And thus the emphatic fairytale that was the Golden State Warriors came to an end. It was a pleasant ride, both for the Warriors themselves and for basketball fanatics who couldn’t get enough of Stephen Curry’s infallible 3-point shooting. Ultimately, the San Antonio Spurs, assisted by Steph’s bum ankle, managed to appease the rising superstar just enough to put an end to one of the best feel-good stories of the 2012-13 NBA season. The season might be over, but this is not the final chapter in the story.
What comes next? That is the natural question for Golden State. Disappointment of elimination will eventually settle, and the Warriors will be able to collectively reflect upon a very successful year. When that is out of the way, it will be time to ponder over the future. There is always a time when a mediocre NBA franchise finally turns the corner and makes things last. The Warriors certainly hope that said corner was their 2012-13 playoff run.
Moving forward, the Warriors want to make sure that the year they just had was not merely a fluke but rather a teaser of what is yet to come.
Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes are three good pieces to build around. While the Splash Brothers were the team’s key players, Barnes’ exceptional postseason was quietly the most encouraging part towards Golden State’s future. Sure, David Lee’s injury allowed Barnes to exploit mismatches when the team played small-ball and his game is still very raw. Still, his 16.1 points per game in the playoffs was a huge improvement, considering that he didn’t even score in double-digits on average in the regular season.
Where will the Warriors be next season? Likely around the same level they were this year. While they have a young core which can only improve, it is highly unlikely they will be able to build around their studs next year.
Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson (both practically useless) have player options for a total of $20M next year. Neither player will see that kind of money in the future and not picking up that player option would be madness. What makes it all worse is the fact that Golden State has already used their amnesty clause on Charlie Bell. Jefferson and Biedrins will continue to be non-factors next season, while limiting the team’s flexibility in free agency.
Andrew Bogut will continue to be the team’s highest-paid player. He will enter the last year of his contract, which will pay him $14.2M. Bogut’s play in these playoffs was also encouraging, especially his defense. He is still a shell of what he was and what he could’ve been, but he was solid. Yet you can only cross your fingers and hope that he will be healthy.
Both Carl Landry (player option) and Jarrett Jack (unrestricted free agent) have the option to leave if they so please. Jack has said that he wouldn’t mind staying, but if someone puts more money on the table, the Warriors might lose their Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
Basically, what we saw this season is what we will see next year. Unless Biedrins and Jefferson decide they don’t really like money anymore, Warriors roster will most likely stay the same, or perhaps even get worse next year. Depressing, sure, but after that the floodgates could very well open.
In 2014-15, the Warriors will only have $25M worth of salaries locked up in Curry and David Lee, with an additional ~$9.4M in team options for Barnes, Thompson, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green. Even if they pick up the team options on all of them, they will still have tons of cap space.
So, what comes next? Next up we have another year of the Splash Brothers doing that thing where they throw the ball in the air from anywhere on the floor and it goes through the net. Next up we have Barnes going into his sophomore year, in which he will hopefully refine his offensive game and become a better finisher. In other words, next up we have high quality entertainment. And after that? Perhaps a Western Conference title contender for years to come.
Vytis covers the NBA for FanSided. You can follow him on Twitter here: @VytisLasaitis