The Golden State Warriors played impressive basketball that shocked the league this past season. Earning a playoff berth and advancing to the second round was beyond anybody’s expectation. And now, expectations are rising for the young Warriors, from both their fans and analysts.
However, the Warriors may find it difficult to attain the same level of success in the 2013-14 season. According to Hoopshype, the Warriors have the sixth highest payroll next season at roughly $75 million. With the possible departures of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, it may be hard to retain their two primary bench contributors.
The only feasible way for the Warriors to retain Jack and Landry would be to trade the dreadful contracts of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson. Their contracts may be appealing because they will expire after the season, but no team is willing to overpay a benchwarmer. If the Warriors want to send away Biedrins and/or Jefferson, they must package a young talent to make teams more interested.
Looking down the roster, the Warriors have a lot of young talent that can be valuable trade assets. However, some players are claimed “untouchable,” like Stephen Curry, for instance. Role players like Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli are not enough to convince teams that they are worth the trouble of taking on expensive contracts. That leaves us with Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, who are both no strangers to trade rumors.
In just two seasons, Thompson has knocked down 322 three-pointers on 40.6 percent shooting. In the Game 2 of the Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs, Thompson hit 8-of-9 from beyond the arc, and ended the night with 34 points.
But there is more to his offense then his three-point shooting ability. Thompson displayed his capability of creating his own shots and shooting off the dribble throughout the season. Although he has trouble finishing, he has shown that he can get to the basket. His progress from only being a “catch-and-shoot” player to an all-around scorer is increasing. His offensive abilities are just part what makes him a great player.
On the defensive end, he was the Warriors’ best perimeter defender this past season. Coach Mark Jackson confidently assigned Thompson to cover the elite guards, such as Kobe Bryant, James Harden and Dwayne Wade. His 6’7, 210-pound frame gives him the prototypical shooting guard size to defend all of the two guards.
Thompson has been included in a couple of trade rumors. The first rumor to surface was the Warriors shopping him for New Orleans Pelicans’ Eric Gordon. The other rumor was that the Oklahoma City Thunder first called the Warriors about a Thompson-Harden trade. Obviously, both trades did not go through, but it does show that teams are interested in Thompson.
During the regular season, Barnes was not given much of an opportunity to showcase his talents. He averaged just 9.2 points in 25.4 minutes per game. Granted he was a rookie, but everyone, and even himself, expected more out of the seventh overall pick.
In the playoffs, it was a completely different story. With the absence of Lee, Barnes took full advantage of extra playing time and produced to the expectations everyone had. Barnes increased his scoring average by seven points per game, and also posted back-to-back 20-point games against the Spurs.
Although Barnes has potential that is far from being achieved, his coming out party in the playoffs shows his potential. From attacking the rim to his shooting touch from outside, Barnes’ scoring variety make him tough to defend. His athleticism is also tough for most forwards to keep with, and his size is overpowering against smaller defenders.
What makes Barnes most alluring to general mangers is that he is just 21 years old. Recently earning praise from Kobe Bryant, he has the potential to be the next elite superstar in the NBA.
Barnes was involved in a trade rumor with Boston Celtics about an exchange for Paul Pierce. The Celtics offered to also take Biedrins or Jefferson, but the Warriors declined the trade.
So, who is a more valuable trading chip, Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes?
Barnes is easily the more valuable trading chip. At such a young age, he has the skills to produce now, but also the potential to look forward to. With his demeanor and attitude towards the game, Barnes can be a franchise player if given the opportunity.
If a trade were to happen, teams may be inclined to give up or take more (meaning both Biedrins and Jefferson) for Harrison Barnes rather than Klay Thompson.