Joe Lacob and the Hidden Meaning of the Warriors Bench

What is it with Joe Lacob’s reluctance to spend money on this Warriors team? Last year he refused to shore up the worst bench in the NBA for a team that was arguably in contention at the trade deadline. This year in free agency he refused to “overspend” for a quality defensive center, virtually ensuring that the Warriors came away with nothing.                                                                         

(I’m not sure it’s even possible to overspend on a position of such extreme scarcity.  Almost any price is justified, so long as you can afford it.  Fantasy sports players will take my meaning — along with those NBA owners who care about winning.)

Even after losing out on Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan, a result that was completely forseeable, Lacob refused to extend a multi-year offer to any other free agent.  He signed Kwame Brown to a one-year deal for $7 million, forgoing the chance to sign Samuel Dalembert — a legitimate big man who actually blocks shots — to a 2-year $13.7 million contract, with a $1.5 million buyout in the second year.  Anyone else find that curious?

And even though the Warriors were still $4 million under the cap after the Kwame Brown signing, Lacob refused to offer a multi-year deal that might have landed a quality wing defender (eg. Shawne Williams, Dante Cunningham) or a quality backup point guard.  Instead he filled out the Warriors roster with, forgive me, justifiably unwanted players with minimal experience — on minimum, make-good one-year deals.

Leaving the Warriors to enter the season, once again, with one of the worst benches in the entire NBA.  Think that’s too strong a characterization? Well, at best, this Warriors bench is completely untested.  I think you’ll have to grant that, when the only two point guards you have behind Stephen Curry are Charles Jenkins and Ish Smith, and the number one wing option off the bench is another rookie, Klay Thompson. (Unless you think Joe Lacob’s “Rookie of the Year” candidate is going to play behind Brandon Rush.)

And the only veteran leadership coming off the bench in the frontcourt is Kwame Brown.  Does he have any experience at winning basketball games?

Observing the Warriors offseason moves, you might well be moved to ask: Are Joe Lacob’s actions consistent with his bold words in the media?  Is this the behaviour of an owner who in his own words is committed to winning now?

Let’s take a look at a few other Western Conference franchises, franchises with owners that are really committed to winning.  Portland went out and signed not one, but two veteran point guards to replace Andre Miller: Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford.  They also signed Craig Smith and Kurt Thomas to shore up their frontcourt.  Veterans.

Denver re-signed Nene at very reasonable terms — because the Warriors refused to compete.  And picked up Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer to lead their second unit.  Veterans.

Last season, Memphis picked up Tony Allen , one of the MVPs of their playoff run, for peanuts, while Joe Lacob was busy signing Jeremy Lin. Last season, Memphis grabbed Shane Battier at the trade deadline, for nothing, while Joe Lacob was busy gutting his frontcourt for a second round pick. And last week, as soon as they lost Darrell Arthur, Memphis entered and won the auction for Dante Cunningham, who is basically Dominic McGuire with real offense.

Does it appear to you that Joe Lacob is as “committed to winning” as Michael Heisley, of the micro-market Memphis Grizzlies? Is he as committed to winning as the micro-market Blazers or the mid-market Nuggets?

It’s somewhat mysterious, isn’t it? What is going on with Joe Lacob? Could it be that he’s just a lot of hot air? A Mark Cuban in words only? Could it be that he’s just the front man for an ownership group that controls him with an iron fist, and is unwilling to tickle the cap to create a dominant team? Could the Warriors have entered a second era of Chris Cohan?

Maybe. Maybe that’s part of it. It certainly seems to be the growing consensus.  But my take on what’s going on with Joe Lacob is somewhat different.  My take is this:

Joe Lacob does not believe in his basketball team.

Joe Lacob does not believe that the Warriors can build successfully around the core of David Lee, Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. And he’s not going to lock the Warriors into any long-term deals that will hinder his ability to blow this core up.  Take a look at what he did coming into this season: One year deals and rookie deals. That’s it. Lacob’s every move followed the same overarching theme: Preserving maximum flexibility.

Last season, Lacob stated that he was looking for a “big deal” to put the Warriors over the top.  Not a little deal, a big deal. That’s how he justified his failure to support the Warriors at the trade deadline: he and Larry Riley tried to swing a big deal, but couldn’t find one.

This offseason, the Warriors were heavily rumored to be right in the thick of the Chris Paul and Dwight Howard trade discussions. Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins and Klay Thompson were rumored to be on the table. I think it’s clear that Joe Lacob is still hunting for his big deal. The Warriors’ advertising team is right on the money:

Big Things are Coming.

And when they do, Monta Ellis will be going.

11 Responses to Joe Lacob and the Hidden Meaning of the Warriors Bench

  1. Felt, read the first seven paragraphs then quit. This really sounded like an anti-Lacob rant. Ugh…seriously?

    Then I skipped to the last two paragraphs. Ok, now I see where you were going with this. Much better. I guess deep down I’m prepared for the time Monta is shipped off. It’s probably inevitable.


  2. Still no word on Curry for Sunday?

  3. So, to summarize, you think Lacob’s attitude is:

    If you can’t win big, don’t get in the game.

    You might be right. Unfortunately, I think that just demonstrates that Lacob doesn’t understand the mindset of difference-makers in the league.

    The Warriors’ traditional budget-consciousness, high coaching turnover, lack of long term strategic direction and perennial lightweight bench have not changed under the new regime. It all just screams “mediocre-at-best” to anyone who thinks real commitment, professional organization, good coaching and good teammates might all count.

    “We’ll make the playoffs, I guarantee it.”

    Half the league makes the playoffs – and midpack is the definition of mediocre. That’s not exactly an irresistible lure to someone who wants a championship ring.

    “I’m pointing to the rafters!”

    Har de har har.

    Hey, Joe Lacob! Shut up. Put up. Make every possible incremental improvement to prove that you want to and you know how to. Until you do all that, the best league reputation the Warriors can aspire to is “not quite a laughingstock.”

    Get respectable first. Then make your play.

  4. Just landed Curry — normally a top 5 fantasy player — with the 10th pick in my draft.

    Now I’m down on my knees. Who is the patron saint of ankles?

  5. Warriors final roster:

    Charles Wright made the squad.

  6. “Joe Lacob does not believe that the Warriors can build successfully around the core of David Lee, Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. And he’s not going to lock the Warriors into any long-term deals that will hinder his ability to blow this core up. ”

    What’s scary is that if this is the plan, it could take years to put a competitive team together, barring extraordinary luck in the draft. One likely scenario is that the team ends up with a mix of compromises that fall well short, especially if Lacob & co stick to their narrow philosophy.

    Also the team just doesn’t have any major trade pieces now and won’t in the future (unless you count a healthy Curry). It’s unlikely David Lee will draw full value, and Ellis has no respect whatsoever. How many big name players have been offered for him the last two years? I haven’t heard any. If they do trade Ellis, they won’t get full value for him either.

  7. Ok, I’m calling it. Warriors record for the year: 33-33.

    But that’s only if Curry plays at least 50 games. If not, forget it.

    24 hours and 18 minutes…

  8. Harsh, but it’s hard to argue with your description of the bench players. Where I differ with you is your characterization of Lacob’s motives. Who was it who said something to the effect of this: Never ascribe complicated motives to a person when the right answer is probably the simple one — incompetence.

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