5 Offers That Would Push Golden State Warriors to Trade Stephen Curry
The Golden State Warriors' new ownership group proved last year that they were willing to do anything to improve the team. Owner Joe Lacob and Co. narrowly avoided a riot (but still suffered through an awkward fan revolt) when the Warriors traded Monta Ellis last March, and they even green-lit an epic tank job to retain their coveted No. 7 pick in the 2012 NBA draft.
Popularity isn't important to the Warriors' decision-makers anymore; results are.
So, with that in mind, is it possible the Warriors would consider trading current fan-favorite Stephen Curry?
The notion's not as crazy as it sounds, especially when you consider that Curry's been the subject of trade rumors from the second the Warriors drafted him. Nothing's ever been consummated, but Curry's name has come up a half-dozen times in major trade discussions since 2009.
He was mentioned prominently as a potential component in the Chris Paul Sweepstakes of 2011. Then there were the rumors that the Boston Celtics wanted Curry in return for Rajon Rondo in February. And of course, Curry was to have been part of a deal for Dwight Howard as well.
Factor in that Joe Lacob has unequivocally stated he was willing to trade Curry to improve the team, and it becomes clearer that the plausibility of a Curry deal is very real.
With all of his recent injury issues, Curry's value is near its all-time low, so it would be harder than ever for the Warriors to get adequate compensation for him now. But what if another team presented the Warriors with a "Godfather Offer" for Curry? You know, one they couldn't refuse.
Here are five potential trade offers, all of which work under the NBA's salary cap and trade rules, that would give the Dubs no choice but to trade Stephen Curry.
Minnesota Timberwolves Offer Ricky Rubio
Ricky Rubio played just 41 games in his rookie season before a torn ACL shelved him for the rest of the Minnesota Timberwolves' 2011-12 campaign. But in those 41 games, Rubio showcased a skill set that would look immensely enticing to the Warriors.
Taking the Timberwolves' record into consideration alone, Rubio's impact is clear. Minnesota was 18-13 in games Rubio started. After his injury on March 9, they totally fell apart, amassing just five wins in their final 25 games.
And, it's nearly impossible to find an NBA pundit who doesn't positively gush over Rubio's game. ESPN's Mark Stein said the following:
He's the heir to Steve Nash and Jason Kidd as the best pass-first point guard in the game and dazzles like no other. Can't name five guys in this league I'd rather watch...He's a future All-Star and franchise point guard in spite of his limitations as a shooter. And I tend to believe that he will get his jumper to a point, a la Kidd, that it fades as a weakness over time.
Keep in mind, Stein said all that after Rubio's injury last season. Nobody's concerned about his long-term health.
From a numbers perspective, Rubio's 8.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game led all rookies last year. His shooting limitations are very real, though, as he made just under 36 percent of his field-goal tries. There's absolutely no question that Curry's shooting is vastly superior to Rubio's, but Curry is arguably the NBA's best perimeter shooter, so that's no shock.
As a total package, Rubio has better size at 6'4", is two years younger than Curry and above all, his injury is not the kind of frighteningly recurring condition that Curry has struggled with over the last year-and-a-half. So even if Rubio isn't ready to start the season opener, there's a much greater chance he stays healthier than Curry over the long haul.
On the financial side, a straight swap of Curry for Rubio makes sense for the Warriors, too. Their salaries for 2012-13 are nearly identical, but Rubio is under his rookie contract for two additional years. Curry, on the other hand, will be a restricted free-agent after this season, and might very well command a max salary deal. So even if there's a chance Curry is a better player going forward, Rubio still might be a better value.
Above all else, Rubio would give the Warriors something they simply don't have right now. Curry is a phenomenal shooter, but Golden State has a handful of terrific long-range snipers already. Both Klay Thompson and Brandon Rush shot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc last season, and rookie Harrison Barnes is no slouch from the outside either. Conversely, Rubio is a pure point guard whose greatest skill is setting up other offensive players.
As presently composed, the Warriors' corps of shooters are going to have to share perimeter looks with one another. Rubio could step into Curry's place and play the role of a perfect distributor, without taking shots from players who need them.
