Steinmetz: Second-year duo needs to fill void left by Baron 

It is very likely that today will be the day Baron Davis officially becomes a Los Angeles Clipper. What that means in the simplest of terms is that the Warriors won’t have their best player around in 2008-09.

In the next few days, the Warriors will find out if they can pull off a free-agent upset and land power forwardElton Brand. Such a signing would mitigate the loss of Davis.

The Warriors are also likely to hear about the destinations of Josh Smith and Corey Maggette, two players apparently on their radar.

If team president Robert Rowell and executive vice president of basketball operations Chris Mullin don’t land a sizable name in the free-agent market, it is difficult to imagine how the Warriors can possibly improve on last season’s 48 wins.

In fact, without Davis and without any significant acquisitions it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Warriors would slink comfortably back into the back of the pack in the Western Conference.

But the Warriors still have an ace in the hole. Two of them to be exact: Brandan Wright and Marco Belinelli.

This is a huge year for them and will likely go a long way toward determining the success and failure of the season.

Will Wright and Belinelli, two second-year players, more resemble Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins, or Mickael Pietrus and Patrick O’Bryant? This will be the season we’re going to find out whether or not Wright and Belinelli are going to help this team.

Not just help the team — help the team win. After languishing his rookie season under coach Mike Montgomery, Ellis burst onto the scene his second season and won the Most Improved Player award.

He did it in the context of a winning season, too, as the Warriors made their first postseason appearance in more than a decade in 2006-07. Biedrins was a similar case. Although he didn’t come into his own until his third season, during Year 2, he began to show signs that he would be a long-term factor.

But players such as O’Bryant and Pietrus never took impactful strides in the early years of their careers and as a result never helped make the Warriors discernibly better. As for Kosta Perovic? He’s entering his second year, but it’s not looking good.

Wright and Belinelli will both have incredible opportunities this season and the Warriors are going to have to get something out of them — not just hollow statistics but real contributions to victories.

The Warriors are the worst rebounding team in the league and desperately need frontcourt athleticism. If Wright can’t help this team this year, it won’t bode well for the future — either his or the Warriors.

Davis’ departure is Belinelli’s gain. There just went 40 minutes of playing time out the door with Davis, which means some of that playing time is going to trickle down to him.

What will he do with those minutes? And what will Wright do with his?

The Warriors need the answer to be: A lot.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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