Members of the press, mostly those in the blogosphere, have been focusing on what owner Joe Lacob apparently said at the Sloan Conference this past weekend. While clearly misguided and likely taken somewhat out of context (though it’s not great no matter how you spin it), one of his post-Sloan interviews actually provided a more telling and worrisome sign concerning the future of the Warriors.
When talking with Tim Kawakami about the deadline, Lacob said, “We could’ve gotten Gerald Wallace–he’s not somebody we thought would make us better. I really believe that. He just doesn’t fit for us. He’s good defensive player, rebounder, certain things that do fit, certain things that don’t.”
Beyond the general strangeness of the remark, there are a few different components that warrant analysis.
Gerald Wallace is not someone who would make the Warriors better- Uhhh, WHAT? An argument centered on the premise of Wallace not being worth the money he is owed (approximately $21M over two additional seasons), or that he is injury prone since he plays with little regard for his own body can hold some water. But an argument that he would not make the Warriors better is shockingly bad.
Beyond Dorell Wright and David Lee, the cupboard is pretty bare at the forward positions in the short and long term as long as Udoh is getting minutes at C. Furthermore, Wallace’s production has been impressive- he would have topped the Warriors in Win Shares in 2009-2010 by a bigger margin that separated (choosing somewhat randomly) Deron Williams and Beno Urdih last season and he would be third on this year’s team despite playing in 10 less games than Wright and Ellis.
Keep in mind that the Blazers got Wallace for pretty much nothing and the fact that Lacob said that he would not make the team better without even mentioning the cost either in trade components or finances and you have a problem of talent evaluation.
Gerald Wallace is a bad fit for the Warriors- The closest thing Golden State has to a fatal flaw in both the short and long term is the fact that their three most important parts of their core are all flawed defensive players at best. So of course it follows that a glue guy who hustles, boards, and plays D does not fit as a complementary player.
Oh wait, that’s right, a proper team (like the Celtics Lacob loves to refer to) balances strengths and weaknesses in each area, particularly when continuing to be bad at defense will leave the Warriors exactly where they are right now. Considering that it has been reported either directly from Lacob or from good reporters that the team was considering or close to both Nate Robinson and Antawn Jamison, either management has no idea what talent this team needs or simply does not care about how to piece together a roster.
The team will be able to use their money to get someone better- This comes out more in the rest of the interview than this part, so more explanation is necessary. For some reason (either based on insider knowledge or delusion), Lacob has spoken the last few weeks about how the Warriors have money if the new CBA deals a hard cap rather than a soft one.
Beyond appearing unlikely at this point since a hard cap of any meaning would break up both the Heat and the Lakers (since any cap that did not would be wholly ineffective), the lingering question is how the Warriors would use that cap even if Lacob is right. Golden State has a hefty sum committed to Lee, Andris Biedrins, Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, and others like Charlie Bell with guaranteed contracts, so it’s not like the team would have an open slate like Miami did.
Furthermore, a team committed to Curry, Ellis, Wright, and Lee as the starters at their respective positions would have trouble getting a guy, even if they have to overpay him, since that player likely sees that lineup and is wary of playing time concerns.
Beyond that, the 2011 and probable 2012 markets do not carry many guys underneath the max-quality level (and let’s be honest, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Dwight Howard are not coming to Oakland) are even worth spending serious coin on.
Considering all that, taking on a contract of a guy who is only paid for two more years seems much more palatable. Consider as well that in that 2012-2013 season, Gerald Wallace would represent the type of expiring contract that contending teams would like to have since he’d come off the books, be capable of playing meaningful minutes, and likely be willing to sign for much less than his expiring value on a future deal.
It proves hard to imagine that the Warriors could realistically do better with their cap space in 2011 or 2012 than a soon to be expiring Gerald Wallace, and considering the only way to get a quality player without giving up a piece of the core is through a trade like that one, I am genuinely flummoxed at how Lacob and the Warriors brass intend to make the team better over the long term with the current salaries on the books and the likely CBA structure.
Lacob discussed in that same interview that his former team “had to acquire assets over four years” to make the Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen trades. What that perspective fails to account for is that the Warriors will not have Boston’s opportunity to get high-quality picks in the same period of time (due to being too good to get a top-5 pick), have little salary flexibility, and likely will not get the benefit of a team taking a deal when a better offer was on the table.
Looking at the Warriors’ current situation and likening it to the 2002-2007 Celtics is akin to an unathletic 5’5” person saying they’ll follow Wilt Chamberlain’s path to wealth and success.
Having a big vision for the future plays a big role in the success of an NBA franchise, but seeing it through a flawed lens either through talent evaluation or situation evaluation leads to major problems. Let’s hope the Warriors’ brass gets that sooner rather than later.