Photo from frank fani via Flickr
2012-2013 W-L: 47-35
New Faces: Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights, Toney Douglas, Jermaine O’Neal
New Places: Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush (Jazz), Jarrett Jack (Cavs), Carl Landry (Kings), Scott Machado, Dwayne Jones (waived)
Draft: Nemenja Nedovic (30)
If nothing else, the Warriors deserve to be commended for taking a swing. After these playoffs, where Stephen Curry emerged as The Guardian of Brimstone and Fire only to abuse his power Nugget-torching style, it would have been very easy for the Warrior front to rationalize a nice, quiet summer of resting on their laurels. Between fully healthy years from Andrew Bogut and David Lee and the continued development of Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, the front office could have easily diverted the attention of fans demanding improvement to internal development and nothing else.
Instead, the Warriors got proactive. They declined to overpay Jack or Landry – key parts of last year’s surprising team, but somewhat superfluous as reserves on a team with a strong starting unit – choosing instead to go with cheaper replacements in Douglas and Speights. Before doing so, however, they dumped their entire cadre of salary flotsam on a Jazz team eager to absorb any future draft considerations available, making a rare mid-summer jump from luxury tax territory to significantly under the cap. A short flirtation with Dwight Howard notwithstanding, the reward came in the form of Iguodala, in what can only be described as a heartless ransacking of the sad remains of Colorado’s once-magnificent capital.
Iguodala’s diverse skill set makes him an intriguing player regardless of situation, but Golden State has a way of magnifying said intrigue. It’s easy to make the cases both for and against Iguodala on this team. His flaws as an outside shooter could severely hurt the bombs-away strategy that lifted the team last spring, but his athleticism could inject even more chaos into the turbulent mechanism that is the Warrior offense; his presence could stunt the development of Barnes, but the second year Tar Heel could also feast on second units as Iguodala teaches him the tricks of the trade defensively.
All in all, Iggy’s defense is probably enough to justify the signing by itself – if Bogut is healthy (a sentence that should probably open any Warriors discussion, and is buried this far down the piece only because I assume it’s a well-known caveat), the Warriors could have two all-defense players on their team, which was previously unheard of – but he will undoubtedly be judged on how he fits offensively, the side of the court that is both more glamorous and synonymous with the franchise. Spacing could indeed be an issue, but a team with Curry and Thompson is almost legally prohibited from having problems in that regard, and Iguodala’s ability to create for others and get to the rim could do wonders to draw in defenses that would otherwise gladly faceguard The Super Splash Bros anywhere within 40 feet. The hope here is that Iguodala, although not a natural point guard, can be much more balanced between getting his own and running the offense than Jack was during much of last season, essentially replacing Jack as the team’s go-to secondary ball-handler and freeing Toney Douglas to do what Toney Douglas do.
The other major addition to the team made is a return-performer in David Lee, one that has caused some divide among the Warrior faithful. If Iguodala’s fit with a high-octane, outside-in offense causes cautious murmurs, Lee’s re-introduction can lead to distressed yelps in the middle of the night. Lee is a phenomenal offensive player who can initiate from the elbow, work with Curry in the pick-and-roll, and hit from mid-range, but him being out for the Denver series showcased just how much potential this roster’s Bogut-in, four-out option has.
Much like with Iguodala, common sense dictates that adding such a talented player to an already strong ensemble can hardly do any harm, but where Iguodala can fall back on defensive omnipresence to make himself useful in any situation, Lee’s defense requires major offensive contributions just to break even. Lee is talented enough to fit in with a Curry-led offensive unit, but should he fail to do so, with the “proven” (in a 12 game playoff run) prospect of Harrison Barnes: Stretch 4 waiting on the bench, he could do more harm than good.
As such, we have a tantalizing group that can go either way. The Warriors are not unfamiliar with this situation – remember, their response to the 2007 We Believe team was to trade Jason Richardson for Brandan Wright in an attempt to capitalize on their success. That attempt ultimately failed, but this Warriors front office is gambling that Curry’s ankles, Bogut’s everything and Mark Jackson’s ability to coalesce this roster are more reliable in 2013 than Baron Davis’ appetite (for both nutrition and Hollywood), Stephen Jackson’s psyche and Don Nelson’s sobriety were in 2007. If nothing else, it’s a gamble we can appreciate as viewers.