It wasn't supposed to be this bad.
The Golden State Warriors weren't projected to be the world-beaters they've been the past half-decade. Still, one would think a triumvirate of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and D'Angelo Russell would be a strong enough foundation for a playoff team.
Narrator: It is not.
Four games. Three losses. Two games in which they've given up 70-plus points in a half. The Warriors haven't just looked out of character—they've been flat-out awful. They entered Wednesday night's contest with the Phoenix Suns sporting the fourth-worst net rating (minus-11.9) in the league.
Somehow, things turned for the worse.
As if losing 121-110 to the suddenly competent Suns wasn't bad enough, they lost Curry to a broken left hand in the process. The best-case scenario for this Warriors team was probably snagging a fourth, fifth or sixth seed; without Curry for an extended period of time, how do you not look toward next year's lottery?
It was clear the Warriors needed an influx of good young talent, even before the Curry injury. Outside of Russell and Kevon Looney, who's injured, there isn't a trustworthy prospect on the roster.
One remedy to that issue: selling high on 2017 Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green.
The Case for Trading Green
Green has arguably been the most indispensable piece of the Warriors' dynastic run. His rare combination of playmaking and defensive versatility helped unlock the team on both ends. He doubled as the league's most lethal short-roll threat and "middle linebacker."
Green is one of three players to average at least 10 points, seven rebounds and seven assists over the past five seasons. The other two: LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. His 2.9 "stocks" (steals plus blocks) trump everyone on that short list.
In short: Green brings a ton to the table, even if he needs a little help setting it. His floor vision and decision-making are legit pluses, though playing off the greatest shooting backcourt ever makes those reads a bit easier. With Curry and Klay Thompson out for the foreseeable future, it's fair to wonder what kind of hit his production will take.
There's also the matter of Green's mileage. He's appeared in 104 playoff games since the 2014-15 campaign, with the Warriors downsizing in a bulk of those games. Their Green-at-center lineups set the league ablaze, but there's a ton of tread on his tires. That's a bit worrisome considering his 6'6" frame—even more so once you realize he turns 30 in March.
If this season is a wash for the Warriors, you're going to be dealing with a 31-year-old Green in the first year of a four-year extension next season. He may still be a great player, but it's a dangerous bet to make for a team bereft of young talent.
Making a trade this season would be a way to cash in early while also further tanking their pick for this year's draft.
Green can't be traded yet. He signed his extension Aug. 3, meaning he can't be traded until six months from that date. That would make him trade-eligible less than a week before the Feb. 7 trade deadline.
That complicates who may be willing to give up pieces for Green. For example, it's fun to think about the upstart Suns building a package around Mikal Bridges, a slightly underutilized second-year wing with legitimate three-and-D potential. But if the Suns fall back to earth by February, it may make more sense to pass on such a win-now move.
On the flip side, more players will be available. The Dec. 15 restriction for free agents signed over the summer will be in the rearview mirror.
Within that context, let's look at some teams we can reasonably expect to be in the playoff picture that could enter the Green sweepstakes.
The Portland Trail Blazers immediately come to mind.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum desperately need a short-roll threat to counter the postseason traps they've seen over the past two years. Their best option has been Jusuf Nurkic, who's currently recovering from a gruesome leg injury. The Blazers have their first-round picks moving forward, interesting young pieces (hello, Nassir Little) and the filler salary necessary to work out a deal.
The Indiana Pacers are an interesting team to monitor as well.
Not only is the Myles Turner-Domantas Sabonis pairing a bit clunky, but the clock is also ticking on Victor Oladipo. He hits free agency in 2021, and making a win-now move for Green could make Oladipo feel a little better about the organization's aggressiveness.
It would be consistent with their moves this offseason, most notably trading for Malcolm Brogdon and TJ Warren to help with spacing and shot creation. A Sabonis-based package for Green, improbable but possible thanks to the poison-pill provision in Sabonis' extension, would give the Pacers a major boost in playmaking and defense.
It's, uh, worth noting that Green is a Klutch client. There's your obligatory Los Angeles Lakers link.
Moving Green would mark the end of the Warriors' run. Unlike Kevin Durant's departure, losing Green would be taking away a foundational piece from the best stretch in franchise history. He's the culture-setter; losing him would have ramifications that go beyond on-court play.
However, "light years ahead" is the Warriors' motto for a reason. They plan meticulously, a big reason why they were able to land Durant in the first place. Moving on from Green now would be consistent with that ethos.