Buzz permeated NBA circles over the past week that the Phoenix Suns are close to finding a deal for veteran Jae Crowder, who has been working out away from the team all season, staying in shape for an eventual trade.
The Suns have several suitors, including the Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors. One executive told B/R that the final result could be a multi-team trade with three, four or even five NBA franchises.
Marc Stein @TheSteinLine
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The Bucks are believed to be offering Grayson Allen, and the Hawks are shopping Bogdan Bogdanović, Justin Holiday and/or John Collins. None appear to appeal to the Suns immediately.
The Houston Rockets may be the key to a Crowder deal (along with Dario Šarić), with Kenyon Martin Jr. and Eric Gordon the potential return for Phoenix. The Rockets would want real value back, be it quality young prospects and/or draft considerations.
Working in the Warriors is harder to peg, given their prior refusal to talk trade with players like James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. Last year, Tim Kawakami of The Athletic wrote the Warriors "think Wiseman's going to be a star."
But Golden State (8-10) has looked vulnerable in the West just one year after winning a title. Is there a strong enough return that can shake loose some of the team's top prospects and help catapult the franchise back to the top of the conference?
Defense Uncharacteristically Lacking
In their title pursuit, the Warriors had the second-best defensive rating (106.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) over the regular season behind the NBA Finals runner-up Boston Celtics (106.2).
This season, the Warriors have taken a sizable step backward to 27th with a defensive rating of 114.1.
"The Warriors let their bench go in free agency and are hurting," a Western Conference executive said, noting the team hasn't adequately replaced Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. "I like Moody, but the verdicts are still out on Wiseman and Kuminga."
While Crowder is just 6'6", he plays bigger than his height. He's built a reputation as a versatile, multi-positional defender who can hold his own against some of the league's power wings like LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
He may be the closest available replacement to what the Warriors lost in Payton and Porter, but would the team be willing to give up multiple young prospects for Crowder? It might not without filling an additional hole in the roster.
Warriors Need Size
Kevon Looney is a championship role player, but he and Draymond Green seem overmatched by the league's size. The Warriors were seventh in the league in rebounds a year ago but have fallen to 25th overall. Golden State needs additional help up front, and Wiseman doesn't appear ready to fill that gap.
Can the team straddle "winning now" while concurrently developing stars of tomorrow?
Beyond adding a versatile defensive wing in Crowder, competing executives believe the Warriors covet additional size in a player like Jakob Poeltl of the San Antonio Spurs or Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers.
The Spurs cannot give Poeltl an adequate extension (limited to just under $13 million) and face losing him as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Unlike Turner, Poeltl may be more readily available as San Antonio (6-12) focuses on a rebuild.
The Pacers (10-6) are hesitant to break up the core after a solid start to the season. Several teams have long pursued Turner, including the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers. But it's well known around the league that Pacers governor Herb Simon finds tanking distasteful and almost always pushes for his front office to make a credible run at the playoffs.
Indiana may not be readily willing to reverse course; Poeltl's apparent availability may thrust him to the top of the Warriors' list. To acquire Poeltl and Crowder, Golden State would need to send out nearly $16 million in salary.
Recently signed free agents cannot be included in any trades until December 15 (Donte DiVincenzo, JaMychal Green), December 26 (Andre Iguodala) or January 15 (Looney). Andrew Wiggins, who recently signed an extension, cannot be dealt this season. But Jordan Poole, who received a rookie-scale extension, is trade-eligible (although the math is complicated, and he's unlikely to be expendable to the Warriors).
Leaving the team's three stars out of the equation (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green), that leaves Patrick Baldwin Jr., Ryan Rollins and the Warriors' three top prospects in Wiseman, Kuminga and Moody.
Wiseman would be necessary to include to make the numbers work before December 15. Additionally, the Warriors must include Kuminga and at least one of the remaining three prospects—or the team could keep Kuminga and send Moody with Baldwin and Rollins.
For instance, the Spurs could land Wiseman and Rollins, while the Rockets get Kuminga, Šarić (from Phoenix) and a $4.6 million trade exception. Or Kuminga stays with the Warriors, which would mean Moody and Baldwin (or Rollins) ends up in Houston and Wiseman and Rollins (or Baldwin) ends up in San Antonio.
Giving up two of their three top prospects would be a massive concession for the Warriors; one ownership would not do lightly. Wiseman was the No. 2 overall selection in 2020, and both Kuminga (No. 7) and Moody (No. 14) were lottery picks in 2021.
Kuminga and Moody got to play more last year after the Warriors started 18-2, and Wiseman got lots of run as a rookie when expectations for the team were lower because Thompson was out for the season. But now, after a championship and the slow start to the 2022-23 campaign, competing executives wonder how long the franchise can hold out with the risk of prematurely letting the Curry era end.
Crowder, 32, may not have as many years ahead of him as the team's prospects, but he's a win-now piece. While the Suns may not love the idea of sending Crowder to a conference rival, that may not be enough of an obstacle if the team can add both Gordon and Martin in return.
It's Poeltl (27) who might move the needle for the Warriors to let some of the future aspirations go to focus earnestly on repeating. Crowder may not have Wiseman's "star" power, but in reality, Wiseman may not have it either.
And Poeltl could give the Warriors a vital piece in the middle, not only for years to come but right now when the team needs it most.