Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The future in Golden State gets brighter

By Justin Taylor

For the last 20+ years I’ve grown accustomed to talking myself into a patchwork Warriors lineup every summer and getting roasted by other fans, friends and family for trying to talk them into the into it too.  In general I usually get some version of the following quotes: ‘It’s baseball season, we’ll talk about how much the Warriors are going to suck in October”; “Football is about to start, stop torturing yourself”; “You know damn well the Warriors aren’t going anywhere this season”; “I feel sorry for you” and “This shit again?” 

Now with the new ownership, the Monta Ellis/Andrew Bogut trade and this year’s perceived offseason success it’s funny that some of those same people are bringing the conversation to me now.  This is the best (on paper) roster we’ve seen in about two decades and everyone; including some of the national media for once; are reserving their seats on the Golden State Bandwagon for 2012-13.  This isn’t a roster that only Nellie could coach, it’s not a Raymond Ridder Production and it’s surely not a Robert Rowell creation.  There are no hideous Chris Mullin as GM type contracts and there are no locker room cancers; unless you feel Andris Biedrins’ “scared of his own shadow” disposition is at risk of spreading. 

No matter how good a job the front office did during the summer we all know that this whole house of cards will come crashing down if the ankles it is built on can’t hold it up.  If there was one question I could ask Bob Myers it would be not how he thinks the team will perform this year, it’s been asked and answered hundreds of times in some way shape or form already.  My question is…How does this roster connect to a future of sustained winning and what type of moves are necessary to continue shaping the team?  All he can say is that he hopes he can keep everyone in the fold and even my wife knows that isn’t going to happen.  She hates having to learn half a roster worth of names every season especially considering that she thinks the whole thing is fixed anyway.  At this point I can’t really blame her for either point.

What I really want to see is the Warriors “road map” extending beyond the next couple of years now that they actually have one.  It must exist at this point right? We now have a competent front office that seems committed to modeling itself after the elite teams so I wonder how the inner circle views the current roster.  The truly great franchises in all sports always have some sort of long term plans that they are trying to maintain while they put together their team’s immediate future.  In the Cohan era long term goals revolved around hope.  Hope for a free agent to sign at some point, hope to strike it rich with the imminent lottery pick and hope that fans continue to pack the stands when plans A and B don’t pan out.  

There’s no doubt that the short term will be dedicated to developing the youngsters and evaluating how the veterans fit into the long view scheme even if the stated goal is to make the playoffs this year.  If we look all the way past 2012 and even 2013 based on what we know now what can we see?

1.  The Warriors will be paying David Lee a shitload of money ($15 million in 2014-15 and $15.5 in 2015-16.

2.  Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green, Jeremy Tyler and Kent Bazemore are all playing on rookie deals and fighting for an extension with a hefty raise attached to it.

3.  Charles Jenkins is an unrestricted free agent unless he shows enough to get his extension after this season.

4.  Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson are either retired or someone else’s problem.

5.  Brandon Rush, Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack are all finishing their careers elsewhere.

6.  After Utah finally gets their number one pick from us after this season (at least they better, being in the top six of the lottery will not be an acceptable out come this year) that means there will be a 2014 mid first rounder who’s more trade bait than rotation guy on the roster.

The things you don’t see are Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut (or their respective ankles) and it is a great situation to be in.  That may sound kind of moronic to reference a team minus it’s two best players as a good thing but what I’m looking at is $25.5 million out of about $70 million committed to seven players.  That means that even if the ankle twins are healthy and resigned for a combined $30-$35 million that still leaves the team with nine players and $15-$20 million to spend for a stud and a couple of scrubs to fill out the roster.

This is also when the timeline for the new arena is going to start coming into focus which will give ESPN and NBATV a reason to mention the Warriors as a potentially appetizing destination every time a star comes on the market; exactly the way Brooklyn has been in every conversation the last couple of years.  That means that if CurrBogut doesn’t fully recover from the ankle woes or just doesn’t pan out it’s not crazy to think that you could swing a trade for a guy who’s set to enter free agency and actually have a shot in hell of getting him to sign an extension without getting the Dwight Howard treatment for a year and a half.  You know, LeBron James will be unrestricted at the end of 2013-14 now that I think about it…just kidding, I may be completely biased and even irrational when it comes to the Warriors but I’m not stupid.

The main thing that Corey Maggette taught us during his stay in Oakland was that no contract is untradeable.  Keeping that lesson in mind let’s consider what our financial situation would be like if David Lee wasn’t making more than the other 6 guys on the roster combined based on the figures above.  It’s too far out to know how current all stars and Olympians will be performing in three years but humor me for a second.  If you were going to spend $45 million dollars after the 2014-15 season for three guys would you rather have Stephen Curry (27 years old in three years), David Lee (32) and Andrew Bogut (30) OR Rajon Rondo (29), Kevin Love (26) and Marc Gasol (30)?

Whether you think the Warriors should be building the team for the next five or six years on top of our brittle ankles is irrelevant at this particular time.  The whole point of this column is to say that for the first time in forever the franchise actually has options that can be exercised from a position of power if executed like an elite team executes.  They have time to evaluate, time to develop the assets already in tow while continuing to collect them, time to make deals that will continue to improve our salary cap positions and time to let the dead money finally die. 

Less than four years ago the window into the future had images of Warrior fans being water boarded while loud annoying marketing slogans were played on loop until they’d crack and buy tickets.  Almost every move made was motivated by the need to move disgruntled players or the need to sell more tickets.  Now you can actually see how the motivation from the top down revolves around the need to win.  It’s a simple theory that was somehow lost on Chris Cohan and the great basketball mind he had making the decisions, Robert Rowell.  Now when you peer off into the distance you may see a borderline playoff team (and Biedrins decaying corpse collecting flies) but if you look just past that you’ll see something different. 

If you’re wondering what I think (and nobody asked but here it goes anyway) I’d say that I see a (Joe Lacob should love this) piece of pristine waterfront property that’s being zoned to build something great.  Papa Joe and many readers might draw a direct line to San Francisco with that metaphor but the truth is I don’t give a shit where I’m attending games.  I only care that the uniform says Warriors and box score results start with W’s more often than L’s.  The fact is that the engineers behind the project I’m concerned with are Bob Myers, Jerry West and Joe Lacob’s wallet instead of the CFO and the PR/marketing departments.  It’s safe to say that the team will continue to get its fair share of my hard earned money (maybe even more than usual) as long as the maneuvers they make continue to make today’s team better without leaving the future of the franchise hamstrung.  In the meantime I’ll be scrutinizing every weld and screw that goes into this venture the way CalTrans has watchdog groups watching them build the Bay Bridge.