But there is one guy that Warrior fans have been clamoring for since the start of the free agency: Kevin Love. Love is probably the best power forward in the game and would instantly make the Warriors better on offense because of his shooting prowess from three-point range, his amazing court vision and passing abilities and the will to grab each and every rebound that comes in his path.
So why wouldn’t the Warriors pull the trigger to obtain a superstar? It is because of who Golden State would have to give up in return: Klay Thompson.
It has been reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves want Thompson in the deal along with David Lee and Harrison Barnes for Kevin Love and Kevin Martin. If the Warriors were to make this deal, they would dramatically upgrade at the power forward position and Martin could be a suitable replacement for Thompson. The Warriors are reluctant to make this deal for the simple fact that Thompson has become one of the best two-guards in the game with his shooting ability, on-the-ball defending and his new-found aggressiveness that he showed late last season. He also has allowed the Warriors’ superstar, Stephen Curry, to use all of his energy on offense because it is Klay’s job to guard the opponents’ point guard while Curry guards another perimeter player, who is usually a catch-and-shoot player who doesn’t have the ability to drive the lane.
The Warriors have countered to the Timberwolves’ offer with Lee, Harrison Barnes and a first round pick for Love and Martin. Minnesota is not as keen on the Warriors’ offer because they feel Lee is a throw-in instead of a legitimate piece to a postseason contender. If the Warriors cannot acquire Love, it won’t be a big deal because Lee is a good power forward and Thompson, Barnes and others are expected to improve next season. The Warriors already have great dynamic duo in Thompson and Curry, but would they be even better with Love in their lineup? It remains to be seen but there are positives to both scenarios.
Teaming up Curry and Love would make Golden State’s pick-and-roll game as deadly as any team in the league. Curry is already extremely efficient in the pick-and-roll without a power forward that can shoot the ball so linking him with Love makes him even more lethal. The defense would have to honor Love’s jump shot, which would create more room in the paint for the Warriors’ wings and Curry. This really hurt the Warriors in the postseason against the Clippers because Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would just collapse the paint and block anyone’s shot that dared to drive. This was extremely evident with Lee because he had lost all confidence in his mid-range game and was constantly denied by Griffin and Jordan in the paint. The Warriors had to resort to playing Draymond Green more because of his ability to make outside jumpers and three-pointers.
Love would also help the Warriors’ transition game because once he gets the rebound, he is the best outlet passer in the game, which would result in more easy looks for Curry and others. Too often the Warriors would not push the ball enough in transition and watch Curry play “hero-ball”, trying to elude all defenders in his path. Not only will Love help in the transition game, he will also improve the Warriors’ half-court offense, combining with Andrew Bogut as the best power forward-center passing combo in the NBA. He will give Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Green better looks at the rim under coach Steve Kerr’s motion offense instead of relying on isolation plays.
There will be some negatives if the Warriors were to acquire Love, and all those negatives would be on defense. Love, like Lee, is a below average defender, relying much more on his offense. Love gets almost 15 rebounds per game but cannot keep anyone in front of him. He may actually be an improvement over Lee but without Thompson and the uncertainty of Iguodala and Barnes, the Warriors’ perimeter defense drastically gets worse. Thompson’s responsibility every night was to prevent penetration by the opposing point guards and allow Curry to rest on defense. With Love in the fold, either Barnes or Iguodala will take on this role, and even though Iguodala was named to the All-Defensive First Team last season, his on-the-ball defending skills have declined. It may have been because he was battling a hamstring injury all season, but the old Iguodala would not allow JJ Redick to shoot the ball at 45 percent and contribute 15 points per game in the playoffs. Barnes, on the other hand, has shown glimpses of becoming a good defender, but will he show us the player he was at the end of his rookie season or the player he was last season? So Love would greatly improve the Golden State’s offense, but there would be some major questions on the defensive end.
Thompson and Curry are the perfect combination for one another because they are both excellent shooters, underrated penetrators and extraordinary competitors. Both of these guys can take over a game and lead his team to victory. They are the best shooters in the game which makes it a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches if both are finding their shooting touch. What makes them so good on offense can be attributed to what happens on defense.
Curry can run off of screens, pull up for jumpers and drive the lane with reckless abandon because he doesn’t have to worry about stopping opposing point guards. He leaves that job to Thompson, who does an incredible job accomplishing that goal. Thompson uses his length, strength and his quickness to stay in front of point guards, allowing Curry to spend most of his energy on offense. Curry is an improving defender but if he were to guard point guards every night, he would get torched almost every night and his offense, as a result, would suffer.
So the Warriors have a decision to make by either acquiring a superstar power forward and improving the offense exponentially while the defense suffers, or keep their star two-guard, rely on an improved offense, a stifling defense and build on the success of last year’s team. Both seem like pretty good options and Warriors fans would be happy with either one.
There is also the third scenario where Minnesota relents and takes Golden State’s counter offer, resulting in the Warriors’ very own big three, Curry, Love and Thompson. This is unlikely to happen but if it does, we won’t have to pick between the two combos, the Splash Brothers or best pick-and-pop in basketball — we will be looking at the championship contender.