It’s no secret the Golden State Warriors are targeting highly coveted Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love. But because the three-time All-Star is a transcendent NBA talent, Minnesota wants a gargantuan haul of assets for his services.
Ultimately, the Dubs may choose to halt trade negotiations for the 25-year-old. If the front office opts for a free-agent acquisition—instead of packaging Klay Thompson with a first-round pick, which Minnesota wants, per ESPN's Marc Stein—Channing Frye is an intriguing Plan B.
The 31-year-old veteran didn’t skip a beat after missing the entire 2012-13 season due to an enlarged heart. Interestingly enough, he was among the most durable big men in the Association—starting all 82 games for the upstart Phoenix Suns. Although his shooting stroke slumped significantly toward the end of the season—particularly in March, when he shot just 28.6 percent from deep—he drained 37 percent of his treys during the 2013-14 campaign overall.
Frye’s unique skill set as a big man who can spread the floor with outside shooting was on full display. He was a tremendous complement to Phoenix’s dual point guards—Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe—in pick-and-pop scenarios.
So Channing Frye shot 46% in the pick and pop on no-dribble jumpers. 1.282 PPP.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) June 30, 2014
As Bleacher Report's Jared Dubin wrote, "Plain and simple, Frye has become one of the NBA's best jump-shooting big men over the last few years, and his prowess as a shooter does wonders for an offense. Power forwards or centers with Frye's shooting ability don't come around every day."
Adding Frye’s offensive prowess would help alleviate pressure from Stephen Curry and the rest of the offense.
Considering the outlook of the team’s incumbent star players, signing Frye—rather than giving up assets for Love—may be management’s best course of action.
Frye’s perimeter shooting, sound defense, playoff experience and veteran leadership are all qualities that make him a valued commodity on the free-agent market. He’s sure to have plenty of worthy suitors this summer, but one Warrior has already reached out.
“I’ve talked to Channing a few times,” defensive-minded swingman Andre Iguodala told Sirius XM, per the San Jose Mercury News’ Diamond Leung. “I told him how great the Bay was. I told him how his family would enjoy it. I know his family well. My family knows his family, so it wouldn’t be strangers. I would take care of him. If he needed a room, I got an extra room for him.”
Frye and Iguodala played together at the University of Arizona for two seasons from 2002-03 through 2003-04.
“I like to pass a lot,” Iguodala added. “I passed to Channing a lot in college, so Channing knows that he’ll be able to shoot the rock.”
Iggy is no longer the volume scorer and go-to offensive option that he was with the Philadelphia 76ers. As a result, it makes sense for Golden State to add dynamic scorers around his unselfish play.
Of course, Iguodala’s pitch to Frye isn’t the only reason a partnership makes sense. As Leung points out, new head coach Steve Kerr (yet another Arizona Wildcat) shares his own connection with the sharpshooter.
Before Kerr became an analyst for TNT, he was the Suns’ general manager. He brought Frye to the desert in 2009 via free agency following Channing's two-year stint with the Portland Trail Blazers. The multi-faceted big fit seamlessly into head coach Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo system. Phoenix reached the Western Conference Finals that season.
Funnily enough, Gentry signed on with Golden State to be associate head coach under Kerr. As Stephen King writes, “Ka is a wheel.”
This addition simply makes too much sense for the Warriors to ignore. Iguodala is a former teammate of Frye’s, Gentry is his former coach and Kerr is his former GM.
On top of it all, the Warriors are a genuine contender in the Western Conference.
Playing for a franchise in a position to win now carries great appeal.
Fans around the league are chomping at the bit. They want their favorite team, wherever it may be, to land Love with an enticing trade package.
Warriors players hold the opposite stance.
“I love Klay. I love playing with him as well as David Lee,” Curry said, per Leung. “Those are my teammates, the guys that I love. We’ve fought so hard the last three years together growing, and it would be very, very difficult to see that end.”
Curry’s heartfelt viewpoint joined that of Iguodala, who said, “We should not trade Klay Thompson,” per Leung.
Love is a great player, but adding him would have to come at the expense of Thompson. Risking team chemistry and breaking up the fan favorite “Splash Brothers” casts some doubt as to whether the franchise should delve deeper into negotiations with the Timberwolves.
ESPN.com's Ethan Sherwood Strauss disagrees. Although he noted the 2-guard's solid defensive play (a nice complement to Curry), he also wrote, "Thompson is not, however, an untouchable asset for Golden State. He is coveted by teams because he seems like a prototypical 'shooting guard.' He’s of the right size and, well, he shoots. For whatever reason, we’re still dividing players into five semi-arbitrary categories, which works in Thompson’s favor."
The Washington State product may be overvalued since he plays a watered-down position. Still, surrendering him and a first-round pick (which Minny wants), while also devolving his relationship with Curry, is risky business.
Golden State has yet to make a deep playoff run, but that’s partly because of the injury bug. Andrew Bogut, Lee and even Curry have been hampered in the past. Getting healthy—and adding underrated roster tweaks—could be what makes the biggest difference.
Frye a Fit?
Provided that Iguodala is recruiting Frye to the Bay Area—and that he and Curry are standing firmly in Thompson’s corner—the Dubs should consider building upon the incumbent roster. A complete overhaul may do more harm than good.
That’s where Frye comes in.
Assuming that the free-agent big man would be coming off the bench behind D-Lee and Bogut, he’d instantly add plenty of firepower to G-State’s second unit.
The Warriors could certainly use more depth—especially in the frontcourt. During the 2013-14 regular season, the Warriors bench ranked 24th by scoring 27.9 points per game, per NBA.com. Former head coach Mark Jackson relied heavily upon his starting five, which didn’t help alleviate the fatigue factor during postseason play.
Jermaine O’Neal and Marreese Speights made contributions, but losing Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack in the 2013 offseason diminished the second unit. Frye would act as an immediate upgrade who can play power forward or center—depending upon the opponent. That makes him extremely valuable as he can play center beside Lee or as a stretch 4 next to Bogut.
In either scenario, his three-point prowess puts pressure on opposing defenses and makes Golden State that much more deadly on the offensive end.
He’s never going to make the impact Love can; that’s a given. However, the perk of being able to add him while retaining Thompson, and Lee is a net positive. The San Antonio Spurs showed exactly why having depth is so important during their 2014 championship run.
That's a factor Golden State can't ignore simply to add a splashy name.
Frye anchored the Suns’ brilliant second unit in 2009-10 alongside Goran Dragic, Leandro Barbosa, Jared Dudley and Lou Amundson. Phoenix made a Western Conference Finals run as a result.
Perhaps Frye will be open to reprising his role as a bench leader under Kerr and Gentry. If he’s interested, Golden State’s front office shouldn’t hesitate to add his skill set to the fold.