All in, or wait for the next hand?

I said it in my All-Star break summation, but it bears repeating: The Warriors haven’t been this close to the No. 1 seed in the West, this late in the season, since 1992. And ’91-’92 was their most successful season since ’75-’76, when they won a franchise-record 59 games.

So this appears to potentially be a once-every-16-years burst of greatness for the Warriors.

But will they make a deal to put themselves over the top before the trade deadline at noon on Thursday?

Now, no one’s banged the drum of “fiscal responsibility” over the last year harder than I have. Ever since the Indiana trade, I’ve said that the Warriors were saving their pennies for this summer, when they have to pay off Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins, and that they weren’t going to screw that up by taking on any deals that go beyond ’07-‘08.

That viewpoint is not just supposition. I’ve listened to Bobby Rowell say that the Warriors are simply not going to watch young talent like Ellis and Biedrins walk away over salary-cap/luxury-tax issues. I’ve had Chris Mullin tell me that if his team didn’t already feature Ellis and Biedrins, they’d be the exact kind of players for which he’d be scouring the league. I know the team won’t seriously consider taking on a contract unless it involves bringing in a player who’s going to push them to the Western Conference Finals or beyond.

I know all of that. But they’re so close to the top. So very close. These are the kind of heights that make men dizzy. And could lead to carefully laid plans getting thrown out the window.

If the Warriors were bumping around .500, lying 10, 11, 12 games off the pace of the No. 1 team, then the level of talent needed from an incoming player to push Golden State to the WCF would be on the order of a Kevin Garnett or Dirk Nowitzki.

Yet by posting the best record in the West since Nov. 15 (i.e., after the Jaxless 0-6 start), the definition of such a “difference-maker” becomes more elastic. Now, a guy like Memphis’ Mike Miller could conceivably be enough to get the job done. Miller, who is due $9 million next season and $9.75 in ’09-’10, is not without flaws (Defense? What is this “defense” of which you speak?). But he would be a pure shooter with unlimited range on a team that currently lacks one of those, yet still takes the most 3-pointers, by far, of any NBA squad.

Miller, however, appears to be one of those guys (like Milwaukee forward Charlie Villanueva, Marcus’ favorite pick) who will be dealt only if the acquiring team is willing to take a bad contract back (in Miller’s case, it’s the $13.05 million owed to Brian Cardinal over the next two seasons; for Villanueva, the tax is Bobby Simmons’ $20.5 million over two years).

I think the Warriors would seriously consider shipping out a package that includes players and/or a No. 1 draft pick in return for a second-tier “difference maker.” I think there’s basically no chance they’re going to take on a contract of the sort that Cardinal and Simmons have in order to get that guy.

Whatever the case, it’ll be fascinating to see how it all shakes out — not just for the Warriors, but the West as a whole.

— Geoff

Geoff Lepper

Geoff Lepper has covered the Warriors since 2005 for the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times. Before that, he covered baseball and college sports for the Marin Independent Journal.

  • EJ

    Thanks for clearing up the negative implications of a Villanueva trade, Geoff. I knew there had to be a catch. That being said, Bobby Simmons does rebound and play hard. I just wouldn’t want that contract. I don’t think the Warriors are built for a title run, unless of course, you can add someone like KG. But that isn’t going to happen. I think it’s best that we see what happens with the squad we have right now.

  • JustPuked

    Throw my non-counting vote in with EJ’s for rolling with what we have. That’s under the assumption that the cost to get one of the players we want is going to entail taking on a horrible contract in return (risking problems resigning Old School & Goose) or giving away one of our young assets (Brandan Wright, Belinelli, Azubuike, 1st Round Draft Pick). If we can pick up a player for nothing (the Gasol trade will haunt us for years!!!) then of course I’d be a huge fan of that kind of trade.

    Trap trades I’m not a fan of:
    Asset: Ron Artest – Anchor: Kenny Thomas
    Asset: Mike Miller – Anchor: Brian Cardinal
    Asset: Charlie Villanueva – Anchor: Bobby Simmons

    Small and Big Pipe Dreams trades I’d mostly love but know aren’t going to happen:
    David Lee, Elton Brand, Leon Powe, Antwoin Jamison, Shawn Marion, Kirilenko…

    Hot Rumors or More Hot Air (mini fire sales):
    Chris Wilcox & Kurt Thomas
    Kyle Lowry & Hakim Warrick

    I just don’t see the Warriors giving up on their stockpiled young talent unless it’s for a significant difference maker like Elton Brand. Yeap, it’s my pipe dream and I’m still smoking it. If there are no more fire sales left (GASOL!!!!!) then it would be great if Mullin was able to use the TE uses it in some creative way to make pipe dreams come true. More likely it expires and the suddenly fiscally sound Warriors resign four of the hottest free agents next off season:

    —Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, Baron Davis and Kelenna Azubuike—

    That would be quite a coup. Throw in Barnes for part of the mid-level exception and that’s probably it. It doesn’t sound too exciting and it depends on that stockpiled young talent (Brandan Wright, Belinelli) living up to their potential but all signs point to the status quo. That’s a scary strategy considering Nellie’s roster wander lust. Here’s hoping Mullin’s patience doesn’t end up causing Nelson to start blowing it all up.

  • manhattanproj

    yea, i agree. roll the dice and see what happen at season end. 2nd tier “difference makers” dont really make a difference, otherwise, they would be in the 1st tier. mike miller (i like him) isn’t going to do more than buke or even belinelli. villanueva isn’t going to do more than harrington. so there really is no need to trade. i wouldnt trade this year’s pick as it will be another deep draft. picks in the teens can still land you an impact player.

    the only trade that make sense is pietrus for lowry. it gives w’s a backup pg now, and an emergency pg in case davis leaves.

    save the cap space and be a player in the market (arenas?) this offseason as well as to resign guys like ellis, maybe davis, and andris.

    btw, who will be free agents and potential free agents this offseason.

  • jay

    Unfortunately, if we don’t do something meaningful, we won’t even make the playoffs this year. That’s a disgrace considering our record is going to be better than last year’s. Denver and Houston is on fire and here we are hoping someone like T- Mac gets hurt again! I just wish we could pry Ron Artest away from the Kings. The man is a beast and would give us a low post threat and a great defender. If denver gets him, we’re certainly toast for this year! Yes, belive it or not, I am A diehard Dubs fan and season tix holder for 10 years!