Prior to this past NBA trade deadline, the Golden State Warriors explored the idea of trading a package that centered around Klay Thompson for the New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon. While Gordon is an excellent player in his own right, the Warriors would be making a huge mistake to part with one of their key pieces this early on in his career.
Let’s go back to summer of 2007, hot off the unbelievable second round “We Believe” run. The Warriors looked like the next hot upstart team that could push to win a division title or at least consistently compete for a playoff spot.
Then, the unraveling began.
First, it was the questionable trade of their star shooting guard Jason Richardson to the Charlotte Bobcats for the draft rights to Brandan Wright. This was the first domino of many that took the Warriors from being the next big thing back to annual visitors to the draft lottery.
The point is that Chris Cohan, the former owner of the Warriors, cut costs at the expense of both keeping talent and chemistry. While making a trade for Eric Gordon wouldn’t be to cut costs (it would actually do the opposite), the idea is that Cohan didn’t allow the “We Believe” squad to grow together, to cultivate a culture for a few seasons and blossom into a West Coast powerhouse. This could be the exact mistake the Warriors’ current regime would be making by trading for the injury prone Gordon.
One factor that made the 2012-13 Warriors so exciting was that the group played better collectively than as a sum of their parts. The team chemistry was among some of the most positive between any group in the NBA. While Gordon is not necessarily a “chemistry-killer”, the concept of trading one of the building blocks of the franchise sends a message to the entire roster that anyone can be moved so don’t feel too loyal to this team, because we won’t be loyal to you.
Thompson was hand chosen by Joe Lacob and Bob Myers, and any major changes could entirely disrupt the stellar chemistry accumulated from this past season. Not a knock on Gordon, but on moving any important Warriors player for an outsider.
Now, this is where the Gordon supporters start bringing up his numbers, but there’s only one number that factors into the Warriors’ decision when deciding whether or not to trade for him: $58 million. That’s how big Gordon’s mini-max extension is and he will be making $14.2 million next year, with an increasing salary every year until 2016. Adding a player with this type of salary would annihilate the Warriors’ salary cap. In comparison, Thompson is still on his rookie deal and will only make $3.2 million next year, with his salary increasing about a million a season through 2016.
Obviously, the Warriors would have to send a package to New Orleans to match the salaries, meaning the Pelicans would likely have to take either Andris Biedrins or Richard Jefferson’s massive contract off the Warriors’ hands, but this would be the only benefit of any sort of deal the Pelicans could offer the Warriors.
Throughout his five-year career, Gordon has had much difficulty staying on the court, averaging only 49.4 games per season. He missed basically the entire lockout season, and has dealt with everything from sore knees to major ankle tears. If only one thing is for sure about Thompson’s career, it’s that he’s been able to stay on the floor (he has yet to miss a game in his professional career).
After what Thompson showed what he can do on the defensive end of the court in the playoffs, the Warriors must know that he has a higher upside than Gordon ever did. Standing at 6’7″, hw has the ability to guard three different positions and showed that he may be the best two-way wing player in the league. Gordon has shown that while he is a competent defender, he is not the elite stopper that Thompson has the potential to become because of his length, quickness, lateral movement, and size.
What Thompson lacks in dribble drive moves he makes up for in high three-point percentage. Gordon may have a better handle of the basketball and can create shots for others, but his elite three-point shooting makes up for almost any deficit in his offensive game. Although he consistently makes head scratching plays, Thompson will eventually learn to value the ball and once he figures this out, he has the chance to be the best two guard in the NBA.
What the Warriors would have to give up to get a player like Eric Gordon would be one of their premier building blocks for the future. If the piece the Pelicans demand is Klay Thompson, the Warriors should balk at the trade and keep their cheaper and higher upside player in Thompson.