After last season's trip to the second round of the playoffs, the Golden State Warriors front office acquired swingman Andre Iguodala in order to try to take the next step. At times the Warriors have looked like contenders, but at 31-22 they're sitting at eighth in the Western Conference. They did not expect to be behind the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns at the All-Star break, and they have the Memphis Grizzlies just a game and a half back.
While Iguodala and center Andrew Bogut have been dynamite defensively, the offense isn't what you'd expect from a team that has so much firepower. Golden State has already made one move this season, sending guard Toney Douglas to the Miami Heat and receiving guards Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks from the Boston Celtics, but that hasn't been enough to fix what's wrong with its bench. If the Warriors end up being active at the trade deadline, they will be buyers rather than sellers.
Harrison Barnes' second-year struggle
With Iguodala in the fold, the question coming into the season was which young wing Golden State would send to the bench. Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes both seemed like capable starters, but one would have to sacrifice. Thompson ended up winning the starting job by default when Barnes suffered a left foot injury in the preseason, and Barnes has still yet to find his footing. Averaging just 10.4 points and 4.1 rebounds in 29.2 minutes per game as the sixth man, this wasn't what his sophomore year was supposed to be like, especially after his four 20-plus-point scoring nights in last year's postseason.
"I'm not going to front," Barnes told the Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson at All-Star Weekend. "It's been a challenge."
The Warriors don't have to panic and trade him when his trade value is at its lowest. The potential that Barnes showed as a rookie is still there, if obscured by way too many isolation plays. Barnes can flourish if he is allowed to play off other people, and he can function as a dynamic stretch-four if given the minutes at that position.
Barnes has "no shortage of fans within the organization," but anyone outside of Bogut and All-Star Stephen Curry is up for discussion as the team approaches the deadline, according to USA Today's Sam Amick. It'd make sense for general manager Bob Myers to see what trades are out there for him.
Can they boost the bench?
Golden State head coach Mark Jackson was vocal all last season about how much he valued the services of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, and he lamented losing them last summer. It would have been impossible to keep them around and do the Iguodala deal, though. Warriors fans might assign the blame for this season's bench woes on Jackson's rotations as much as the roster construction, but giving him some different pieces to work with could fix the problem.
The plan is to use trade exceptions to facilitate a deal to upgrade the second unit, according to Amick. Golden State has a $9 million exception and a $4 million exception, both set to expire in the summer.
Crawford has averaged 6.3 points and 2.2 assists in 16.8 minutes per game, shooting 38.6 percent in his 16 appearances as a Warrior. He had the best stretch of his career earlier this season when the Boston Celtics empowered him with the starting point guard role, but that opportunity will obviously not be afforded to him in this situation. It'd be logical for Golden State to try to find more of a caretaker to back up Curry, and see if they can acquire a younger rim protector than Jermaine O'Neal to play behind Bogut.
Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob wanted his team to challenge for home-court advantage in the Western Conference and is not satisfied with how the season has played out so far, and told the San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami that Golden State would be "very aggressive" at the trade deadline, adding that he could say the same thing every year:
We're not going to make a move just to make a move. Certainly there are certain parts of the roster that we'd like to improve. No matter how good we are, we'd probably have that attitude.
There's no real limit on what we can do. Bob Myers has the ability, he knows, to propose anything to ownership, even if it means going into luxury tax, if means using those trade exceptions. We'll consider all things.
The Warriors' situation is fairly straightforward: they want to strengthen the team for a playoff run. The long-term money committed to Curry, Bogut, Iguodala and David Lee means that they'll have to explore deals involving their smaller contracts. There's a ton of talent on hand, though, and some minor tweaking could make a big impact.