Here's a look at what's in store for the Warriors this offseason after their second-round loss to the Spurs.
• What’s the biggest priority for Golden State this offseason?
Assessing the ceiling of the roster as currently constructed. It may be a bit dramatic to call the Warriors' predicament an identity crisis, but atop Golden State's agenda must be figuring out what role David Lee and Jarrett Jack play with this team moving forward. The former is under contract for the foreseeable future, but the team's success in his absence should invite a healthy amount of introspection. Lee is a fantastic facilitator, scorer and rebounder to have around, but what kind of role and usage best fit those skills, and where do the Warriors draw the line in terms of running the offense through him at the top of the floor and letting Stephen Curry handle the ball as much as possible? A ball-dominant Curry was the clearest recipe for success throughout the postseason, and Mark Jackson will need to figure out how to best reincorporate Lee without giving up too many of Curry's touches. It would be far too hasty to suggest trading Lee at this point, but Jackson's vision for Lee's revised usage would at the very least shape how the Warriors go about the rest of their offseason plans.
Jack's situation is a bit more precise and immediate, as the Sixth Man of the Year candidate will be an unrestricted free agent set to entertain offers from across the league. Jack has his warts, but his ability to create offense is fairly coveted and easily marketable; teams in need of a reserve guard will likely pursue him based on his success in this particular role, and choose to look fondly on his playoff averages of 17.4 points and 4.7 assists per game rather than dwell on his shortcomings. He's due a payday -- the only remaining questions are how much he'll get on the open market and where any interest might leave Golden State. Curry's development as primary ball-handler has made Jack a bit less essential, and there were certainly times in the postseason when his tunnel-visioned ball-handling did the Warriors more harm than good. As good as Jack is at creating and converting pull-up jumpers and feeding immediately available teammates, he has enough flaws to make the Warriors consider going on without him -- particularly when re-signing him would likely require a handsome contract and a sizable luxury tax payment.
• How can the Warriors improve this offseason? Through free agency? The draft? Trade?
Mostly through internal improvement. Golden State no longer owns either of its draft picks for this season, is likely to be over -- or at least near -- the luxury tax line, and has a roster that largely consists of important rotation players and dead-weight contracts that would be difficult to move. The Warriors will have a few cap exceptions to work with as they see fit, but also must contend with the possibility of losing both Jack and Carl Landry (who has a player option for 2013-14) while getting nothing in return. Those two accounted for 53 productive minutes per game, and if both Jack and Landry wind up on other teams next season, Golden State will need to spend most of its offseason resources in finding remotely suitable replacements.
All of which leaves the Warriors cap-strapped, relatively light on tradeable assets (unless they deem to part ways with a core player or rookie-scale contributor) and without any picks. Luckily, the core of the team is so young that Golden State should improve in spite of its roster inflexibility; the Warriors have six potential -- let me stress that word: potential -- rotation players with three years of NBA experience or fewer, not to mention Andrew Bogut's improving health and Brandon Rush's return to the hardwood. The postseason also brought about something akin to a breakthrough in the way that Golden State executes its offense, making this team better positioned to emphasize the strengths of its best players while it goes about building out their skill sets and better learning the nuances of the game.
• If Golden State must choose between re-signing Jack or re-signing Landry, which option makes the most sense?
Losing Jack would hurt the Warriors more than his vocal critics would have you believe, but I'm still inclined to say that Golden State should keep Landry if it comes down to a choice between the two. The reasons being:
• As valuable as Jack is, his greatest contributions to the Warriors come by way of filling a specific need (ball-handling) that happens to be reasonably replaceable on the open market. Golden State won't find a player who can provide all that Jack does in their price range, but they're much more likely to find a competent ball-handler with the mini midlevel exception than they are an efficient post scorer. What Landry offers is a bit more specialized and a bit less common, even if he wasn't as productive as Jack in a general sense.
• Retaining Landry allows the Warriors to consider all options with regard to Lee's future -- even those that could involve trading him away down the line. He isn't a Lee replacement by any means, but is an effective enough player to fill minutes in the case that moving Lee becomes a more viable option down the line.
• I'd wager that the market value for Landry will be less than the market value for Jack, allowing the Warriors to avoid the bigger financial commitment between the two while shaving a bit off of their luxury tax bill. • As good as Jack is, he stands to potentially impede Curry's development. That in itself is no reason to avoid re-signing him, but it's something to consider as the team looks to continue its forward momentum into next season and beyond.