The emotional sting of losing two players as beloved as Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry won't soon subside for the Golden State Warriors. But because of the Dubs' offseason moves and their potential for organic growth, the on-court product won't suffer at all in 2013-14.
In fact, Golden State is probably going to be even better without Jack and Landry.
Stuff like this is always impossible to quantify, but the Warriors' interpersonal chemistry could take a hit—at least initially—next season. That's because Jack and Landry were key pieces in one of the NBA's most unified locker rooms.
Good guys, great citizens and consummate competitors, Jack and Landry were in the midst of most of the good vibes in Oracle Arena last season.
When Golden State's vets hazed then-rookie Kent Bazemore by filling his car up with popcorn, Jack was right in the thick of it.
And on the floor, Jack had a real talent for leading emotional charges. He hit more big shots and late-game stunners than any Warrior other than Stephen Curry last season.
Plus, his special connection with his adopted rookie, Draymond Green, turned into one of the regular season's most enduring moments.
Whenever the team needed an emotional boost, Landry was always there to inspire with his tireless work against bigger forwards. He changed the course of more than a few games last year by simply outhustling everyone else on the court.
Fans will certainly miss Landry's ear-to-ear smiles and biceps-centric celebrations.
But the Warriors' emotional core is intact. Curry, the team's quiet leader and star, is only going to continue to grow into his role as an alpha dog. Coach Mark Jackson will keep sermonizing, and Andrew Bogut will remain the team's snarling embodiment of toughness.
Losing guys like Jack and Landry always hurts, but the Warriors roster is still composed entirely of unselfish, hard-working players. After an initial adjustment, the locker room should be as tight-knit and harmonious as ever.
Jack by the Numbers
For all of Jack's value as a leader, he's simply not as good a player as the man who figures to eat up most of his minutes: Andre Iguodala.
To be clear, Iguodala will start for the Dubs, which creates a distinction between him and Jack. But rest assured that Golden State's All-Star acquisition will be absorbing all of Jack's late-game ball-handling duties. In that sense, it's not unfair to think of Iguodala as Jack's replacement.
Golden State doesn't currently have an established backup point guard on the roster, but GM Bob Myers signed Iguodala with an intent to use him as a primary distributor in relief of Curry. Based on the numbers, that should work out just fine.
In both 2010-11 and 2011-12, Iguodala posted the best pure point rating (subscription required) of any non-point guard in the NBA. And last year, 26.5 percent of his possessions resulted in an assist. Jack's assist ratio was just a touch better, at 28.5.
Last season, Jack specialized in getting mid-range shots and floaters for himself, but he also drilled 40 percent of his three-point shots for just the second time in his career. As a scoring guard, Jack was pretty darn good.
But the Warriors have plenty of capable scoring guards, especially ones who excel at getting their points outside of the paint. What the Dubs needed desperately was a guard who could do damage in the lane.
In looking at the comparison of Jack's and Iguodala's shot charts from last season, it's clear that the Warriors exchanged a player who gave them a lot of what they already had for a guy who brings a new offensive dimension.
And that's largely because Iggy is one of the NBA's very best perimeter defenders.
Jack often struggled to stay with quicker point guards, but he also had a hard time matching up with some of the league's larger shooting guards. There's essentially no perimeter matchup at any position that puts Iguodala at a disadvantage.
The clutch plays and big moments will linger in the memories of Warriors fans when they think of Jack, but so should his maddening habit of pounding the dribble and taking the ball to trouble.
Jack was a very good player for the Warriors, but Iguodala is just plain better.
Landry by the Numbers
With his post scoring, solid mid-range game and effort, Landry gave the Warriors one of the league's best backup forwards last season. When David Lee tore his hip flexor in the playoffs, Golden State hardly missed a beat on either end because Landry stepped so ably into a larger role.
But over the course of the regular season, the Dubs were actually a worse team when Landry was on the floor. His net rating of minus-1.1 points per 100 possessions was a reflection of his defensive shortcomings and lack of size on the interior.
For Landry, hard work and a nice scoring touch weren't enough to overcome his flaws.
No one player figures to replace Landry the way Iguodala will fill in for Jack; a combination of Marreese Speights, Jermaine O'Neal and a healthier Andrew Bogut should absorb most of Landry's 23 minutes per game.
And don't discount the likelihood that Harrison Barnes, relegated to sixth-man status now that Iguodala is on the roster, will reprise his postseason role as a startlingly effective small-ball power forward.
The Dubs are flush with options to replace Landry.
Speights, in particular, should handily replace a great deal of Landry's production. As a pick-and-pop big man, Speights' remarkable accuracy from 16 to 23 feet makes him a real weapon. Landry hit just 38 percent of his shots from that distance last season, while Speights drilled 44 percent as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies and 50 percent when he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers (per Hoopdata.com).
More size, better shooting and serious rebounding chops make Speights a potential upgrade over Landry—as crazy as that might sound.
When you also toss in the other players who'll absorb Landry's minutes, his absence won't hurt the Warriors' on-court product at all next year.
Pain, Loss and Reality
It was never really an option for the Warriors to keep Jack or Landry. Marquee franchises never overpay for replaceable role players; instead, they spend money on stars.
The Warriors fancy themselves as an elite organization, and their decision to let their free agents walk in the interest of inking a stud like Iguodala is pretty good evidence that they might be right.
Golden State will miss Jack and Landry on a personal level, and its fans will have to get past the pain of losing two of the team's most beloved players. But because the front office has done such a good job of replacing their production, the loss of Jack and Landry will most likely lead to a few more wins.