After an incredible 51-win campaign that ended in a seven game series and a first round loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Golden State Warriors head into the offseason with an unfamiliar mindset: “Win now.”
With back-to-back playoff berths for the first time since the 1992 season, the Warriors are in a golden era, and are considered a potential championship contender rather than the perennial lottery bound team. In the astonishingly competitive Western Conference that saw a 48-win team miss the playoffs, the Warriors are caught in an arms race to bring in elite players who might be able to bring this franchise a sorely needed title. Already flaunting a roster that includes sharpshooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, it is no surprise that the Warriors top the short list of Kevin Love suitors.
If Love is to become the newest member of the Warriors, expectations for the coming 2014-15 season would shoot through the roof. With an All-NBA caliber offense around Curry and Love combined with an All-NBA caliber defense in Andrew Bogut, Thompson and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors would instantly become favorites against even the strongest teams in the NBA. So it makes sense that the front office is publicly doing all it can to bring in Love.
However, it would be a mistake to give up the multi-talented Thompson to get the deal done. Thompson must be considered a franchise player if the Warriors want to maintain a winning organization. Iguodala was brought in to be the defensive anchor on the wing to balance Bogut’s interior presence. As the season unfolded, Thompson has taken over this role and has flourished into a defensive stud. The Warriors often relied on Thompson to blanket any play-making point guards and to cover prolific shooters. They played defense as well as any other team last year and the majority of the credit goes to Thompson.
Not only has Thompson developed into a big-bodied defender capable of defending any opponent’s best perimeter player, but he is also becoming a dangerous slasher capable of penetrating the defense and creating space for his teammates. The offense last year was stagnant to say the least, but Thompson has shown throughout the season that he is becoming more comfortable attacking the rim and relying less on his shot. He has all the physical capabilities to overmatch any shooting guard in the league and has already developed a shooter’s reputation to rival teammate Curry. While Curry will continue to dazzle and shoot at historic rates, Thompson will be the key in keeping a star-studded offense running smoothly.
Kevin Love provides an immediate upgrade to David Lee, and while Love’s skill set is an uncanny fit for the Warriors’ needs, Thompson’s absence negates any real progress from Love’s addition. The long-suffering fans are probably anxiously demanding any blockbuster move that may help bring the Warriors to the top, but it is important to recognize how much this team has already improved.
The risk of regression outweighs any significant improvement, both offensively and defensively, and the Warriors would be better off rejecting any trade involving Klay Thompson.