Free Agency Day 5: Warriors land Iggy

July 6, 2013

Barely more than a year ago, the Golden State Warriors were coming off a 23-43 lockout-shortened season under rookie head coach Mark Jackson. This year, the Warriors won 47 regular season games, 6 playoff games and developed their young core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, in addition to All Star David Lee.

Today, the Warriors added Andre Iguodala for 4 years, $48 million. Iggy, 29, a former All Star and Olympic Gold Medalist, gives Golden State an athletic, capable wing defender alongside Harrison Barnes. He’s instantly Golden State’s best perimeter defender, key in a conference with Kobe Bryant, James Harden and Kevin Durant on likely playoff teams. And he gives Curry a super-athletic running-mate on the break.

Iguodala tallied 13 points on 45% from the field, 5.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.7 steals in 35 minutes in Denver’s up-tempo style last season, pushing the Nuggets to their best regular season mark (57-25) since they were the ABA’s Denver Rockets in 1974-75 (65-19). He’s averaged double-figure scoring ever year since his rookie campaign in 2004-05. In 9 seasons, he’s only missed a remarkable 27 games, despite never averaging less than 32.8 minutes per game (’04-05).

Iguodala’s mid-range game is not reliable, and his FT percentage has dropped drastically — 82% in ’06-07 to 57.4% last season — in recent years. He’s a career 32.9% shooter from deep. His secondary ball-handling and defensive prowess, though, is well worth the asking price. Iguodala, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, turned down 4 years, $52 million from the Nuggets, who’ve lost their top executive, Masai Ujiri, and head coach, George Karl, this offseason. Earlier this week, Sacramento offered Iggy 4 years, $56 million, but rescinded hours later.

Headed into next season, Jackson will probably start Curry, Thompson, Iggy, Lee and Andrew Bogut; then, he’s got Barnes, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli and Kent Bazemore off the bench, all capable pieces. Suddenly, Golden State’s went from a team likely to take a step back this season, due to the likely free agent departures of Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, to one right back in the hunt. (And this was the only team to beat the Spurs in Western Conference playoff action, despite Curry’s bum ankle and Lee playing limited minutes on one leg.)

The Warriors actually came into Friday about $11 million over the 2013-14 projected cap of $58.5 million. But Utah, a team with no shortage of cap space following Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap’s departures, agreed to absorb the expiring contracts of Richard Jefferson, $11.05 million, and Andris Biedrins, $9 million, as well as Brandon Rush’s $4 million along with multiple draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2014. That’s $24 million in dumped cap space, sliding the Warriors enough under the cap to pay Iggy $12 million annually.

Golden State was one of 5 teams to meet with Dwight Howard this week, but he’s since narrowed his choice to Los Angeles and Houston, according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard on Friday night. Regardless, if Golden State can add a backup, scoring big and reserve point guard, there’s no reason this team can’t compete next year. Then, Bogut’s $14.2 million expiring will offer a little free agency flexibility in next summer’s ultra-deep class, especially if they continue to build a winning organization.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


30 in 30: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

February 12, 2013

Aside from the Lakers’ oft-publicized misfortunes, the Golden State Warriors are the surprise story of the 2012-13 NBA season thus far. Headed into Monday’s games, the Warriors are 30-21 and firmly in control of the Western Conference’s No. 6 seed, though in the midst of a 4-game losing skid. Mark Jackson, in only his second year as a head coach, is behind one of the league’s most exciting offensive juggernauts, one similar in electricity to the 2006-07 Warriors, the last team from Oakland to make the playoffs.

Golden State’s up-and-down style of play has produced the league’s 7th-ranked scoring offense, topping out at 100.9 points per game, the same figure their 24th-ranked scoring defense spots opponents. Three guys — Stephen Curry (20.9), David Lee (19.2) and Klay Thompson (16.3) — average more than 16 points a night, and two reserves — Jarrett Jack (12.9) and Carl Landry (11.7), both key cogs in this machine — put up double figures. Golden State’s 10th in overall field goal percentage, tied for 1st in 3-point percentage (thanks mostly to Curry and Thompson), 2nd in free throw percentage and 4th in total rebounding. The Warriors are 10th in assists, yet only 22nd in turnovers — a remarkable stat for such a prolific unit.

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Although Golden State’s only 4-6 in its last 10, their 2.5 game advantage on 7th-seeded Utah should only expand — the Warriors, 16-6 at home this year, play 19 of their remaining 31 games at Oracle Arena; only 6 of those road games are against teams that, if the season ended today, would be postseason-bound. If anything, Golden State could be eying the No. 4 seed, jointly occupied by Memphis and Denver, which is only 2 games out of its grasp.

Enough cannot be said about the job Jackson’s done in his first head-coaching gig; this team is disciplined, goes to battle every night and never loses sight of its identity. And a lot of the credit certainly goes to Lee, an All Star reserve averaging 19.2 points and 10.8 rebounds a night in 37+ minutes, and Curry, 20.9 points, 6.6 assists and 1.7 steals. Lee, a model of consistency for years, is finally getting the credit he’s been due, and Curry’s recording his best season statistically in his first full campaign minus fellow shoot-first combo guard Monta Ellis. Curry (35th) and Lee (37th) are ranked among the league’s best in PER.

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But what cannot be lost on this team is the role players. Thompson is weak defensively, like much of the team, but is an assassin from distance and spaces the floor; his 135 makes is 3rd in the NBA, trailing only Ryan Anderson and, his teammate, Steph Curry. Jack, who’s merely a step behind Jamal Crawford and J.R. Smith as one of the league’s preeminent sixth men, brings scoring (12.8 points) and distributing (5.8 assists) off the bench. Barnes is an above average defender who can provide scoring in small doses. And Landry, an undervalued offensive weapon, is, according to data published by Stats LLC, 61-of-85 on post-up shots; in fact, Landry boasts a 17.8 PER, which is 3rd highest on the team and well above the league’s 15.0 average, and shoots 53% from the field.

Whether this team wins a playoff series, though, could all depend on Andrew Bogut. The Australian 7-footer finally returned to the lineup last month from a fractured ankle suffered almost 12.5 months ago. Jackson’s been cautious with Bogut in his 9 games back, holding him out on the second night of back-to-backs, but the former No. 1 overall pick is already a difference-maker. His defensive presence, and team-leading 1.7 blocks per game, around the rim cannot be overstated. And, more frankly, he’s another body on a team with not a lot of big ones; Festus Ezeli, 38 starts, and Andris Biedrins, 4, are capable fill-ins, but have sub-8.5 efficiency ratings. Bogut’s PER through 9 games is 17.6.

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Contractually, Golden State is tied up at luxury tax levels this year and next. Bogut’s due $14.2 million next year in the final year of his deal, and Richard Jefferson, $11.05 million, and Biedrins, $9 million, are owed player options well in excess of their value. Jack’s deal expires this summer, and Landry, due a $4 million player option, could be in line for a pay raise in a weak free agent class. But after 2013-14, the Warriors are only tied to Lee’s $15 million and Curry’s $10.6, and the team has affordable options on Barnes, Thompson, Ezeli and rookie Draymond Green. And should Golden State hold on to its cap flexibility, that summer could be a good one to lure a big-name free agent.

July 2014 is a long ways ahead. In the meantime, Golden State has the talent to make consecutive playoff runs for the first time since the 1991 and 1992 seasons.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.

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