Will Golden State Warriors Regret Not Going Harder After Kevin Love Trade?

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2014

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Kevin Love's future is coming into focus, and the Golden State Warriors no longer appear part of the picture.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst report that: "The Minnesota Timberwolves were engaged in serious Kevin Love trade talks with no teams other than the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, adding to the growing belief around the NBA that Love teaming up with LeBron James is inevitable, sources have told ESPN.com."

Stein and Windhorst add, "Those sources say the Chicago Bulls have become increasingly pessimistic about their chances of trumping Cleveland's offer, while the Golden State Warriors remained unwilling to bend on their longstanding refusal to surrender Klay Thompson in a deal for Love."

The time for Golden State to reconsider its stance on dealing Thompson appears to have come and gone.

Back in June, Stein and ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne noted "what is being described as an 'organizational split' on the willingness to part with prized shooting guard Klay Thompson, according to sources close to the process."

Given the latest revelations, it's become increasingly clear which side of that "organizational split" won out.

Even if Golden State reversed course on its position, Love's future in Cleveland may now be a foregone conclusion.

Stein and Windhorst explain, "The Warriors conceivably could still give Cleveland something to worry about if they suddenly put Thompson on the table while the Cavs are waiting for Wiggins to become trade eligible, but sources say Taylor prefers a package headlined by Wiggins to a Thompson-led haul for Love."

That likely has to do with Wiggins' intriguing upside—and the fact he'll remain on an affordable rookie contract for the near future.

So it should come as no surprise that the Pioneer-Press' Charley Walters recently reported, "The Timberwolves say now that they expect to trade disgruntled all-star Kevin Love and that a deal is expected Aug. 23 or Aug. 24."

Walters adds, "The August dates for a trade are because that's when the Cleveland Cavaliers officially can deal their first-round draft pick, Andrew Wiggins, to the Wolves."

In other words, this seems to be all but a done dealand the Warriors are on the outside looking in.

After acquiring Andre Iguodala in the summer of 2013, Golden State's roster hasn't undergone much change during the current offseason (aside from adding Shaun Livingston and Brandon Rush). The big development was the ouster of head coach Mark Jackson and subsequent hiring of TV analyst Steve Kerr.

The organization appears to be banking on the possibility that new leadership will make the most of a core that's already proven it can compete in a crowded Western Conference.

Golden State pushed the Finals-bound San Antonio Spurs to a sixth game in the 2013 conference semifinals and was narrowly defeated by the Los Angeles Clippers in a seven-game first-round series this season. 

It's tempting to believe Love could push this team to another level. Solid as power forward David Lee has been for the Warriors, Love is a franchise-changing star with the unique status as a dominant rebounder and exceptional three-point shooter.

Love's ability to spread the floor from the 4-spot has become especially valuable in a league increasingly dictated by floor spacing.

There's little doubt he would improve the Warriors on paper, ensuring a second superstar to carry the load along with point guard Stephen Curry.

But the on-paper dimension to adding Love would only be half the story. As recent title-worthy success by the Spurs and Dallas Mavericks suggests, winning in this league isn't a question of star power alone. It also has plenty to do with more intangible variables like continuity and chemistry.

From that perspective, there's certainly some risk to parting ways with Thompson and others—all the more so in the wake of the franchise's decision to part ways with Jackson. There's a very real danger in shaking things up too much and potentially jeopardizing a growing collective confidence that's been years in the making.

After Jackson was fired, Curry told the San Jose Mercury-News' Marcus Thompson II, "It’s difficult, but it’s good to know what the next direction is. It’s still kind of stressful knowing how it all went down."

Later in May, Curry added, per the Associate Press (h/t ESPN.com), "There's no sugarcoating it -- it was a weird, expedited situation that we didn't see coming."

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 29: Mark Jackson of the Golden State Warriors directs Stephen Curry #30 during Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on April 29, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE
Noah Graham/Getty Images

The AP added that, "Curry said his support of Jackson stems from their bond off the court and his memories of the organization before the coach arrived: a lot of losses -- and two ankle surgeries -- under Don Nelson and Keith Smart."

Though Curry and Co. have seemingly embraced Kerr and understand the organization's thinking, it may be unwise to test their resolve any further. Therein lies one of the principal difficulties with trading Thompson.

Per the Bay Area News Group's Diamond Leung, teammate Andre Iguodala told Sirius XM, "We should not trade Klay Thompson," adding, "Klay is my main man. I love Klay to death. One of my favorite people in the world even though he doesn’t speak."

According to Leung, Curry expressed a similar sentiment in June:

I love Klay. I love playing with him as well as David Lee. 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. As great as Kevin Love is, it would be very hard to see your teammates and your brothers leave at this time. So we'll see what happens, but it'd definitely be a tough situation.

This is where the argument for Golden State's on-paper improvement arguably falls apart. In addition to the broader advantages associated with preserving a club's chemistry and corporate knowledge, acquiring Love would pose a very real and unambiguous threat to this team's mental state.

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 1: Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors prior to the game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena on May 1, 2014 in Oakland, California.
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

There's another reason the Warriors may thank themselves for maintaining the status quo.

Together, Curry and Thompson form what just might be the best backcourt in the league. They combined to average over 42 points per game last season, cementing their status as prolific scorers entering the primes of their careers.

While Love would easily replace Thompson's production, the rotation would suddenly miss one of the game's emergent two-way weapons on its wing. It's doubtful that new acquisitions like Livingston or Rush would fill that void. And while Iguodala is a talented defender and playmaker, he wouldn't compensate for Thompson's three-point prowess.

In other words, the Warriors would essentially be exchanging one floor-spacer for another, losing valuable depth in the process.

A deal for Love might still yield a net talent upgrade, but it probably wouldn't be as dramatic as some might suspect. The question then becomes whether a marginal step forward is worth the risk of taking a significant step back in terms of morale.

Though we can only speculate about the details of the organization's internal thought process, the outcome of its deliberations doesn't appear in doubt.

Bemoaning Golden State's risk aversion is one way to react, but perhaps we should instead praise its commitment to building upon a successful foundation. As currently constituted, the Warriors are probably closer to greatness than their 2013-14 record suggests. 

Even as the franchise's impending marriage to Klay Thompson will prove Love-less, it could also prove rewarding. The Warriors aren't nearly broken enough to warrant such a radical fix.