With Giannis’ Antetokounmpo’s future in question, should the Golden State Warriors consider trading Klay Thompson to land him? The answer is not so simple.
The idea of Giannis Antetokounmpo leaving Milwaukee to join the Golden State Warriors is not a new concept. Backtracking to a piece written by the New York Times’ Marc Stein concluding All-Star Weekend 2019, the Warriors have ‘internally mused’ about pursuing the Greek Freak for upwards of a year now. This can hardly be viewed as much of a surprise, though. Golden State remains a high-profile free agency destination that hopes to extend their title window and, come 2021, Giannis will be the most coveted free agent since LeBron in 2018.
With the Warriors’ hard-to-watch 2020 campaign officially closed, all there is to do in Oakland is to look toward the future. For this reason alone, the ‘Giannis to The Bay’ rumor has resurfaced, picking up significant steam over the last week. Those rumormongers, however, need to pump the hypothetical breaks. Due to a handful of personnel decisions made within Golden State’s front office, the idea of the Warriors simply adding Giannis without experiencing any significant loss has become flat-out impossible.
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With a solidified core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green until at least the end of the 2022 season when Curry’s contract expires, the Warriors are in no position to land any big fish via free agency. Furthermore, when you consider that Green is set to make $27.5M and Thompson is set to bring in a whopping $43.2M in 2024—the final year of their deals (and years in which both players will turn 34)—the Dubs’ free agency aspirations begin to look even bleaker.
This brings the Warriors to a fateful fork-in-the-road: Either stick with the core that brought the franchise championship success or desperately attempt to move critical pieces—and a potentially detrimental contract or two—in exchange for a player of Giannis’ caliber.
Unfortunately, both options are unlikely to bear fruit.
In a previous column, I mentioned that sleeping on the Warriors could be a foolish mistake. For the past half-decade, the Dubs have been an uber-competitive juggernaut with rare championship DNA. Provided that their core comes back next season with health on their side and a chip on their shoulder, I can whole-heartedly envision the Warriors being competitive for at least the next two seasons.
Having said that, we still need to highlight some important facts: Klay Thompson will be 30 years old, coming off of an ACL tear and 18 months of accumulated rust, and Draymond Green has been showing clear signs of decline for each of the past two seasons.
While the Warriors have proven time and time again that doubting them is a dangerous game, this time around could be inherently different than previous seasons. In hopes of keeping up with the Dubs during their run of dominance, an even larger onus was placed on roster building within NBA organizations. Following the three-year talent arms race, a daunting NBA landscape has taken shape. Teams have become substantially more equipped to handle the style of play the Warriors made famous. This—combined with potential player decline in Golden State—could make for compelling conversation when considering the Warriors’ chances to contend for future titles.
So, with option one looking rather unpredictable, acquiring Giannis seems to be the Warriors’ best bet to compete for a championship. At least, it certainly does on paper.
With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and the recently acquired Andrew Wiggins all under hefty contracts, a trade will be the only way to land Giannis Antetokounmpo. Curry is a virtual lock to retire as a member of the organization, so you can immediately cross his name off the list of trade candidates. This leaves the Warriors with the task of trying to move the aforementioned contracts of Thompson, Green, and Wiggins.
Of the three players on the hypothetical trade block, two seem to be practically immovable. Wiggins holds one of the most difficult-to-stomach deals in all of professional basketball, and Draymond Green is scheduled to make roughly $28 million four years from now, six entire seasons following the beginning of his current decline. With that being the case, there are only two ways I can see teams trading for Green or Wiggins: Either they see value in the young-but-disappointing Wiggins, or they are a team hoping to lighten their salary cap after either players’ contracts expire. Regardless, the Milwaukee Bucks will not be in that conversation.
This finally leads us to a Klay-for-Giannis trade—a trade that I am going to shoot daggers in the heart of before it even has a chance to happen. Still, let’s give it a look.