Leading the team to victory - Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
Joe Lacob's Warriors are built for success - now and in the future.
Well, it's been a short, fun ride. Thanks to changes coming at SB Nation and the end of the SB Nation Bay Area site, this will be my last column for the website. I want to thank everybody at SB Nation Bay Area, and especially James Brady, for giving me the opportunity. I'll be commenting regularly over at Golden State of Mind, and who knows, maybe another column will resurface soon.
The end of this column has provoked me into thinking about longer-term things. Beyond this week, this month, this year, what does the future have in store for the Warriors?
The thing I keep coming back to, time and time again, is how well set-up the Warriors are for long-term success.
There are no guarantees in sports. Particularly in the NBA, where you need a top player to win, sometimes it just comes down to the luck of the lottery balls. If a superstar wants to play for the Lakers or the Heat, it doesn't matter who good your ownership group is, you're not going to get him. All a team can really do is put itself in a position to be successful, and let the breaks fall where they will.
But the new regime headed by Joe Lacob looks to be well on track to do just about everything that an ownership can do.
The team has invested deeply in its scouting and training staffs. They taken both old-school and new-school approaches to evaluating talent: old school in the form of Jerry West, who was brought in for an ownership stake, and new-school in the form of high-tech STATS cameras which provide unprecedented data to the team's expanded analytics team. Lacob has demonstrated a willingness to go over the luxury tax, and to take on extra salary (in the form of Richard Jefferson) to pick up an asset (the draft pick which became Festus Ezeli).
Basically, if spending money can help the team win, Lacob is willing to do it. That's a huge change from the Chris Cohan era.
But the changes go deeper than that. Lacob has shown a willingness to make unpopular moves for the long-term benefit of his team, as demonstrated by the Monta Ellis trade. This trade is undeniably a huge part of the Warriors success this season (for reasons which deserve their own column) but required the team to send a popular player away for uncertain return. It's undoubtably the main reason Lacob was booed by the crowd on Mullin's retirement night.
Lacob has also taken what I consider to be the best strategy when building a front office and coaching staff: aim high, and take risks. Rather than hire a retread, Lacob brought in a first-timer to take over as GM - but he didn't rush, he managed the transition smoothly. Their choice of head coach was originally met with some skepticism (as Mark Jackson had never coached on any level) but they supported him with an excellent assistant coaching staff (including Mike Malone, one of the league's highest-paid assistants). They took a smart risk, going for a coach they thought might be a great coach, rather than settling for the obvious mediocre candidates.
There have been missteps, sure, but there's mostly PR: promising the playoffs was classic new-owner over-optimism. The team should have been more forthcoming about Andrew Bogut's ankle surgery, even if their hopes for Bogut's early-season return weren't entirely unreasonable. But in the grand scheme of things, those mistakes are tiny compare to the stuff the ownership group is getting right.
Ownership has limited control over results, but what they can do is put into place good processes. It's like shooting jumpers: if you consistently take open jumpers inside you're range, you still might miss any given shot, but in the long run you'll make most of them. And Lacob has set up the front office to find the open shots.
So regardless of whether the current squad proves capable of building on their excellent start to the season, it's easy to be optimistic about the long-term future of the franchise. It sure looks like the Warriors finally have an ownership that is going to do what they can to get it right.