When the Golden State Warriors drafted sharpshooter Klay Thompson out of Washington State two years ago, one would be hard-pressed to conceive a situation in which Thompson might be dealt after playing just a season and a half in the blue and gold.
According to several reports, however, that scenario has more than a puncher’s chance of playing out very shortly, with Thompson involved in a rumored trade for New Orleans Hornets’ guard Eric Gordon.
There are so many dimensions to this potential deal that it is difficult to know where to begin. Perhaps the best starting point is the question “Why?” Thompson’s game has improved dramatically from his rookie season, with the second-year shooting guard averaging 16.4 points per game over 35 minutes per contest. When he’s on, the Warriors become one of the better scoring teams in the league. Among Warriors, only Stephen Curry represents a bigger threat from behind the three-point arc.
The answer to “why?” may be the same response used when Golden State traded Monta Ellis to Milwaukee. As noted by KNBR radio host Larry Kruger on the “Gary and Larry” morning radio show in the Bay Area, Thompson’s “people” believe that Klay’s style may not mesh with Curry’s, hinting that the Warriors’ backcourt cannot co-exist. That notion is easy for fans to dismiss, but think of it this way: how effective could you be at your job if you had someone working in the cubicle next to you with a nearly identical skill set? What if you and the co-worker constantly clamored for the same projects, the same tasks, but your boss continued to defer (for the most part) to the slightly more experienced employee?
(Apologies to those of you that don’t work in cubicles.)
Then there’s the other half of this rumor. Eric Gordon would add a potentially dynamic presence to the Warriors’ roster, but also a handful of question marks. Just one year older than Thompson, Gordon has shown flashes of brilliance, evidenced by a 45 percent field goal rate in 224 career games. The league knows he can play, too, something made clear when New Orleans demanded Gordon in the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Clippers.
Unfortunately, injuries have plagued Gordon throughout his short career. The 24-year old guard has only played 19 games this season due to a variety of ailments, and past concerns have scared many a team away from attempting to acquire his talents. With Curry presenting his own risks, it would be a slightly shaky proposition at best for Golden State to hedge its bets on a starting backcourt that isn’t exactly a bastion of health.
Then there’s the money. Gordon doesn’t have what many would call an agreeable contract, which could ultimately be the biggest snag. The Hornets’ guard is currently in year one of a 4-year, $58 million contract. If you’re going to take that on, you’d better be darn sure you’re going to get your money’s worth. In a salary-capped league, Golden State could find itself stuck with all those dollars on the bench and nowhere to unload them. Even if Gordon remains healthy, is he so much of a better player that it would be worth spending the extra money on him, regardless of how Thompson “meshes” with Curry?
Additionally, because of the great disparity between Thompson’s and Gordon’s contracts, Golden State would have to unload another player. Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio cited league sources saying that Andris Biedrins or Richard Jefferson could become the extra piece. At the very least, a Thompson-Gordon swap could assuage the nation of Biedrins haters that have accumulated amongst the Warriors fan base.
In this writer’s opinion, the trade is unlikely to happen for several reasons, the most pressing of which are Gordon’s health, his contract and the fact that Thompson could emerge as a star within the next year. He may already be a better defender than Gordon is and appears to only be getting better with experience. If the deal does indeed happen, it will be a polarizing one, but until they cross that bridge, the Warriors must retain focus and shake off the malaise of a six-game losing streak that no trade in the world is going to fix by itself.