If you were running the Golden State Warriors, would you give up Klay Thompson for a chance to add Kevin Love for just one year? What if Love was guaranteed to stay for much longer? Would you do it then?
Those are the questions that have presumably been swirling around the minds of Bob Myers, Joe Lacob and everyone else in the Golden State front office, but now they apparently have an answer:
Obviously, Thompson wouldn't be traded straight up for Love.
The full structure of a potential deal is unknown at this time, though ESPN.com's Chris Broussard has one theory that seems to verge on insane for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but any trade will have to include either David Lee or Andrew Bogut, solely for salary purposes.
This is purely speculative, but here's the hypothetical trade—centering around Thompson and Love—that works best for both sides:
- Golden State receives Kevin Love and Corey Brewer
- Minnesota gets Klay Thompson, David Lee and Harrison Barnes
It's no more complicated than that. No picks change hands, as only players are on the move.
So, what does this leave Golden State working with?
The starting lineup becomes Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala (shifting from the 3 to the 2), Draymond Green, Love and Bogut, with Brewer coming off the bench in the role that Barnes filled throughout the 2013-14 campaign.
It's worth noting that this assumed trade is the basis for parts of this analysis. Any changes would have to change Golden State's thinking, even if the difference is only slight.
So Much Depends on Andre Iguodala
If Thompson is on the way out, along with Lee, the Warriors will have to make up for the offensive decline.
After all, the shooting guard was half of the Splash Brothers tandem during the 2013-14 campaign, averaging 18.4 points per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 41.7 percent beyond the arc. That type of production isn't easy to replace, especially when the primary wing help would be coming from an increase in Iguodala's responsibility and better shooting from Green.
Iggy, much to the Warriors' chagrin, was not a quality offensive option during his first season in the Bay Area. Perhaps age caught up to him, leaving him less able to channel his athleticism on a regular basis. Maybe Mark Jackson's poor offensive stratagies didn't get him involved as often as necessary, instead leaving him in the corners too many times.
So far, Steve Kerr has given every indication that this will change in 2014-15.
I don't like to see [Iguodala] standing in the corner. That's where he gets lost a little bit…I think you’ll see a lot of ball movement; I think you’ll see the bigs utilized as passers on the elbows and on the block. I think you’ll see some Triangle concepts. We’re not going to look like the Chicago Bulls in the '90s…I think in today’s NBA you have to run; you have to play fast and score early…I like to see flow and ball movement and spacing. And this team has a lot of skill players who should be able to work together and create easier shots for one another.
That's a positive, as there's undoubtedly a bit more offense that can be tapped out of Iguodala's presence on the court. Not a lot, but at least a bit.
As Michael Pina wrote for Bleacher Report, improvement from him is of paramount importance for a Dubs offense that surprisingly ranked only No. 12 in offensive efficiency, per Basketball-Reference.com:
The Warriors are already a very good basketball team, but the pieces in place are capable of even better production in 2014-15. Iguodala is first in line. He did a fine job fitting in last year, but his individual numbers were suboptimal.
Defensively, Iguodala will continue on as the fantastic perimeter safety net he’s always been, but Kerr needs to give him the ball in even more advantageous areas if Golden State’s offense is to reach loftier heights.
Losing Thompson would hurt. It would alter those pieces that are already capable of better production.
But the addition of Love is an upgrade over Lee, and the Warriors are capable of replacing the 2-guard's production internally. The combined efforts of an increasingly involved Iguodala and a version of Green that's even better at hitting looks from the outside—he's consistently improved throughout his two-year NBA career—will do the trick.
Question is, will that trick result in a championship-caliber team?
Can the Warriors Win a Title in 2014-15?
The answer depends on how you feel about Kerr and the rest of a coaching staff that's sure to contain plenty of NBA experience by the time it's fully assembled.
There's no right answer, nor is there a wrong one. That said, I'd lean more toward the "yes" side of the spectrum.
With Love leading the charge alongside Curry, the Warriors would morph into an incredibly dangerous offensive squad. Love is an upgrade over Lee, after all, capable of expanding his floor-spacing range to well beyond the three-point arc.
All of a sudden, you're pairing two of the top 10 offensive players in the NBA.
And is defense a concern?
Nope, not really. This was already one of the five best defensive teams in the Association during the 2013-14 campaign, and the changes aren't making it any worse. Love and Lee are comparable defensive liabilities, and the combination of Iggy and Green on the wings would be just as effective as Thompson and Iguodala.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, the Warriors were the No. 4 team in the league last year, as the difficult schedule and fourth-best margin of victory resulted in a simple rating system score that trailed only the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers.
Quite frankly, the Dubs underachieved under Jackson.
Sure, they improved their record during each year of his tenure, but their margin of victory indicates that their record should've been even better. Three wins better, in fact. Between that and a disappointing first-round effort against the Clippers, it's hard to argue anything else.
Could a coaching change put an end to the underachieving? Maybe.
It's hard to be any more definitive, though this team has the ability to be a top-five squad on both ends of the court, which is obviously a recipe for elite-level success.
The Warriors, whether they're led by Love or not, are going to be competitive throughout the 2014-15 campaign, but they'll still have to overcome a ridiculously difficult slate of teams during the postseason. There's no way around that.
If Love makes them even slightly better, which he would, it's tough to think negatively about the short-term chances. But if the Dubs are trading a major part of their future (Thompson), more than one season must be considered.
Is Love Just a Rental?
Any Love trade has to consider this inquiry at length.
As shown by ShamSports.com, Love is under contract through the end of this next season. After that, he can either opt in to the final year of his deal for $16.7 million, or he can hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent one year earlier than expected.
This isn't going to change in a trade, which means Golden State is looking at the possibility of a one-year rental. Think of it as the exact situation that the Los Angeles Lakers faced with Dwight Howard a few years back, as the Purple and Gold traded for D12, planning to convince him that he should stick around and sign an extension, only to watch as he bolted for the Houston Rockets.
So, is Love just a rental?
There's a chance he isn't. Not only does his playing style fit in nicely along with the rest of the Dubs, who feature the point guard he's needed to play with—one who can create shots for himself—and the rim-protecting center he's always lacked, but the Bay Area is awfully close to home.
That's always been part of the appeal for the Lakers, as Love is a California native who spent his collegiate years with UCLA. Being by the Pacific Ocean and close to home is quite appealing, and while the Dubs might not be situated in L.A., they're a whole lot closer than Minnesota is.
Ultimately, his status as a rental still depends on the success of the team, but Golden State has to feel a bit confident it can retain Love past the end of the 2015 postseason.
But the answer could still be that he is one, even if the Warriors experience quite a bit of success with him lining up at the 4. If that's the case, they must evaluate whether he's worth giving up so much talent for one year of title hopes and dreams.
And that's more a matter of opinion than anything else.
Is one run for a championship worth setting this team back for the future? Maybe.
You'll have to decide that for yourself, just as the Golden State front office will in coming days and weeks.
Should the Dubs gain confidence that Love will stick around for more than one season, it's absolutely worth parting ways with Thompson, painful as that may be. But if he's not guaranteed to play home games in Oracle Arena for more than 41 contests and the length of the inevitable postseason run, things get a lot more tricky.