Should Golden State Warriors Join the Paul George Sweepstakes Next Offseason?

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 16, 2017

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 5:  Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors and Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers before the game against the Indiana Pacers on December 5, 2016 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/Getty Images

The mere whisper of Paul George in the Bay Area a year from now proves the Golden State Warriors have reached the Jurassic Park stage of organizational omnipotence.

Isn't that right, 1993's Jeff Goldblum?

The Warriors could do this.

The Dubs have achieved such success, have done the improbable so many times, have so consistently pushed the right buttons, that their shot to get George next summer—mentioned by The Athletic's Tim Kawakami in June and repeated later with the Washington Post's Tim Bontemps—cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Not after they added Kevin Durant in 2016, and especially not as they take step after step toward full-on marquee-franchise status. The talent on the floor is one thing, but the front-office wizardry, the tech Mecca location, the new San Francisco arena under construction and the comically ambitious ownership are entirely different. The Warriors are hurtling toward history, and soon we'll see them connected to every star with an itch to switch teams.

If it is not impossible, we must assume the Warriors can do it. And if it is impossible...maybe we still shouldn't rule it out.

Because Golden State won 73 games, and then this happened:

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 7:  Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant and General Manager Bob Myers display the jersey of Kevin Durant #35 Golden State Warriors during the press conference to introduce Kevin Durant on July 7, 2016 in Oak
Noah Graham/Getty Images

In the context of George, the appropriate question is not whether Golden State can pull this off but whether it should.

A hypothetical transaction situated a full year into the future could obviously take several forms. The particulars of getting George would depend on whether he opted into the final year of his deal, opted out or angled for a sign-and-trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Warriors could move any number of players to clear space or match salaries in a trade, but the likeliest player to go would be Klay Thompson.

Stephen Curry, Durant and Draymond Green are too valuable to move.

If we dial in the could/should question to fit this assumption, we're asking: When a team is as talented as the Warriors, do fit and chemistry matter more than adding an objectively superior player?

George is a borderline superstar, comfortably situated somewhere among the league's top 15 players. He can run an offense, score at three levels and defend the opponent's best wing. You can go a long way if he's your best player, as the Indiana Pacers showed in 2013 and 2014 when they reached the conference finals. Terrific as Thompson is, he's not leading a team to the postseason's penultimate round.

But...there's also nobody quite like the Warriors shooting guard, an archetypal three-and-D weapon (heavy on the three) who's fully satisfied being the third option. Oh, sure, he's capable of scoring 60 in 29 minutes or piling up 37 in a quarter. But he's also cool knowing he'll never be the man on his team.

"I don't feel like I sacrificed at all," Thompson told ESPN's Zach Lowe of his first season with Durant in Golden State. "I'd rather be a part of something that could leave a legacy. There is more to basketball than getting yours, or being the guy. I hope I do this for a long time for the Warriors."

Contrast that with comments George made after a playoff loss in which he gave up the ball in the closing seconds and watched C.J. Miles miss a potential game-winning jumper, via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

George isn't wrong, but the absence of sentiments like those are part of what make the Warriors who they are. And Thompson, though perhaps an objectively inferior player on balance, subscribes to beliefs diametrically opposed to George's.

Good luck finding another All-Star with an approach like Thompson's.

George, though, offers a noteworthy selling point.

He's younger than both Stephen Curry and Durant, and adding him would do more than augment the already unfair levels of talent in Golden State. It would also create a possible bridge to the next era of dominance. Because as Curry and/or Durant theoretically hit the downslopes of their careers, George would be ready to take over.

Adding him at the expense of Thompson might constitute a dynasty-prolonging move.

Then again, if George is the Warriors' best player a few years from now, the team probably isn't going to win a title unless it has perfect role-fillers alongside him—guys like Green...and Thompson.

The Warriors' recent transactional history adds an extra layer of intrigue to the George question. They've expressed an "add talent and ask questions later" ethos before.

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 04:  Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors talks to Kevin Durant #35 during their preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers at ORACLE Arena on October 4, 2016 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly a
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

"You don't even think about it," head coach Steve Kerr told Lowe of the Durant acquisition. "You think, basically, it's a miracle: 'Holy s--t, we are getting KD to this team.'"

At the same time, the Warriors famously declined to trade Thompson for Kevin Love in 2014. Back then, Love was regarded as the superior player, but Golden State didn't like the fit. Oh, and the fact that the Dubs also reportedly turned down a Thompson-for-George swap in July seems relevant. Maybe the calculus changes if the Warriors don't think they're moving on from Thompson for a one-year rental of George's services.

But should it?

It's intoxicating to imagine George's ability to wreak havoc on defense and create scoring chances with versatility and flow Thompson could never match. Picturing George on the floor with Curry, Andre Iguodala, Durant and Green in the mother of all hybrid, positionless lineups is like looking into the league's future.

The raw star power would be stunning, and you know the Warriors, an organization that has seamlessly integrated huge names already, would have to be confident in their ability to do it again.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 24: Draymond Green #14, Kevin Durant #5 and Paul George #13 of the USA Basketball Men's National Team are seen against China at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

But step back, and try to understand the reason the Warriors are in a position where everyone seems obtainable and the most fanciful dreams appear feasible is because they've been as calculating as they've been bold.

Sure, they added Durant, a superstar Kerr admitted was so objectively brilliant as to make fit a secondary concern. But they also knew he wanted to be a part of an egalitarian basketball experience. It wasn't a thoughtless talent grab, no matter what Kerr says.

The Warriors are great enough as they are. They fit together perfectly, and re-stirring the mix by adding George would be a risk. That's not to say they should avoid tinkering forever, riding this core into the ground and starting over when it's all done.

They can make tweaks and even take big swings, but they don't have to force it. They can wait until something as obviously beneficial as signing Durant comes along.

The real takeaway here is the Warriors, an organization with more talent and cultural cache than any other, are now in a position where they can reasonably expect something better.


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