It's apparent the Warriors are not playing up to their potential. But that's not the biggest concern.
It's reasonable to expect Golden State will eventually hit its stride. When it does, however, that still doesn't feel like it'll be enough. Something is missing.
With every disappointing loss, every struggle of a win, it becomes increasingly clear the Warriors don't have enough on their bench. Not to run with the big boys in the Western Conference. And it's time general manager Bob Myers does something about that.
The starters, even with their flaws, are legit. And Harrison Barnes is a good player as the sixth man. But the Warriors need a difference-maker, a Jamal Crawford-type who can take over a game. Options might include Detroit's Rodney Stuckey, Charlotte's Ramon Sessions, Toronto's Kyle Lowery and maybe even Denver's Andre Miller.
Management has opted for the wait-and-see approach through all the injuries, and adjustments, the acclimating of new players. Myers is reserving judgment pending more time to see them together. But we've seen enough. This bench is not going to cut it.
The decision to let key reserves Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry walk in free agency had merit. But replacing them with this cast of backups has the Bay Area longing for a super sub. As it stands now, the only reliable reserve is Draymond Green.
The starters need more support. Coach Mark Jackson needs another option. And the Warriors can't wait much longer. The Feb. 21 trade deadline might be too late in this loaded Western Conference.
It's clear Jackson doesn't trust his bench, and for good reason. The result is him leaning heavily on his stars. Of course, the more he runs them into the ground, the more inefficient they become. And the more frequently inexplicable losses (such as the ones to Charlotte and undermanned San Antonio) will occur.
Even at their projected best, the reserves still leave you wanting. Myers, one offseason after he could do no wrong, simply came up short this time around. And he needs to fix it if the Warriors are to meet expectations.
Marreese Speights has finally shown signs of life, but he's a midrange shooting big man and not the inside scorer the Warriors need.
Toney Douglas, who recently returned from injury, has looked good as a pesky defender. Though he has shown he can do some things on offense, he is not a reliable scorer.
Green has become a solid spot-up shooter, but his strengths are his defense and the intangibles he brings. Offensively, he is at his best when his shots are created for him.
The Warriors need a high-percentage offense. They need a reliable scorer. Barnes is too inconsistent to fill the role.
The Dubs sorely need someone who lives off attacking the basket instead of jump shots. Someone who has enough size to play shooting guard next to Stephen Curry whenever Klay Thompson is in one of his funks. Someone who has the skills to be a second playmaker on the floor, next to Andre Iguodala or Douglas, while Curry rests from being Mr. Everything on offense.
The Warriors need someone experienced enough to know how to produce consistently and not another young, hot-and-cold type. And he needs to be feasible to acquire.
Golden State does have traded player exceptions it can use, leftover perks from the three-way deal with Utah and Denver that landed Iguodala. The Warriors could acquire a player making upward of $9 million. But that would push them into luxury tax territory, which they are just over $4 million from reaching.
Certainly a difficult task to pull off. But this is what great general managers do. If Myers wants to continue to ascend into that realm, he will find a way. Because the players are out there.
Detroit has the perfect candidate in Stuckey. He's 6-foot-5 and averages 15.2 points per game off the bench. Nearly half his shots come in the lane, and he would be second on the Warriors in free-throw attempts despite being sixth in minutes per game. And the Pistons have a financial benefit for moving his $8.5 million expiring contract.
Sessions, Lowry and Miller all are smaller than you'd like, but they all figure to give Golden State some offensive punch in the second unit.
Perhaps there are other options at other positions. All that matters is that help is acquired. Even if the Warriors get it together and climb into the mix among the elite in the West, it's hard to feel they have a bench worthy of making some real noise.
Contact Marcus Thompson II at firstname.lastname@example.org.