time but are Myers and Jerry West looking to bump up that timeline?

I took a lot of heat during the offseason for suggesting I’d trade a guy who CAN be a superstar and a guy who will NEVER be a superstar for a guy who IS a superstar and a backup point guard. In case you missed it, I said that if Harrison Barnes and David Lee for Kevin Love and a backup point guard were on the table that I wouldn’t hesitate. With Love in the fold even Lebron James has to take a second look at Golden State when he's a free agent.

Love Harrison Barnes but Love is already a superstar who leads the league in rebounds every year at 25 years old
To me, adding a 25 year old superstar power forward who just happens to lead the league in rebounding by a wide margin and makes the Warriors the best shooting team in the history of the NBA is a long term upgrade over Lee and Barnes’ potential. Also, if Kevin Love were in the fold the line of all star free agent swingmen who just want to win a championship would be around the block for the chance to play with him, Curry, Igoudala, Klay, Bogut, and the born winner Draymond. Go ahead and kill the comment section but I haven’t wavered since I got torn apart the first time.

Again, it’s not about this season, it’s about the next five. With or without a trade I believe the Warriors are accumulating the pieces to win it all. For the first time in my lifetime they are dealing from a position of strength instead of weakness or worse, desperation. The ball is finally in our court and we have a solid front office that knows what the hell they’re doing and a wealth of young talent that will only get better. The small portion of the pie we’re missing is finally within reach and I could care less if this is the year we fulfill all of our collective dreams. Rome wasn’t built overnight but its construction is progressing nicely.