Here we are, a few days after the Dubs’ season sadly ended after a hard-fought Game 7 loss to the L.A. Clippers. Last year, after the Spurs ended Steph Curry & Co.’s Cinderella playoff run, I wrote a series of questions that I had about the team. A year later, I thought I’d revisit some of those questions and see how the team has developed and how much progress it has made.
Is this the core of a championship contender?
At this point, I would say no. Not yet. Let’s answer a bunch of smaller questions to explain why.
Can Bogut and Curry stay healthy?
Curry made it through this season relatively unscathed, and that effort ended with him sixth in MVP voting. Bogut … that’s a different matter. Bogut likes to say that you can’t call him injury prone, because his injuries have been unrelated to each other and have largely been freak occurrences, like the broken wrist that he sustained falling following a dirty Amar’e Stoudemire foul.
The broken rib that caused him to miss the playoffs fits into that narrative, but here’s my rebuttal: How is a guy who plays as physically as Bogut, who’s basically a rugby player constantly crashing into 250-plus pound men, going to stay healthy through 100 basketball games every year? This is an issue for several reasons: a) they gave Bogut a contract extension; b) if Bogut had been available, I’m sure the Dubs beat the Clips; and c) this next one…
Whither David Lee?
Ugh. Lee’s a nice offensive player, but a terrible defender, and he was completely abused by Blake Griffin in the Clippers series. None of this is news. But this year reinforced that this team plays better with one big (preferably Bogut) surrounded by shooters, using either Draymond Green or Harrison Barnes as a stretch four. The biggest problem has always been Lee’s contract, which now has two years and about $30 million left on it. Is it movable yet? If not, will it be movable come midseason? Certainly, you’d think he’d become a trade asset when that deal is an expiring contract, but that doesn’t help the Dubs next season.
How much will the young players continue to improve?
Curry continued his ascension to superstardom. Draymond Green showed that he’s a building block, and I think he should be the starting power forward (also, he is the official spirit animal of this blog).
Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes … not so much. Klay seemed to stagnate, and Barnes completely fell apart. The big issue is that
Is Mark Jackson a championship-caliber coach?
Doesn’t matter anymore, since Jackson got fired while I was writing this post. Here’s what I wrote about him at the end of last season:
“He’s respected around the league. The team clearly loves him and plays hard for him. I’m not personally a fan of the whole reverend schtick, but if it works, whatever. He’s helped given the team league-wide credibility, and he out-witted George Karl in the first round of the playoffs. But it bothers me when I see him spending a timeout before a final possession of a playoff game giving the team a sermon rather than drawing up a play, and then on the ensuing series the “play” ends up being Jarrett Jack doing an iso and chucking a 22-foot fall away. Between that and some of the weird lineups he threw out during the playoffs, not to mention running Steph into the ground (He played 58 minutes in Game 1 against the Spurs. I need to repeat this: He played 58 minutes in Game 1 against the Spurs! He never came out of the game! He has fucking papier-mache ankles!), I think Jackson, while he’s shown strengths as an NBA coach, has also shown that he has to continue to improve as much as his young team does.”
Basically all of that stuff was the same this year. Jackson’s rotations were questionable, and his offense depends way too much on isos that, frankly, remind me of how Jackson himself played with the Pacers (and I always thought those Pacers teams played better with Travis Best on the floor).
What’s worse, Jackson clashed with the front office (which sounds like it was at least partially on Joe Lacob), is rumored to have been unhappy when Jerry West (Jerry freaking West!) attended practices, and had his coaching staff implode this offseason. A lot of people in the media seemed to like Jackson, but everything I’ve read in the last few weeks just makes it seem like he has a toxic personality. For details, I recommend you peruse Tim Kawakami’s archive.
There were two factors in Jackson’s favor: 1) He had brought a defensive-minded culture and higher expectations, and had brought the once floundering to the playoffs two years in a row, winning a series last year and winning 51 games this year; 2) The bond he had with his players, Steph Curry in particular.
Where does the team go from here?
The Western Conference isn’t getting easier next year, unless the Spurs retire en masse or OKC foolishly trades Westbrook. Memphis will be back. Portland and Dame Lillard are for real. Houston has the real potential to add another superstar in the next couple of years.
As much as I thought, before the season, that the team could be a Conference Finals contender, ultimately the six seed was about the place they deserved to be (in part because of the home losses to mediocre home teams, which I put largely on Jackson). So…
How does the team take the next step, to true contender?
The biggest decision is the new coach. This has the potential to fall apart, Nellie-and-C-Webb-style, if they don’t hit a home run with the next coach. Van Gundy? Kerr? Thibodeau? Someone else? I don’t know. I like those guys, but I don’t know who’s the best fit, nor do I know who’s going to want to step into the vortex of a roster that loved its previous coach and a franchise that reportedly has a meddling owner?
And once the coaching situation gets resolved, I think the team is one big roster move away from being a true contender. As far as the contracts go, they’re committed to Steph, Iggy, and Bogut for the next three years. Draymond Green has proven to be a keeper. I have been against the idea of trading Harrison Barnes, but I think now is the time to look around and figure out what value he has, along with Thompson and, of course, Lee. Would a package of Lee, Barnes, and Thompson be too much for Kevin Love? Or not enough?
What about a sign and trade of Lee and Barnes for Carmelo Anthony? I don’t know if either of these things are possible, but it’s the kind of move the Dubs need to make if they want to be a true contender.