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The Inbounds: The Warriors become tank-proof

Jul 31, 2012, 1:00 PM EDT

Harrison Barnes AP

The Warriors won’t be able to tank next year if they try. Well, OK, if they try they will. But it’s going to be a lot harder, because all of a sudden, their ten-man rotation isn’t just decent, it’s downright pretty good.

Watching the Warriors’ moves over the past year has been an exercise in intelligent reformation, if not championship recalibration. But at a very basic level, they’ve managed to establish control over what plagued them last year, the disaster when injury was not available, and a lack of acceptable defensive presence. It’s one thing to have the injury issues the Warriors had last year, those are hard to plan for. But it’s another to have those injury issues and have no depth to cover when those players go down. After the Warrior’s moves, though, they have moved into a strong position even in the constantly-strong Western Conference.

Again, they’re a long way from title contention, but they have bolstered the roster enough to make a huge step forward.

The new second line after Monday’s signings includes Jarrett Jack, Richard Jefferson, Carl Landry, Brandon Rush,  Andris Biedrins, Charles Jenkins and rookies Festus Ezili and Draymond Green. There’s nothing prolific about that lineup, but Jack, Jefferson, and Landry are capable starters playing in bench roles, and Rush and Biedrins can play well in limited minutes. Their second line is considerably better than the tank-fest they put together at the end of last year. If Ezili makes any noticeable splash whatsoever, everything is there for a playoff run.

So is that a good thing?

The Warriors are kind of an oddity, a team that hasn’t been very good in a very long while in a big market with an adoring fanbase. They’re not on Boston, New York, or L.A.’s level, but they’re located in a large California metropolitan area. Oakland or San Francisco, their location is a better attraction to players than almost any of the Midwest cities, save for Chicago. So the secret here is that while fans can express consternation at a roster that is at the cap, but under the luxury tax, that’s playoff worthy but not playoff-series-win worthy team, the Warriors have the luxury of paying for this team now, and still being able to make moves down the line.

The Warriors haven’t gone Pistons ’09 on us, throwing long-term, huge contracts for players that won’t deliver a title. Even the acquisition of Andrew Bogut and his freak injury concerns (seriously, if Greg Oden has his injuries described as freak injuries, Bogut’s are from some other planet) could be considered an overall liability, which they’re not, considering if healthy Bogut is likely the third best center in the league, his contract only runs two more years. The only toxic asset the Warriors have is David Lee‘s deal which has $57 million left over four year. One problem with that, David Lee’s actually good. He’s a power forward who can actually produce and while he’s overpaid, especially given the new financial reality of the CBA (man was amnestying Charlie Bell a mistake on so many levels), he’s still a productive member of basketball society.

Stephen Curry‘s a free agent after this season, and so he’ll need the big long-term extension. But it’s clear the Warriors are hedging their bets with Curry to see if he’ll ever get healthy. Having one big deal on a four-year extension isn’t terrible, and while that combined with Lee’s could be bad for their future mobilization, the Warriors’ ownership group and market situation allow for them to get around those issues if they play their hand right. And there are promising signs. Don’t pay the luxury tax if you’re not going to contend. If you can get the big fish, like Dwight Howard, stay in the talks. Eventually, one will come your way and when it does, you’ll have the pieces to immediately move forward. There’s a lot to like about the approach.

But for now, the Warriors just have a good team. Not a fast team, or a quirky team, or even a necessarily interesting team. Truth be told, outside of the Klay ThompsonHarrison Barnes combo, there’s not a lot to get juiced up about this team, because every legitimate possibility of compelling play is tempered by injury concerns. Those players making a leap would change things, Curry and/or Bogut staying healthy would change things. But in the end, they’re just a good team with no chance of being great and almost no chance of being terrible. The Warriors may not be as lovable next year, but they also in all likelihood won’t be losers. There’s something to be said for fielding a professional team, and not every team is in a “tank for No.1” or “overspend to contend” mode. The Warriors have the luxury of short-term success with a longer-term goal. And if this current construct is a disaster?