It would be rough to see Curry go, but if the Timberwolves dangled Rubio as bait, the Warriors would have to bite.
Atlanta Hawks Offer Josh Smith for Stephen Curry and Andris Biedrins
If the Atlanta Hawks came calling with an offer of Josh Smith for Stephen Curry and Andris Biedrins, the Warriors wouldn't have to think about it for very long.
A chance to get rid of Biedrins' albatross of a contract? Yes, please!
It's no secret the Warriors made an epic blunder by using their amnesty provision on Charlie Bell last year. That move knocked a mere $4.1 million off the Warriors' cap figure. The fact that the decision was part of a failed master plan to scrape together enough money to sign restricted free-agent DeAndre Jordan to an offer sheet (the Clippers promptly matched) is beside the point.
The real tragedy was that the Warriors could have amnestied Andris Biedrins and his $9 million annual salary. As it is, Golden State is still on the hook for $18 million over the next two seasons.
Josh Smith has always been on the Warriors' radar, and was a target as recently as this year's NBA draft. His team has cleared almost every bad contract off of their books over the last few months, with only Al Horford's $12 million annual salary burdening the cap through 2015-16. They'll be in prime position to make plays for Dwight Howard and Chris Paul (who'll be a restricted free agent) next summer.
Smith's in the last year of his deal, and is owed $13 million this season. If Atlanta wanted to pull in Curry, whom they could either sign to a new deal in case Paul isn't interested in moving to Atlanta, or let walk away if another team outbids them next offseason, they might offer up Smith's expiring deal.
The Hawks haven't used their amnesty provision yet, so they could take on Curry and Biedrins, amnesty Biedrins and save about $8 million off of their cap this year. The following season, they could save even more if they let Curry go, which would free up even bigger bucks to throw at CP3 or Howard.
From the Warriors' perspective, Smith would give them an athletic small forward to play with David Lee and Andrew Bogut up front. His defensive prowess would be a welcome addition to a team trying to change its image as an all-offense outfit. Plus, his expiring deal means the Warriors could let him walk and make their own play for Paul.
The key in all this is that the Warriors would shed Biedrins' awful deal, freeing up money and gaining some flexibility. If they have to surrender Curry to accomplish that, the sacrifice might well be worth it.
Chicago Bulls Offer Derrick Rose for Curry, David Lee and Harrison Barnes
It seems pretty unlikely that the Chicago Bulls would part with former MVP Derrick Rose, even after he tore his ACL in last year's postseason. But with an aging roster still lacking enough offense to get the job done in the playoffs, GM Gar Forman could use his injured point guard to overhaul the Bulls' offense.
The Warriors have definitely shown they're not afraid to gamble on injured players, so long as the potential payoff is high. They acquired Andrew Bogut last March and still don't know whether he'll be the same player he was a few years ago. Rose falls into the same category as Bogut in that sense. But in the team-transformation department, Rose is an absolute game changer—if healthy.
The risk for the Warriors—and the main reason Chicago might make such an offer—is that Rose's game could be more adversely affected by his knee injury than any player in history. There's never been a player who puts more strain on his body than Rose. He barrels into the lane and comes to two-foot plants on nearly every play. His body's ability to withstand that kind of violent motion, and follow it up with an explosive takeoff, may never be the same.
If the Bulls could get two bona fide scorers in Curry and Lee, plus a promising rookie in Barnes, they could finally add enough scoring punch to their staunch defense to challenge the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.
On the other hand, if things don't work out right away, the Bulls have the option not to match whatever offer Curry gets in free agency, amnesty David Lee and move forward with Barnes under his affordable rookie deal.
From the Warriors' perspective, the playoffs would probably be out of the question this season, but a core of Bogut, Rose and Klay Thompson looks awfully dangerous on paper. Plus, Golden State would be out from under Lee's contract and wouldn't have to worry about matching a max offer for Curry next summer.
A deal involving Rose and Curry is far-fetched, and really amounts to exchanging one damaged good for another, but there's no way the Warriors would turn this one down.
