42

Whew! Now Let’s Play Catch-Up

OK, a lot has happened super fast. There was quite a bit of info, thoughts I didn’t get into my story for tomorrow’s paper. Here are some of the major points of the article, some of my thoughts, and some answers to your questions. Ready? Breathe. Read.

* I was told consistently by a source that Maggette got five years, $50 million. At the last-minute, I heard it was five years, $40 million. But my source reiterated that it was $50 million. That $10 million is a huge difference. That deal looks a whole lot better if it is for $40 million.

* Heard late in the evening that the Warriors made an offer to Ronny Turiaf! Don’t know all the details yet, but I was told it averaged about $4M a year. Ronny is restricted, so if the Warriors sign him to an offer sheet, the Lakers can match. I’m not sure if I like this or not yet. Turiaf is one of those dudes who impresses you in spots, but when you step back and look at what he brings overall, he’s not to impressive. He does some things well, not so much others. Is he worth $4M? Over three years, sure, why not. The Warriors need a hustler, a body not afraid to bang.

* I was shunned by Baron’s people. He nor his agent responded to the one question I had: With Brand going to Philly, is there ANY chance AT ALL that Baron goes back to the negotiating table with the Warriors? I got no love. A contact did tell me that the Clippers spent Tuesday evening talking to Baron, convincing him to stay, even working out the details of the contract (as well as preparing a fat offer sheet for Atlanta’s Josh Smith). They were pretty sure he was staying, but he was rumored to be livid over Brand’s Boozer impersonation.

* Pietrus got love from Orlando because Otis Smith, the Magic’s GM, likes Pietrus. They had some kind of bond when Smith was with the Warriors and Pietrus was a youngster. That helped MP2 get what he got. Orlando needed a replacement for Maurice Evans, who is now a free agent. There is even talk that Pietrus could start.

* Didn’t I say top-tier ballers don’t want to play for the Warriors? Brand turned down some $10 million more from the Warriors to go to … Philly! Dang. That was a straight slap in the face to the Warriors. Did the Warriors really think they were going to get a player better than Baron?

* Speaking of Brand, he just went from one of the league’s character examples to supplanting Carlos Boozer as the face of reneging. Check this out – Brand, according to insider scuttle, turned down virtually the same amount from the Clippers. Los Angeles got up to $80 million and was willing to renounce more players if necessary to give Brand more. Still, he chose Philly.

* So the salary cap is $58.7 million. The luxury tax will be $71.1 million. Based on my estimation, and figuring this out cost me hours of my life I’ll never get back, the Warriors are at about $50 million including the cap holds. Here is the breakdown:
2008-09
Al Harrington – $9.23
Corey Maggette – $8.50
Stephen Jax – $7.14
Andris Biedrins – $7.90 (cap hold)
Adonal Foyle – $6.50 (buyout price)
Brandan Wright – $2.50
Kosta Perovic – $1.70
Ant Randolph – $1.70 (rookie scale max)
Monta Ellis – $1.54 (cap hold)
Marco Belinelli – $1.45 (rookie scale max)
Kelenna Azubuike-$0.89 (cap hold)
Richard Hendrix – $0.44 (league minimum)
C.J. Watson – $0.71 (minimum salary, non-guaranteed)
Total – $50.20

That leaves the Warriors with some $8 million to spend before hitting the cap. If Andris signs a deal starting at a salary equal to his cap hold, the the Warriors can sign a free agent or two before signing Ellis and Andris. They’ll have close to $10 million if they wait to sign Randolph until they hit the cap, which they can do under CBA rules. They would also have more if they traded Harrington and got less money back.

*Here’s a concern I have: what happens when Monta and Andris want more than Maggette? Monta certainly has a claim. Say the Warriors start Monta at $9 a year (which would be $67.5M contract over six years). And say they start Biedrins at $8. That would make Stephen Jackson the fifth-highest paid player on the team.
Now, he’s up for an extension. I seriously doubt if he gets one. How is he going to react to being so far down on the salary pole but being a leader on this team while getting no extension love? Remember, Jackson has watched Richardson get shipped out unexpectedly as if he wasn’t the heart and soul of the team. He watched Pietrus and his boy Barnes get hardballed into a one-year deal. He watched his “brother” Baron Davis get his extension requests rejected in consecutive offseasons and then “lowballed” (in his eyes). He’s watching his other close friend, Al Harrington, once highly coveted by the Warriors, become a role player.
You have to wonder if Jackson is going to take one for the team or try to get his paper.

* With the way restricted free agents are about to get squeezed (only the clippers have money left), don’t be surprised if several of them ask for a sign-and-trade or choose to play for the one-year qualifying offer (and become restricted free agents next season). Including Andris. The free agent market is kind of skimpy this offseason – thanks to all the money going to the few big names out there. Some of the second-tier stars will shine a lot brighter in 2009.

* I still say go after Rasheed Wallace or Shawn Marion or Lamar Odom. Use Harrington, future draft picks, etc. – maybe even Stephen Jackson – to get a proven All-Star. They all are one-and-done, which could give the Warriors cap space next year if they don’t work out.

