The Golden State Warriors are a young, exciting team on the rise, one of only a few in the Western Conference that we can confidently say is a piece or two away from contending for a championship. In my book and the books of many others, firing Mark Jackson was a mistake in that line of thinking, but Steve Kerr is a promising coaching candidate who has been around some of the greatest basketball minds of all time like Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich and Marv Albert. Still, another year under the belts of this team won’t elevate them to contender status alone, which explains the Dubs’ interest in trading for Kevin Love.
Earlier in the week, the Minnesota Timberwolves superstar expressed his interest in the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors as potential trade destinations after informing the world that he would not be interested in re-signing with the Wolves after the 2014-15 season. Yes, Love is in the air. So with Minnesota’s fear of letting Love walk out the door for nothing becoming a very real possibility, the Wolves will strongly consider getting the best possible deal for their franchise player now, despite whatever Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is saying.
The Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and a few other teams will join the Warriors and Bulls in summertime Love craze, so there will be plenty of competition here. But Love is worth fighting for, and the Golden State Warriors have a unique pitch unlike any other team: “We have the best pieces, right now, that anyone can offer you. With guys like David Lee, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, you won’t have to start over from scratch and can remain competitive in this brutal Western Conference. Why depress your fans even more with a long rebuild when you can pair Ricky Rubio with a terrific power forward like Lee?”
You’ll immediately notice two things, especially if you’re a Wolves fan urging caution on settling for a deal unworthy of Love: 1) Klay Thompson‘s name doesn’t show up and 2) This “unique” offer is actually a crap deal when the smartest thing for a Love-less Wolves team to do is avoid shortcuts and rebuild from the ground up. If the Warriors are sneaky enough to talk the Timberwolves out of this smarter approach, they have to sell Minnesota on the idea that the young pieces they’d be getting in return for Love are foundational pieces. And that means Klay Thompson would almost have to be included in the deal.
The Warriors wanting to be a contender, trading for Love and keeping as much of their current roster intact as possible form three intertwining strands of an incredibly difficult tightrope act. Giving up David Lee, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes would obviously be a blow to the Warriors’ core. But it would leave the Dubs with Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, Kevin Love and Andrew Bogut, a pretty terrific starting five, especially with the way Green is coming along. But the Dubs would clearly be that much more dangerous if they had Thompson in tow.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, and every other team looking for Love this summer, we’re not talking about some overrated star unworthy of a max contract. We’re talking about a top-10 player in the NBA, a guy who just put up 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from 3-point range. He was the only player to finish in the top four in the league of scoring AND rebounding and he had the third highest Player Efficiency Rating in the NBA (26.9).
In the past six years, Kevin Love has served up more double-doubles than my neighborhood McDonald’s. He’s a versatile big who can lock up the defensive boards, throw exceptional outlet passes to jumpstart a fast break and draw defenders out of the paint as a stretch-4. Blake Griffin probably earns the title of best power forward in the league because of his team’s success, the one knock against Love, but Minny’s superstar puts up better numbers than any other player at his position. There’s a reason only an exceptional package will convince the Timberwolves to give up on Love before the final year of his contract, even if him coming out and saying he won’t re-sign theoretically hurts any leverage Minnesota had in trade talks.
Could Warriors do David Lee and Harrison Barnes for Kevin Love? Houston has players to trade, Boston & Phoenix have loads of picks.
— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) May 19, 2014
In an ideal world, the Golden State Warriors would be able to trade Lee, Barnes and their 2015 draft pick for Love without having to give up Klay Thompson. But that’s most likely not the best offer the T-Wolves will receive in the next few weeks for their superstar and if Taylor is true to his word, only a terrific offer will force Minnesota to turn its back on Love and start over. Any offer from the Dubs that doesn’t include Klay Thompson is not that offer, even if the Wolves aren’t serious about trading him before the draft.
Thompson’s first three years in the league have gone better than almost anyone could have anticipated. As the No. 11 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Thompson has developed into a deadly shooter, he just averaged 18.4 points per game and shot 41.7 percent from downtown this season, and he’s one of two founding members of the Splash Brothers. But is Thompson ever going to be an All-Star? Probably not. Would replacing Thompson with a serviceable shooting guard on a cheap contract while adding Love into the fold keep the Warriors at least as good as they are now? Absolutely. By that line of thinking, the Warriors need to do whatever they can to convince the Timberwolves that Golden State has pieces that could be instrumental in their upcoming rebuilding process.
Holding out on a Kevin Love trade for the sake of holding on to Klay Thompson would be like passing up a free cruise because you might get sunburned. Thompson is easily the most attractive of those pieces, since he’s not a 31-year-old former All-Star on an expensive contract (Lee) or young, athletic piece who showed this past season he might not amount to much more than that (Barnes). Steph Curry and Kevin Love in pick and rolls is a tantalizing enough concept in and of itself to make the Dubs pull the trigger and the Wolves would love a spot-up shooter like Thompson. When it comes to bringing a stud like Kevin Love to the Golden State Warriors, Klay Thompson must be expendable.