2014 Offseason Report: Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors decided to stand pat this summer and not make the big trade. Will it end up being the correct move?
CBSSports.com's Eye On Basketball is taking a team-by-team look at the 2014 NBA offseason. We continue with the Bay Area team that reloaded on the sidelines and not the court, the Golden State Warriors. Check out the rest of the offseason reports here.
How they finished 2014: The Golden State Warriors won 51 games, four more than the previous season, and found themselves in the 6-seed once again when the playoffs rolled around. In a bizarre first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Warriors saw games with awful officiating (both ways), faced a Clippers team that found out their owner had been recorded saying racist comments, and found themselves within striking distance in a Game 7 on the road. They led 109-108 with 2:22 left in the game before Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan led the Clippers on an 18-12 run to clinch the series.
That had come after a chaotic season in which Mark Jackson was coaching for his job due to a lot of internal struggles with management and his own assistant coaching staff. Jackson had assistant Brian Scalabrine reassigned to coach in the D-League and fired assistant Darren Erman late in the season after it was discovered he was taping conversations. All of this came in the middle of rumors that Jackson was butting heads with owner Joe Lacob.
While all of this was going on, the Warriors were really good on the court. Stephen Curry kept establishing himself as a star, Klay Thompson was having a superb season as a shooter and an on-ball defender, Andre Iguodala was a tremendous addition to the team from the offseason, David Lee played pretty well on offense, and Draymond Green emerged as the best forward prospect over Harrison Barnes. Andrew Bogut played 67 games -- the most games he had played in five years -- and was a monster on defense.
All of that, however, couldn't stop the circus from encompassing the Warriors' season, which ended a playoff round earlier than the previous year.
Offseason needs: The Warriors had two goals this summer: 1) work out the coaching situation and 2) upgrade the bench that struggled so much for them in 2013-14. The coaching situation came to a head when Lacob and the ownership group relieved Jackson of his coaching duties. They decided that even though Jackson was the most successful Warriors coach (along with Don Nelson) in the last 20 years, the inter-office issues were too much to endure. Jackson's firing sent a shockwave through the organization as players ended up losing a coach that most of them truly loved and respected.
Mid-season acquisitions of Jordan Crawford and Steve Blake didn't work out the way Bob Myers had hoped for the Warriors. Both players were becoming free agents, as was backup center Jermaine O'Neal. The Warriors needed to find a good backup point guard and a wing shooter they could rely on off the bench. With Festus Ezeli getting healthy from his injury, their depth would be fine if they could find those two role players for the second unit.
The draft: The Warriors had zero involvement in the 2014 NBA Draft. Their first-round pick was sent to the Utah Jazz as part of the three-team deal that brought Iguodala to the Warriors in a 2013 sign-and-trade, while their second-round pick went to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2013 draft-day trade that ultimately allowed Golden State to select Nemanja Nedovic.
Free agency and trades: First and foremost, the firing of Mark Jackson led to the hiring of Steve Kerr. The Warriors pursued Stan Van Gundy as their new coach, but wouldn't offer up a front office position and personnel control with the coaching job to Van Gundy. He eventually took the president and coaching duties in Detroit, despite the Warriors being a better team in a better situation. Kerr looked to be a lock to take the Knicks' coaching position, but the Warriors were able to steal him away with a five-year, $25 million contract.
The big money for a rookie coach will put pressure on Kerr, but replacing a well-liked coach in Jackson might put an even brighter spotlight on the Warriors' sideline. Lacob and company seem very happy with their new hiring and the personalities will mesh much better than they did with Jackson. But any slip out of the gates or lulls in the season could bring about pressure from the fans and/or the media questioning why Jackson was replaced with a first-time coach.
On the player personnel side of things, the Warriors signed Shaun Livingston (three years, $16 million) to be their new backup point guard. He'll fit in perfectly with either guard in the backcourt and can defend multiple positions for Golden State. The Warriors also brought back Brandon Rush on a two-year, $2.5 million contract to be a shooter and defender off the bench.
But the big move they didn't make will end up being the big story of their entire season and possibly seasons to come.
Overall grade and accomplishments -- B: The Warriors could have made the biggest non-LeBron James splash this offseason by trading away one of the Splash Brothers. Early on in the summer, the thought of the Minnesota Timberwolves keeping Kevin Love became an impossibility and the Warriors had their shot at bringing him to the Bay Area. To get the deal done the Warriors would've had to take back Kevin Martin's bad contract ($21 million over the next three years) while also sending away David Lee, Klay Thompson and possibly Harrison Barnes, too. That's a healthy haul to give up from a 51-win team, but Love's impact with Curry could have been the best 1-2 combination in the league.
In the end, the Warriors refused to give in on Flip Saunders' asking price of Thompson, risking the Wolves wouldn't find a better deal than Lee and Barnes as the summer progressed. As suitors dropped out for the Wolves and rosters filled up, Minnesota could have lost leverage and been forced to give in to the Warriors' upper hand. That's not what happened though.
Instead, Love is going to be dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and the Heat's 2015 first-round pick. There was a brief window in which Thompson being made available probably would have trumped the Cavs' offer, but that window closed. The Warriors essentially passed on Love because enough people in the front office believe in the potential and progression of Thompson. It's a big risk, but so was firing a liked coach in Jackson for a rookie coach in Kerr.
The Warriors improved this summer, but did they make all of the improvements available to them? That will be the question all season long and for seasons to come.
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