The 2014 NBA Draft is over and done with, and for many teams, the draft was the sole highlight from the season. The Warriors had no picks in this draft, having traded their 1st rounder to Utah as part of the Andre Igoudala deal. That said, the draft may have caused several ripple effects for the Warriors.
Warriors Remain Front Runners for Kevin Love
Prior to the draft beginning, the Warriors were one of many teams vying for Kevin Love. Boston and Chicago were rumored to be heavy favorites to land the star power forward. Boston was reportedly willing to offer their #6 and #17 picks, along with some young players; while Chicago offered Taj Gibson, Tony Snell and its #16 and #19 picks.
The Warriors weren’t able to offer any draft picks due to the “Stepien Rule”, which forbids teams from trading picks in consecutive drafts. So until after the 2014 Draft was concluded, the Warriors would not be able to move their 2015 1st rounder. As the draft went on, neither of the teams rumored to be making a deal for Love was able to seal it. The Celtics and the Bulls made their picks, and so did Minnesota.
As such, the Warriors should now be firm favorites to land Love. The Celtics offered the Timberwolves their lottery pick, and the Wolves said no. The Bulls traded their #16 and #19 for #11 (another lottery pick), which could’ve been conveyed to the Wolves in a Love trade. But neither of these scenarios worked out. Many have argued that the Bulls’ and Celtics’ trade packages were more attractive than what the Warriors’ could offer, but yet, the Wolves are still more interested in the Warriors’ trade package. The Warriors can now offer their 2015 pick – which could very well be a deal sweetener for the Wolves. The clock has truly been reset, and the Warriors no longer have their hands tied behind their backs.
Do not be surprised if the Love deal is finally concluded with a 2015 pick exchanging hands.
Celtics Draft Two Guards
The Celtics drafted Marcus Smart and James Young with their #6 and #17 picks, respectively. A lot has been made of these picks, and rightfully so, as the Celtics have been rumored to be trying to move Rajon Rondo. However, the Warriors should pay more attention to their other starting guard: Avery Bradley.
Bradley will be a restricted free agent this summer after the Celtics extended a qualifying offer to him. The Celtics have been hard to read lately, with many unsure of whether they’re planning to rebuild or to contend next season. By drafting two young guards (both of whom can play either guard position), they might not feel the need to keep Bradley around.
Bradley is 23 years old, and has already established a reputation as being one of the best perimeter on-ball defenders in the league. His long wingspan allows him to contest shots and affect plays from behind. Many will remember his battles with Dwyane Wade in the 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, when he was only in his 2nd year in the league. He may struggle offensively at times (43% on field goal), but showed well last season when Brad Stevens, the Celtics’ head coach, relied more on Bradley to take the lead on offense (5% increase in usage rate to 23.1%). His defensive numbers suffered last year, but the Celtics, in general, struggled defensively. There are some lingering concerns with his health, as he has never played more than 64 games a season (64 in the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season).
If the Warriors end up losing Klay Thompson in the Kevin Love trade, Bradley would be a suitable replacement for Thompson. Bradley would help cover up any defensive deficiencies the loss of Thompson might bring, and while he may not be as accurate from three-point range as Thompson is, he has proven he can shoot it from distance (40% on threes).
The Warriors should inquire the Celtics to see if they would be willing to do a sign-and-trade. Bradley was earning $2.5 million last season, and the Warriors should see if he is obtainable for under $5 million a season.
Wolves Draft Zach LaVine
The Wolves have been very adamant that Klay Thompson must be part of the Kevin Love trade, while the Warriors have repeatedly disagreed. Thompson seems to be the key to the trade, the final piece that neither team is willing to give up.
However, the Wolves threw a curveball during the Draft by drafting Zach LaVine – the shooting guard from UCLA. LaVine is an athletic, high upside player who excels at shooting threes. The pick confused many, especially those that were under the impression the Wolves were high on Thompson.
By drafting a shooting guard with a similar skill set, the Wolves may have finally given up on acquiring Thompson. Perhaps they have relented to the Warriors’ resolve and will work on a different trade package. If so, this is good news to the Warriors. They can now acquire Love while keeping Thompson – a win-win situation for them. The locker room morale may suffer, but reports detailing the Warriors insistence on keeping Thompson may help quicken the healing.
However, the reverse could also be true. By doing this, the Wolves may have sent out a warning to the Warriors – by simply removing the need for a quality shooting guard, the Wolves may have invited other teams to offer up other trade packages while the Warriors lose possibly their best trade asset. This may not necessarily cause the Warriors to fall out of contention of Love, as he has stated he would like to play in California, but rather ignite more urgency within the Warriors.
Whatever the Wolves’ intentions, we may all look back at the LaVine selection as a key moment in the Love trade saga.