It's not every day a blockbuster NBA trade works out for all parties involved, but the potential exchange involving the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers—with Klay Thompson as the principal asset on the move—could represent a rare mutually beneficial deal.
The basics of the possible trade are as follows, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:
The Lakers have been in discussions to acquire Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson for the seventh pick in next week’s draft, The Times has learned.
The deal would be part of a larger three-way trade that sends Minnesota All-Star power forward Kevin Love to the Warriors. The Lakers are interested but the deal has been put on hold because of a difference in opinion within the Warriors’ organization whether or not to keep Thompson while trying to obtain Love.
All You Need Is Love
It's easy to see the biggest reason the Dubs benefit here, as Love is a superstar talent who, still just 25 years old, provides precisely what the Warriors need: shooting from the power forward spot. Frankly, it's almost impossible to overstate how well Love would fit with Golden State.
He'd operate brilliantly in a pick-and-pop set with Stephen Curry, could hide on a weaker frontcourt matchup with Andrew Bogut at his side on defense and would provide the kind of elite spacing and passing touch Golden State needs to reach the next level.
Plus, the Warriors' new head coach, Steve Kerr, wants exactly what Love offers.
Per Monte Pool of CSNBayArea.com, Kerr all but named Love specifically in an early meeting with Dubs general manager Bob Myers.
"Bob and I have not spent one second on personnel. I evaluated all of the current players for the Warriors. And I evaluated how I see each of those players fitting into my style of play. I didn't say anything about anybody else on the team," Kerr said.
"I take that back. I did tell them I think the team could use a stretch 4. I think shooting 4 could really make things difficult on the opposition.''
Kerr's appreciation for Love's skills isn't unique; any coach in his right mind would want what Love brings. But after paying Kerr big bucks to get it to a championship level, the least Golden State could do is give him the means he needs to get there.
Reality Strikes Again
There's an additional benefit to moving Thompson now, though before we get into it, one thing needs to be clear: None of what follows is meant as a knock on the shooting guard.
Thompson is only 24 and has improved in each of his three NBA seasons. And in a league placing increasing importance on the three-point shot, his principal skill as a marksman will only make him more valuable in the future.
Numbers You Can't Debate: Klay Thompson has made 545 career 3-pointers, 54 more than any other player in his 1st 3 seasons in NBA history.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) June 20, 2014
Mentally, Thompson profiles as a late-game killer. Part of that may derive from his generally expressionless bearing, but he's never seen a crunch-time shot he didn't like. That's a critical ingredient in any young talent who figures to get as many high-leverage looks as Thompson will in his career.
Plus, he's already an excellent (and still improving) defender. Basically, he's an ideal three-and-D wing in the modern NBA.
Myers has never been short on praise for Thompson, and that hasn't changed amid trade rumors.
Per Diamond Leung of BayAreaNewsGroup.com, Myers said: "The nice thing about him that I think is he hasn't reached his ceiling. I think he's got a high ceiling and that he can only get better, so that's the type of player anybody wants on their team."
However, Thompson is due for a huge extension this offseason, and there's a good chance he'll at least ask for something approaching a max salary due to the litany of valuable skills listed above.
The Warriors have major financial commitments over the next few seasons, with deals already in place that will pay Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala a combined figure that ranges between $34 million and $36 million per year through the 2016-17 campaign, per ShamSports.com.
In addition, they'll soon have to worry about an extension for invaluable glue guy Draymond Green and, depending on what happens on the trade market, paying either David Lee or Love huge salaries going forward.
There's also the small matter of, you know, having enough money left over to pay the rest of the roster.
Keeping Klay Thompson long term means overpaying him wildly. That's reason enough for Golden State to deal him.— Kevin Arnovitz (@kevinarnovitz) June 21, 2014
The point is, even at a fair-market value of something like $8 million to $10 million per season, an extension for Thompson would take away what little financial flexibility the Warriors would have had. And that's fine if you're locking up superstars that comprise part of your core, but Thompson isn't quite that kind of player.
And, again, that flexibility all but disappears with a fair-market deal. With Thompson likely looking for something closer to the max, Golden State would be staring the luxury tax square in the face for a long time to come.
That's not a route you take unless you're paying a transformative star—like Love, for example.
Essentially, Thompson is good enough to price himself out of the Warriors' reasonable range, but he's not good enough to justify overspending.
One Man's Trash...
There are other teams, though, for whom a big expenditure on Thompson makes a bit more sense.
Enter the Lakers, a team that needs quality young talent to bridge the gap between the Kobe Bryant era and the future. A team, by the way, loaded with cash to spend and roster spots to fill.
Thompson went to high school in Orange County, has family in the area, grew up a Lakers fan and has a father (Mychael Thompson) whose radio show is often used to break the latest Klay Thompson news in Los Angeles.
Can confirm the Warriors are willing to include Klay Thompson in Kevin Love talks w/ Minny. Story broken by his father on ESPN LA radio show— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) June 19, 2014
Suffice it to say, he has loads of L.A. connections off the court.
On the floor, Thompson would be a terrific complement to Bryant, as he could defend the tougher wing matchups, essentially never needs to dribble to be effective and would give the Lakers the kind of spacing and shooting outlet Bryant might need to maximize his effectiveness as he ages.
Plus, the Lakers need somebody to get excited about.
Thompson is young and only getting better, and while the tantalizing prospect of using that lottery pick on an unproven talent has a lot of appeal, he is a known commodity. And if the Lakers want to placate Bryant with more wins in the immediate future, there's no question Thompson is a better fit than any rookie available at No. 7.
Looking even further into the future, Thompson might ultimately be a more attractive teammate for prospective free agents than whoever the Lakers might snag in this year's draft. Everybody loves to play with knockdown shooters—especially those who don't need a lot of touches to contribute big scoring totals.
So, if big-name free agents become available in the summer of 2015, having Thompson on the roster as a selling point wouldn't be a bad thing.
Winners and Winners and Losers
We tend to look at trades in terms of winners and losers—and even exchanges that seem even at the outset (see: Kawhi Leonard for George Hill) eventually reveal that one side or the other came out on top.
The possible deal involving the Warriors and Lakers will eventually have a winner (if the trade ever goes down in the first place), but it's more reasonable to view these negotiations as two teams with assets they like trying to turn them into ones they like a little more.
Golden State is happy with Thompson, and the Lakers like their lottery pick just fine. But both stand to benefit even more by swapping those commodities.
There is, of course, a giant elephant in the room here—one that represents the clear loser in all this: The Minnesota Timberwolves.
They're only in this position because Love wants out, and it's difficult to envision a return—even one that netted a lottery pick and some serious talent from the Warriors—matching what they stand to lose in Love.
But we're trying to keep the mutually beneficial vibes positive here, so let's all agree to pretend Minnesota isn't getting hosed in this three-way exchange, shall we?