The Golden State Warriors are grasping for answers this season.
During the height of the dynasty years, it was always clear who was going to start and finish games around Stephen Curry. He would be flanked by Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Either Harrison Barnes or Kevin Durant would be there. The team's traditional center would start the game (Andrew Bogut, Zaza Pachulia, Kevon Looney) and then Andre Iguodala would come in off the bench to close it in the "Death Lineup" they famously used to destroy opponents.
That rotational clarity is long gone. Steve Kerr and the Warriors nimbly navigated the uncertainty in 2022, when Jordan Poole was in-and-out of the closing lineup and they even started journeyman forward Otto Porter Jr. for multiple NBA Finals games to put away the Boston Celtics.
The Golden State Warriors don't know who to play
Whether Kerr has lost his touch or the players are too baffingly inconsistent to allow him any chance at crafting a rotation, the Warriors keep churning through different lineup combinations without figuring out who to play at which point in time.
Chris Paul has been steady as the second-unit point guard who often closes games alongside Curry. Dario Saric has natural chemistry with Paul. Brandin Podziemski has been solid no matter where in the rotation he plays.
After that? Chaos. Klay Thompson is running hot-or-cold. Draymond Green has been unavailable for much of the season. Moses Moody is being yanked in-and-out of the rotation. Jonathan Kuminga looks poised to handle a larger role, but he is bumping up against title-winning veterans in the rotation.
In particular, Kuminga and Andrew Wiggins appear to be battling for the same minutes in the rotation. Wiggins is the former All-Star and was crucial to their championship run two seasons ago, but he has also had an abysmal start to the season. Steve Kerr keeps flipping between the two players for the bulk of the minutes in any given game, and who gets to close that game depends on their audition tapes from the first three quarters.
As our site expert Peter O'Keefe wrote earlier this week, one way to alleviate that pressure is to simply play both forwards together. The results haven't been good thus far this year, but in theory, the two players should be able to pair together. Both can defend, both are athletic (Wiggins more fluid, Kuminga more explosive) and each can both shoot and attack a closeout. They have largely filled similar roles over the past couple of seasons, but with enough time together they should be able to grow comfortable with one another and give the Warriors an athletic, fast, strong pairing at the forward spots.
The issue is whether the Warriors can take the time to figure that out, or whether they will. The Athletic's Tim Kawakami wrote a piece discussing the implications if the two forwards cannot exist together, and it largely boils down to this: one of them has to go.
That's been a non-starter for a while for the Warriors. Kuminga was their best path to a future All-Star, while Wiggins signed what was seen as a value contract extension to stick with the Warriors. The team didn't want to trade him after his good-faith haircut.
Kawakami reported a fascinating piece of news, however, that throws the Warriors' path forward into chaos: the team would not see that contract as a "major barrier" to explore a Wiggins trade. He said they are no longer reluctant to trade their two-way forward.
The Warriors are open to trading Andrew Wiggins
That is massive news for the team. While theoretical trades with Wiggins involved have been bandied about since they traded for him, they were always just hypotheticals. His contract was their best matching salary for some time, and now his struggles this year have placed him firmly in the rumor mill.
There was never any indication that the Warriors were open to trading him, however. That has changed, and it means that a lot of trade possibilities have suddenly opened up. If Jonathan Kuminga outplays Wiggins over the next month, it's a very real outcome for Wiggins to be traded to another team.
Do the Toronto Raptors send Pascal Siakam to the Warriors in exchange for Wiggins and other assets, as Kawakami theorizes in his article? Would Portland swap Jerami Grant for Wiggins? Chicago and DeMar DeRozan? Can the Warriors aim even higher, for someone like Donovan Mitchell or Lauri Markkanen?
To trade for one of those players before, it likely meant moving Chris Paul to build enough salary into the deal. Now Wiggins can fill that role, and his position and track record make him an intriguing buy-low candidate for other teams. They could churn the trade market and reveal more options for the Warriors, options that truly upgrade their rotation heading into the stretch run.
The Warriors likely hope that Wiggins turns his season around, starts stringing together good games consecutively. They also hope that he and Kuminga find a way to thrive together, although that only means some other players is being forced into a smaller role or out of the rotation entirely.
The Warriors need to shake something up. They have a number of options to do so. Now one of those options is officially being placed on the negotiating table, and that could spell the end of a former Warriors All-Star's time in San Francisco.