14

Draft Prospects: C Brook Lopez

Comparison: The common one is Clippers center Chris Kaman. But he’s significantly more skilled and imposing down low. He’s more of a true center than Lopez will ever be. I see Brook as more of a Andrew Bogut type.

Strengths: Brook’s combination of size and skill makes him a potential NBA stud. He is a legitimate 7-footer, even bigger because of his super wingspan. As a you’d expect from a Stanford product, he has a good basketball IQ and solid fundamentals. He has enough athleticism to survive, perhaps even more than he gets credit for. He probably won’t be finishing alley-oops on fastbreaks, but he can run the floor, manuever inside and react sufficiently. His sheer size and understanding of the game offsets his athletic shortcomings. Brook has a nice touch and soft hands, which really shine when he has the ball in the paint. He can finish and pass. He also can score in the post. He has smooth low-post moves, a certain fluidity that comes with having a feel for the paint. He knows the intangibles of playing inside: how to establish position, how to use his strength to get where he wants, how to gain leverage against the post defender, understanding of how to take up space, the coordination to improvise on the fly. He also has a motor in him. plays hard on both ends, which is why he’s so productive. He’s an OK shot blocker, pretty good at protecting the basket from the weakside.

Weaknesses: He’s not as athletic as many NBA big men, not as athletic as his twin brother Robin. That will hurt him on the defensive end more than anything. He should be a better shotblocker based on his size and wingspan, but he’s just not quick enough nor can jump high enough to dominate at the rim. His so-so athleticism is a disadvantage on the boards, but athleticism is not a prerequisite for being a good rebounder. He should be averaging more than 8.6 per game. Not that good from the free throw line, considering his touch, but that can be worked on. Gets a little to psyched out sometimes and takes bad shots. Non way she should be shooting under 47 percent from the floor. The same motor and gung-ho approach that makes him productive sometimes has him doing too much. He’s got a nice postgame, but he’s going to have to expand it. He’s rather predictable on offense, so scouts won’t have a hard time figuring out how to contain him.

Fit With the Warriors: The Warriors certainly can use some of what Brook has. They need someone who can score with their back to the basket. He can. They need someone with some size who can be a presence in the middle. He can. They need a big man who can stick a mid-range jumper. He can. The only question is do you want him over Andris Biedrins? Do you need him enough to move up in the draft? Not to me.
Sure, Brook could be a nice back-up at first. But eventually, he’d either have to be a starter. He’s not athletic enough to play power forward for the Warriors, especially not as athletic as Brandan Wright, which means he has to play center. If he doesn’t eventually become a starter, he’d be considered a bust (you see what happened to PO’B). Plus the Warriors have a cheaper back-up center who has a similar game, perhaps even better, in Kosta Perovic.
If Brook does become the starter, where does that leave Biedrins? I’d prefer Biedrins’ hustle, rebounding knack and stellar field goal percentage. I would rather bank on Biedrins adding to his game what Brook has rather than waiting for Brook to add what Biedrins brings.

Chances of ending up a Warrior: Not as low as once expected. As perhaps the best big man in the draft, Brook was once considered a lock at No. 3. He still may go there, but now some are thinking that’s too high for him. His potential isn’t as high as some other players. NBADraft.net has him going to Charlotte at No. 9. Only three teams between No. 3 and 13 has a center as their biggest need: Minnesota, Memphis and New Jersey. If they go “best player available” there is reason to believe they could pass on Brook. If the Warriors really wanted him, and Minnesota or Memphis doesn’t take him, its feasible they could work a deal to move up to 9 or 10 and nab him.

Take a look at what they’d be getting in Brook:

9

Knee problem for Webber

I commented to Tim Kawakami in the Oracle Arena media room Sunday afternoon that my one concern with writing about the improvements in Chris Webber’s game was the fact that things might turn 180 degrees at any moment.

Oops.

After a first half Sunday night in which he clearly struggled, Webber did not come out after intermission because of soreness in his left knee, the same one that gave way in 2003, eventually requiring microfracture surgery.

The team didn’t have much in the way of details — “sore left knee” was as much as we got in the locker room — but Webber said he wants to get an MRI as soon as possible. It’s not clear if the team can get that done before its scheduled departure at 10 a.m. Monday, or if Webber might stay behind to see the doctors and catch up with the team later.

With Andris Biedrins already out, if Webber is unavailable in Atlanta, Don Nelson will have few options in the middle: go small with Al Harrington or Austin Croshere, or go big with oft-inactive Patrick O’Bryant or Kosta Perovic. I’d expect the former rather than the latter, which should insure that Brandan Wright will continue to start for the foreseeable future at power forward.

I’ve been skeptical of the notion that the Warriors, with 15 guaranteed contracts, would sign another player, since many of the guys available are not clearcut improvements over what Golden State already has. But if Webber’s pain is a significant injury, I think they have to give further serious consideration to that idea.

As for Sunday’s game, the thing that stood out the most for me was the fact that seven players scored in the fourth quarter. I can’t remember the last time Golden State had that kind of diversity down the stretch of a game where the outcome was still in doubt.

– Geoff