If Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report is to be believed, the pressure on Klay Thompson to dazzle his fans and critics in the upcoming 2014-15 NBA season might have just multiplied. In a story published Thursday about how Thompson was unhappy his name was thrown around this summer in Kevin Love trade talks, Bucher also reported that the Golden State Warriors could have added Arron Afflalo from the Orlando Magic in conjunction with a Kevin Love trade.According to Bucher, all the Dubs would’ve needed to do was package Harrison Barnes — who was coming off an underwhelming sophomore slump — and send him to Orlando while giving the Minnesota Timberwolves the piece they originally wanted in Thompson.
The Warriors would have received Kevin Love, a three-time All-Star and pick and pop magician, along with Arron Afflalo, who was coming off a career year with the Magic in which he averaged a career-high 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
Afflalo’s numbers might have been inflated playing with a woeful squad like the Magic, but between his 46 percent shooting and 42.7 percent shooting from 3-point territory, if the rumor is true, a lot of Dubs fans might feel the need to repeatedly bang their heads on a table right now.
Last season, Thompson averaged 18.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from downtown. Thompson took a lot more attempts from beyond the arc than Afflalo did, so no one’s suggesting Afflalo would have been able to replace Thompson’s high volume perimeter shooting as an honorary Splash Brother.
The Dubs also might have been worse on the defensive end as well, since Barnes and Thompson are both good, or at least serviceable defenders. Love’s defensive deficiencies have long been over-exaggerated, but he’s also not a good defender either.
And though Afflalo used to be known as a lockdown perimeter defender, he often slacks off in that area of his game the more he focuses on scoring as he did last year in Orlando.
That being said, passing up on the opportunity to add one of the league’s best players in Kevin Love was dumb before we heard these rumors that the Dubs could have replaced Thompson with Afflalo. Unlike Thompson, who becomes a black hole on offense when he catches the ball, Afflalo is a more versatile scorer who can put the ball in the hole in a variety of ways and also wouldn’t hesitate to get the ball to an open Stephen Curry, whom Thompson often missed when he was wide open last season.
Also, if the Warriors opted not to trade Harrison Barnes for Arron Afflalo, as suggested, that’s something else weird too.
— Chris Towers (@CTowersCBS) August 22, 2014
On the defensive end, Thompson has more promise being that he’s only been in the league for three seasons and is already developing into a backcourt stopper, but Afflalo would have gotten the job done and his atrocious defensive rating of 112 last season surely had as much to do with the lackluster defense of his teammates as it did with his own defensive intensity. (Sorry, I won’t call you Shirley again.)
The Warriors decided against such a deal because they were worried about the defensive ramifications of such a swap, according to Bucher. While that was a legitimate fear when we were talking about a simple Thompson and David Lee swap for Kevin Love and Kevin Martin, ignoring Afflalo’s defense and Love’s superstardom feels like a major mistake that will have unfortunate consequences in 2014-15.
Warriors like their core. I like their core too. I also like ice cream, which has about as much chance as they do of winning an NBA title
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) July 22, 2014
What are these unfortunate consequences? I’m glad you asked.
For starters, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that having Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes next season doesn’t move that title contender needle for the Dubs nearly as far as Kevin Love and Arron Afflalo might have. And even if we’re going to ignore that and focus on the potential defensive problems, there’s still an incredible amount of pressure on Thompson to continue his progression now.
The more reasonable fans will understand that it’s not Thompson’s fault he was included in these trade rumors and they’ll remain patient with him as he progresses into one of the league’s better shooting guards. But the rest of Basketball Twitter will swoon with calls for his head with every missed 3-pointer and every Love-led Cleveland Cavaliers victory.
The same goes double for Harrison Barnes, who already had enough pressure on him after an underwhelming 2013-14 campaign.
Golden State is still a contender in the Western Conference either way. A starting lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iggy, Lee and Andrew Bogut is still one of the finest in the league and the Dubs have dependable players coming off the bench in Shaun Livingston, Brandon Rush, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes.
But if there really is any resentment left over from all these trade talks and it starts to hurt Thompson and Lee’s games, it’ll be hard not to think about what might have been with Love and Afflalo on board. Especially if LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love lead the Cavs to the first championship in franchise history.