Golden State Warriors Shouldn't Tinker with Greatness at NBA Trade Deadline

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Golden State Warriors Shouldn't Tinker with Greatness at NBA Trade Deadline
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Trade dialogues among NBA teams tend to pick up in January, but the Golden State Warriors should watch the impending frenzy from the sidelines.

The Warriors have been on a rampage, cruising to a 36-2 record with surprising ease while extinguishing any potential trade rumors in the process. Still, the San Antonio Spurs aren't far behind (33-6), and the Cleveland Cavaliers are charging hard (seven-game winning streak). It's easy to get a little greedy, paranoid or both when chasing an NBA championship.

While Golden State general manager Bob Myers will avoid major roster reform, he won't necessarily unplug his phone over the next month. Marreese Speights has been struggling this season, and CSN Bay Area's Monte Poole suggests the veteran could be the odd man out if the Warriors are involved in a trade:

Warriors general manager Bob Myers, like most executives, doesn’t talk trade-possibility specifics. But he surely realizes that when Curry, Thompson and Green are off the floor, scoring comes with considerable toil and strife.

The front office is studying the trade market, because if Speights can’t find his form, and soon, the Warriors will seek out another stretch four, somebody Walton or Kerr can call when they need a scoring punch.

There is an inherent risk to altering a winning formula, which is why Golden State is rightfully approaching the Feb. 19 trade deadline with caution. Unless an inexplicably great deal presents itself, standing pat appears to be the probable outcome.

 

Don't Mess with Chemistry

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Speights is understandably being singled out as the lone blot on the Warriors' roster, as the 28-year-old is in a major slump. He has lost his value a big who spots up at the elbows, connecting on just 37.8 percent of his catch-and-shoot opportunities this season, per NBA.com.

Festus Ezeli's rise has also forced Speights further down in the rotation. The veteran bounced back with two double-digit scoring performances in January but returned to a minimal role once Ezeli recovered from a toe injury.

Even so, actively shopping Speights would likely do more harm than good. His $3.8 million expiring contract is easy to move, but he is unlikely to net Golden State a valuable asset in return following the sluggish start. 

Seeking trade partners for a player who is probably the 13th-best guy on a roster is meaningless, especially if it comes at the cost of chemistry.

It's only been a year since Speights was a regular contributor, and the Warriors are a tight-knit group after an incandescent playoff run. Grantland's Andrew Sharp referred to Speights as a cult hero among teammates last season, with starting center Andrew Bogut showering his teammate with praise:

He knows he’s talented, it’s just a matter of getting in the right place, in the right situation. He comes in, ready to shoot 15 shots in 10 minutes, and that’s exactly what we want from him. His defense is a lot better this year, and he’s rebounding. Our whole bench has been huge, but he’s probably won us two or three games by himself.

Speights hasn't been that guy this year, but there probably isn't a need for him to be. Moving him could cause some wrinkled noses among Golden State players without actually improving the team's championship odds.

 

Don't Imbalance Roster Equilibrium

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

While most teams can identify conspicuous weaknesses in their respective rosters at this stage of the season, that doesn't quite apply to the Warriors. Any attempt to locate flaws in the champions is a nit-picking exercise.

Golden State's versatility allows it to adjust to any circumstances. It can morph into an unstoppable small-ball beast that can competently switch across five positions on defense. When a particular game dictates a more rugged pace, the Warriors can deploy traditional big men to match. Here is a comparison between Golden State's most-used conventional and small-ball lineups, per NBA.com:

  Off. Rtg. Def. Rtg. Net. Rtg.
Bogut-Curry-Green-Rush-Thompson 113.1 92.3 20.8
Barnes-Curry-Green-Iguodala-Thompson 152.2 89.6 62.6

The San Antonio Spurs might have passed the Warriors in net rating, but Golden State still obliterates its opposition by a ridiculous 14 points per 100 possessions this season, per NBA.com. The starters build enormous leads, and the reserves generally hold onto them.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Being balanced on both ends of the court leaves little room for improvement, at least as it pertains to roster adjustment. Every Golden State guard brings something unique to the table, whether it's a polished post game, expert shooting or pick-and-roll prowess. Subtracting any single element while introducing something unknown is risky.

The Warriors don't need anyone else when they're fully healthy, and every player on the roster is capable of carrying a heavier load when needed. Brandon Rush stepped up while Harrison Barnes was sidelined with an ankle injury for 16 games, and Ezeli has already proved to be a capable starter when Bogut was hurt. When needed, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa and even Ian Clark can shoulder more responsibility in the backcourt.

Seven out of the 14 Warriors who have stepped on the court this season have an above-average player efficiency rating, per Basketball-Reference.com. That proves how effective each player has been regardless of minutes.

(And for reference, Marreese Speights has the lowest current PER at a still-respectable 10.6. He was third on the team at 19.6 last season.)

The Spurs have been excellent for years when it comes to possessing a well-equipped roster, which typically reduces their need to actively pursue trades. The Warriors have replicated that consistency, and a lot of their success has to be attributed to the players' familiarity with the system and internal growth.

 

Warriors Have Enough

Brandon Dill/Associated Press

TNT's David Aldridge was concise in his recent assessment of Golden State's trading needs, summarizing the champion's section in one word: "Nope."

The Warriors would never dare to mess with their core. The overall skill, cohesion and camaraderie within the starting lineup is simply too potent. Exceptional bench cogs such Ezeli or last year's NBA Finals MVP, Andre Iguodala, are practically immune from any trade rumors as well.

Move further down the roster and arguing for change doesn't get any easier. You'll hardly find a more reliable veteran point guard than Livingston.

Rush and Barbosa cost the Warriors less than $4 million combined, per Basketball Insiders' salary data, and they are outperforming those figures within their limited roles. Both players are established and dependable as spot-up shooters and slashers.

In reality, Speights and Jason Thompson are the only two players whom Golden State could conceivably consider trading. Neither has secured a big role so far, but it's hard seeing potential replacements climbing higher in the Warriors' internal hierarchy. Their underwhelming numbers are a case of the Dubs having a deep roster and simply being unable to find sufficient playing time for everyone.

Trading players just for the sake of doing so doesn't make any sense. While any reasonable general manager should listen to potential offers, it would take a sensational one for the Warriors to consider making any moves.

 

All statistics referenced in the article are accurate as of Jan. 11.

You can follow me on Twitter: @VytisLasaitis

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