By David Eng
Six months ago, I wrote a column in which I lamented over my sad existence as a Warriors fan.
In addition to fishing for sympathetic messages from my followers — I fist-bumped myself all of twice before the emails stopped flowing — I sought to help out my favorite sports team by exposing the blueprint for NBA success. Six months older and six months wiser — aren’t we all … — I will now revisit this previously laid blueprint. Try not to laugh. I presented two options:
Option 1: Hoard free agent superstars a la the Miami Heat. I like to think this was actually misinformation intended for Mitch Kupchak from the start. Indeed, the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers signed an aging Steve Nash and traded for an outspoken Dwight Howard, all out of concern that his general managing counterpart in the Bay Area also reads my widely distributed sports columns in The Daily.
Admittedly, this was unlikely Kupchak’s motivation for acquiring the veteran guard and center, yet the fact remains that hoarding proven superstars seems to have backfired for Kobe & Co. A 24-28 record isn’t going to get it done, boys — unless, of course, you play in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Dubs’ main offseason acquisition, Jarrett Jack, neither a free agent nor a superstar in any sense of either word, has outperformed each of the Lakers’ acquisitions. Let that sink in for a moment. Jarrett Jack has been as valuable as a backup point guard as Steve Nash or Dwight Howard. Who would have thought?
Before I am sacrificed to the basketball gods for the apparent heresy I have just committed, allow me to reframe my assertion. I am not saying that Jarrett possesses talent comparable to either of the other two players; that would be silly and, frankly, worthy of castigation. What I am saying and what I neglected to address in my previous column was the way in which this offseason acquisition would fit into the system.
Hardly an earth-shattering insight, I know. But it’s worth putting it out there.
Option 2: Draft developing superstars a la Oklahoma City. I shamelessly implied that in order for Golden State to explore this avenue to its fullest potential, it would need to endure a poorer season than ordinary — that is, the Warriors’ mediocrity wasn’t cutting it in the lottery. The tough-luck franchise had to be historically bad to secure a lottery pick of high value.
This season, Harrison Barnes, the Warriors’ first-round pick and seventh pick in the draft overall, has hardly been a revelation. But who expected that? I, for one, was just hoping he wouldn’t end up like Ike Diogu or Patrick O’Bryant or Anthony Randolph or Brandan Wright. Rather, Barnes’ work ethic and physique have made him a solid contributor at the forward position — and, evidently, choice model for the release of the team’s alternate jersey with sleeves — on a playoff-caliber team.
So I was pretty wrong when I said that mid-lottery picks wouldn’t propel them into contention. For the Warriors, that’s apparently all they’ve needed to compete. Steph Curry was a mid-lottery pick. Klay Thompson was not a high lottery pick either. And neither was Barnes.
At 30-21, the team is in no way dominant and there’s an all-too-real possibility that it regresses from here. But, for now, it has given me an actual reason to believe.
David Eng hopes the Warriors continue to ignore his advice as they sweep to their first NBA Finals appearance in almost 40 years. Send him sympathetic messages at [email protected]