Anyone can have a blog about an NBA team, but some set themselves apart from the rest with the dedication and valuable insight they bring to their craft. We’ll be sharing some knowledge from these dialed-in writers on Hoops Rumors in a new feature called Top Bloggers. As with The Beat, our ongoing series of interviews with NBA beat writers, it’s part of an effort to bring Hoops Rumors readers ever closer to the pulse of the teams they follow. Last time, we spoke with Troy Tauscher, who is a writer for Fansided’s Valley Of The Suns. Click here to see the entire Top Bloggers series.
Hoops Rumors: Do you sense that the Warriors have picked up a lot of bandwagon fans since winning the title? Do you find that those fans are being embraced by the Warriors community at large or is there some sort of divide between them and those that have been fans for years?
Nate Parham: There’s no question that the Warriors have picked up a large group of bandwagon fans as a result of the championship. As a Warriors fan, I feel that “We Believe” was a flash in the pan that was exciting, but mostly in a way that diehards were best positioned to appreciate because it happened so fast after years of mediocrity. In this case, I’ve never seen so much Warriors merchandise or excitement in the Bay Area and that is definitely a sign that the Warriors have finally become cool.
Along those lines, I think the Warriors were in a unique position to expand their base. For the majority of the target demographic (18-35 year olds), they’d never really known much but losing and, as a result, a general lack of respect. And I have personally never met anyone who holds that up as a badge of honor; there’s nothing to really celebrate as valued knowledge during that time and I wouldn’t wish that torture on anyone. When the team is suddenly the “Brand New Hotness,” it’s mostly just sort of nice to have this thing you’ve invested so much emotion into finally get any type of respect. That bandwagon fans joining the party just makes it more exciting.
Hoops Rumors: Where is the expectation level for Warriors fans now? Is it title-or-bust?
Nate Parham: I think that depends on who you talk to. I think this whole thing is still sort of surreal for most people. Since the late ’70s, it’s not just that the Warriors didn’t make the playoffs much, it’s that they were never close to being a contender. Again, you sort of just have to appreciate the fact that the team is in the mix. I think another title would just be gravy at this point.
The West is tough, LeBron has a pretty easy path through the East, and there are a number of variables that could work against the Warriors this year that would lead to falling short. I fully expect this team to repeat, but if they don’t, there’s no reason that this group can’t grow from the experience and contend again next season. To me, it’s about continuing to grow and making moves to keep themselves at the top for as long as possible rather than winning every single year. It’s always interesting to note that the Spurs have never won back-to-back titles despite being considered one of the top franchises in all of U.S. pro sports.
Nate Parham: Well, I don’t think the loss of Lee will affect them much at all…but there are certainly Warriors fans who think that’s a huge loss. I just think that he did little for the team defensively and Harrison Barnes has been so effective as a small ball four that Lee really didn’t have a place on the team. The hope was that Thompson would be a defensive presence off the bench, but even with Bogut injured he has hardly played. So right now, all I can say we’ve gained is salary cap room because Thompson isn’t necessary to beat another team some consider a contender by 50.
Nate Parham: There’s risk involved, certainly, as I really don’t think Ezeli’s value can go anywhere but up. He hadn’t played 82 games over a two year span due to injury so he had no leverage by signing now. Conversely, consider that a player like Enes Kanter got a four-year, $70MM contract to come off the bench for the Thunder this year; if Ezeli proves that he can be a functional starter for a contender this year, he’s going to command a lot of money. I’m sure he knew that. And with Bogut’s body only getting more worn down, it would make a ton of sense for the Warriors to be thinking about Ezeli as his homegrown replacement for the future.
Ultimately, reasonable money for Ezeli is probably in the $15MM per year range. Capable bigs are hard to find and if you’ve already invested the time and money developing one, you might as well hold on to him if possible.
Hoops Rumors: Barnes also broke off talks with the Warriors prior to the deadline. How do you see things playing out with him as he heads towards restricted free agency?
Nate Parham: Barnes is tricky. I’ve taken the position that not only does he fit the system but he’s also an extremely unique player in his 3-and-D versatility. I’m not one who believes he’ll be an All-Star, but he’s already becoming an elite role player and when you have Steph, Klay and Dray as your core, a young player like Barnes to go with them, that seems like a great recipe for success.
The big question is whether Barnes believes he could blossom elsewhere in an environment where he would be given more freedom to be his own man. I honestly believe that the big limiting factor for him is his handle and ability to consistently create offense: it’s nice to see him dunk on Dwight Howard, but it’s troubling to see Jamal Crawford shut him down in the post the next week. It’s hard to read minds, but if the Warriors do repeat it just seems silly to leave a championship situation. He has time to chase individual glory with his next contract; it makes far more sense right now for him to stick with a contender. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the Warriors sign him for the exact contract that was turned down this summer.