Could Golden State Warriors Land Another Star with Klay Thompson Trade?

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2014

January 20, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (11) dribbles Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It seems "good" isn't good enough for the Golden State Warriors anymore, which is why Klay Thompson has been popping up in trade talks lately.

Under normal circumstances, a guy like Thompson would be virtually untouchable. He's a phenomenal shooter who has buried the second-most threes in the NBA this year—at a 41 percent clip, no less. Plus, he's on a dirt-cheap rookie deal that will keep him under team control through the 2015-16 campaign.

But the Warriors aren't a team operating under normal circumstances, and as Sam Amick of USA Today points out, only franchise cornerstones are off-limits in Golden State:

Considering the heightened expectations this season and the fact that Golden State owner Joe Lacob means it when he says he's trying to build a championship team, it's safe to say the Warriors aren't content with their current standing (sixth in the Western Conference). They have one of the most aggressive front offices in the league, and rival executives are of the belief that anyone not named Stephen Curry or Andrew Bogut is up for discussion.

Nobody would ever confuse Thompson for an organizational building block. He's a specialist who thrives on shots created by teammates. His value is tied as much to his youth and talent as it is to his low cap figure. Still, though, he's immensely valuable.

So valuable in fact, that Grantland's Zach Lowe pegged him as one of the only ways for the Warriors to make a substantial move at this year's trade deadline:

Take the Warriors, for instance. They’ve fallen to the no. 8 spot with a flailing offense and shaky depth, but they’ve traded just about every possible pick and might have played their last low-risk card in the Jordan Crawford deal. If they really want to add an impact piece this season, they’ll either have to orchestrate another three-team trade or part with one of the Harrison Barnes–Klay Thompson duo.

Lowe goes on to note that most of the NBA cognoscenti don't think the Dubs are quite so desperate as to officially shop Thompson. That's sensible, largely because Golden State's main issue isn't a lack of talent on the roster; moving Thompson for a star wouldn't really address the Dubs' key weaknesses.

Their problems are subtler: More than 50 games into the season, head coach Mark Jackson still hasn't figured out optimal roles for many of his most important players. Plus, Golden State's substitution patterns are often illogical, and the offense lacks any creativity beyond its initial actions.

Trades don't fix things like that—coaching adjustments do.

But another star sure would be nice, wouldn't it? And we've already discussed why Thompson is so valuable to the Warriors. Wouldn't all the qualities that make him a prized piece in Golden State inspire similar covetousness in other teams?

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 8: Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors shoots against the Phoenix Suns on February 8, 2014 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using
Barry Gossage/Getty Images

Without question, the Dubs have the means to turn Thompson into a "star quality" player on the open market. He makes just $2.3 million this season, but Golden State has a couple of hefty trade exceptions available that would allow it to take back a much bigger salary.

Thanks to the deal that sent Richard Jefferson to the Utah Jazz, the Warriors can absorb something in the neighborhood of $13 million in a straight-up deal for Thompson.

Logistically speaking, Golden State can get itself a star.

Just because the Warriors are able to add money doesn't mean they want to, though. This is a team with some salary flexibility, but it's important to note the Warriors are already over the cap and inching closer to luxury-tax territory.

Besides, even if we get past the hypothetical difficulties of adding money to an already hefty payroll, it's extremely difficult to pinpoint exactly what kind of player the Warriors would be willing to take on in any exchange for Thompson.

Adding someone like Carmelo Anthony would require a much bigger package than Thompson alone, both for financial reasons and because the New York Knicks would want some combination of more established stars and draft picks to pull off such a deal.

And it's hard to understand why the Warriors would give up Thompson and other valuable assets just to add a player who'll certainly exercise his early-termination option this summer.

Beyond Anthony, who might not be all that "available" in the first place—at least not for any price the Warriors would want to pay—it's not like there's a glut of available stars. Jeff Green may be an option, but he might not actually be a star, and the Warriors still have Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, both of whom need minutes in order to develop.

Plus, it's not clear Jeff Green would help the Warriors any more than Thompson already does.

As a matter of fact, that brings another key concern to light: Golden State's needs are on the offensive end. The Dubs are a middle-of-the-pack offense this season. Knowing that, why would they want to deal a premier shooter who also happens to be a major part of their elite defense?

The answer is probably something like: "Because the Dubs need somebody to function as a facilitator who can take some of the pressure off Curry."

But would the Warriors really be willing to part with an elite, high-volume, high-efficiency shooter to do that when Andre Iguodala and Jordan Crawford could still round into form as able distributors? Here, again, we see the Warriors' offensive issues aren't personnel-related; they're rooted in Jackson's misapplication of the talent on hand.

The Warriors are in a weird place. Jackson's seat is getting hotter, despite the fact that his team is performing better this season than it did in a breakout 2012-13 campaign. Instead of appreciation, Jackson and the Dubs are facing demands that they produce even better results.

Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

Per Steve Berman of, Jackson is a little miffed at the expectations from fans and media who haven't been privy to much winning in the past:

"I mean, we are 10 games over .500. Some of you guys haven’t seen that in a long, long time. So keep on acting like you have.”

Really, the fact that trading Thompson is even a question is a symptom of how quickly things have turned around in Golden State. Because of the new ownership group's remarkable, immediate success, the expectation is for the team to just keep swinging great deals.

It's not always that easy, though.

Maybe the Dubs could hit another home run by trading Thompson. It'd be a risky gamble to give up a player like him, but the Warriors haven't really misfired on any big decisions in a while, so perhaps their luck would hold up.

Ultimately, the star player who might actually improve the Warriors' current roster isn't just sitting out there waiting to be acquired—at least not for any price Golden State should be willing to pay.

In this instance, the best move is no move. The Warriors are playing well and can improve organically. Contrary to public sentiment, "good" is good enough—especially when it won't take a drastic roster change to get better.


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