Well, they’ll cross that bridge when they get to it. But tanking out with this team would be exceptionally difficult.

  1. khuxford - Jul 31, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    Wow…THAT is what constitutes a “downright pretty good” roster these days?

    • mannyfresh209 - Jul 31, 2012 at 2:34 PM

      Bogut, Lee, Curry, Thompson, Barnes starting 5? Rush, Jefferson, Biedrins, Landry, Jack off the bench? That’s nottt a bad squad right there, my good sir.

    • nyyankeedave - Jul 31, 2012 at 4:16 PM

      Yeah…and your comment constitutes as “downright stupid” – grow up and learn yourself some NBA and then come back when you know what you’re talking about. Until then, go back to watching ESPN’s 24/7 “Heat-Lakers-Knicks-Thunder-Celtics-Jeremy Lin-Tebow-Dwight Howard” stuff.

      • khuxford - Aug 1, 2012 at 6:07 AM

        Curry and Bogut stay injured. Barnes is a rookie that had a good summer league, but folks felt was a reach where he was selected. Everyone else is a collection of parts that competing teams might like to help put them over the top, but don’t combine to make it worth discussing as “tank proof”.

  2. arrowgargantuan - Jul 31, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    It’s also Utah’s pick regardless, so tanking would be totallly pointless.

  3. 91devinhester23 - Jul 31, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    really? I’d say they’re pretty liable to it if bogut and curry get injured (which is pretty likely)

  4. nyyankeedave - Jul 31, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    They’re doing more than my Knicks and that’s a start.

  5. omniusprime - Jul 31, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    Matt Moore tanked this article for sure. Matt are you trying to be the sports jester of the NBA? Are you trying to get on the Comedy Channel? With jokes like this you’re well on your way. We’re talking the Warriors, one of the most worthless franchises in the NBA. Of course they’re going to tank, the idiotic upper mismanagement guarantees it. Even with Jerry West’s help this franchise is a perennial loser. Sorry but the Warriors won’t be upsetting the Lakers for the division title, nor give that other LA team a run for 2nd place. Nope the only spot the Warriors are destined for is dead last.

  6. itsonlyaspeedbump - Jul 31, 2012 at 6:18 PM

    Liked the fact that Matt mentioned Warriors are in a big market. So much is made about the small-market teams not having a chance. Besides the fact that this simply isn’t true (San Antonio anyone? OKC Thunder?), being in a large market does not guarantee success. Growing up in the Bay Area, I’ve seen a lot of bad drafts and contracts from this franchise, and watched helplessly as they waste some of the decent talent they had. Those have much to do with management, and little to do with market size.

    What would the destinies of the Lakers and Charlotte Hornets have been if Charlotte had chosen to hang on to a gifted high schooler picked 13th overall in the ’96 NBA draft instead of trading him away?

    Chicago (3rd largest city in the US) was a mediocre to bad franchise post-Jordan era because free agents were not running to join the Bulls despite the market size. Fortunately for them, they drafted D.Rose.

    NY, the largest market in the US and ‘Mecca of basketball’ has only been a title contender a couple of times in the last 30 years.

    The glamour franchises of the NBA (Lakers, Knicks, Celtics) will always be a draw, but that is due more to history and storytelling then to the so-called advantages of their market size.

  7. bougin89 - Aug 1, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    “But in the end, they’re just a good team with no chance of being great and almost no chance of being terrible. The Warriors may not be as lovable next year, but they also in all likelihood won’t be losers. There’s something to be said for fielding a professional team, and not every team is in a “tank for No.1″ or “overspend to contend” mode.”

    Replace Warriors with Bucks and you have what i’ve felt about the Bucks for many years. No chance of being great and almost no chance of being terrible. Good luck with Bogut though…

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