Cleveland Cavaliers Offer Kyrie Irving
If the Cleveland Cavaliers made him available, the Warriors would jump at the opportunity to swap Curry for Kyrie Irving, the 2011-12 Rookie of the Year.
As overall talents, Curry and Irving are actually very comparable. Last season, Irving's player efficiency rating was 21.43, while Curry's was 21.23. And from a wins-added perspective, ESPN's trade machine seems to think that a deal exchanging Curry for Irving would result in a wash.
But here's why this one makes some sense: the Cavaliers drafted Dion Waiters out of Syracuse. Waiters is a ball-dominant slasher who makes a living by attacking the basket. Irving is a great player, but he also needs to have the basketball in his hands to do what he does best—use his strength and handle to get into the lane.
Irving's usage rate was fourth-highest among all point guards last season at 27.8, behind only Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and Deron Williams. That means Irving ended possessions with assists, turnovers or shots more often than all but those three elite point guards. In short, Irving always has the ball. Pairing him with someone like Waiters isn't a good way to maximize either of their skills.
But if the Cavaliers had Curry, whose usage rate was 17th among point guards last year, Waiters would have more opportunities to do his thing—without being a detriment to his backcourt mate. Curry could happily be the recipient of the draw-and-kicks Waiters creates, knocking down threes aplenty.
For the Warriors, Irving is a younger, healthier option than Curry. Plus, he's locked up to the rookie wage scale through 2015, making him much more affordable than Curry in the short term. Irving can shoot it from the outside, but isn't as perimeter-oriented as Curry is on offense—he got to the free-throw line more than twice as often as Curry did last season.
Overall, Irving is the safer bet with the higher upside, which is why the Cavs would be crazy to deal him. But if they wanted to balance out their backcourt by moving him, the Warriors would be even crazier not to take Irving for Curry.
Charlotte Bobcats Offer Unprotected 1st-Round Draft Pick
If the Charlotte Bobcats offered the Warriors anything of value for Curry, especially a first-round draft pick, Golden State would have to consider taking the deal.
Because Curry's likely to end up in Charlotte either way.
This one's not complicated, folks. Curry grew up in Charlotte. He trains there during the offseason. He went to college there. He owns a home in nearby Weddington, North Carolina, which Curry and his wife "plan to use as their permanent residence regardless of where basketball takes them," according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
Oh, and he's flat-out said he wants to play for the Bobcats. In the same interview with the Observer last year, Curry spoke of his desire to play in Charlotte:
Of course I'd like to play here - it's home and I know a lot of people. But that doesn't mean I'm trying to get out of Golden State...There's no reason I would not want to play in Charlotte. Maybe the pressure of being around family all the time would affect some people, but I wouldn't be opposed to any of that.
Curry's bright, and he was savvy enough to toss in qualifiers about loving Golden State and wanting to be part of the team's new direction, but there's no getting around his clear desire to go home.
If the Warriors agreed to take a pick from Charlotte (who are still going to be awful enough this season to make that pick valuable), they'd avoid a potentially problematic situation down the road.
Curry's a restricted free-agent after this year, and Charlotte has plenty of money. Who's to say they won't offer their hometown kid a max deal? If the Warriors haven't signed Curry to an extension by then, and that happens, Golden State will be faced with the decision of either matching a monster deal to keep Curry, or letting him walk away for nothing.
That's a lose-lose proposition.
If the Warriors accepted the Bobcats' (hypothetical) offer, they'd have an opportunity to replace Curry with a lottery pick. Plus, they could use the nearly $45 million—the current max Curry could receive as a free agent—to bring in another impact player.
Doesn't that sound better than watching him leave without compensation?
If you think about it, this situation is a little like a game of chicken. The Warriors don't necessarily want to extend Curry yet because they're not sure how his ankle is going to hold up. On the other hand, they might be wise to extend him a reasonable offer to prevent the aforementioned Charlotte scenario. It'll be interesting to see who blinks first.
In any case, Curry's more likely to eventually end up in Charlotte than anyplace else. If the Bobcats offered a first-rounder for Curry, it'd push the Warriors to give him up.