Could the Warriors really trade Klay Thompson?
It may be that the Warriors' front office and new general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. are not even considering it. That no matter what happens, they will allow this trio to ride off into the sunset together. That it's better to fall short together than to aim higher apart.
The nasty truth, however, is that the Warriors and Klay Thompson are hurtling toward a painful summer. Thompson is going to want to be paid like a player who won four titles for this team; the front office will want to value him like the aging, slowed-down, streaky shooter that he has become.
Those free agent negotiations will likely come after the end of the Warriors' season. Stephen Curry is having another Top-10 season, the league's best shooter and a truly unique superstar for bending defenses and elevating his team.
Yet he has not had a reliable running mate this year. Klay is shooting just 38.8 percent from the field; his 36.8 percent from 3-point range is pedestrian, but his ice-cold diet of 2-point jumpers is killing his efficiency and the Warriors' offense with it. He has started to turn it up after a frigid start, but his game-high for the year remains just 23; he has scored that much in a single quarter five times in his career (and once famously dropped 37 in a single frame).
Thompson is a worse defender than he once was, relegated to surviving on larger forwards but otherwise a weak link in the chain. His steals are down to career-worst levels. Even his volume of shots is down, even if his volume of bad shots doesn't appear to be.
If Klay were any other player, the trade rumors would be as thick as the fog over the San Francisco Bay. He makes $43.2 million this season, prime matching salary in a blockbuster trade for the Warriors to get an offensive running mate for Curry. They could move Thompson to a team that needs his shooting, attach an asset, and get back a more dynamic on-ball scorer to keep defenses honest.
If the Warriors were to do that, however, the shockwaves would be massive. Fans would be upset. Teammates would be upset. The resulting issues with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green could be catastrophic to the future of this franchise. Thompson himself would likely be crushed.
Yet at the same time, what is the Warriors' best path out of this mess? Steve Kerr is afraid to sit Klay during crunch time even if it's the smart move, for fear of what it will do to his psyche. It's not Klay's fault he is a significant step slower after his two leg injuries, but it's the reality. If the name on the back of his jersey read "Bo Cruz" instead of "Thompson" then he would likely already be gone.
Klay has meant a lot to this franchise, and the heights they have achieved together are truly in the clouds. Trading him may be the only way back to those clouds. It would also be the deepest, nastiest backstabbing an NBA franchise has ever pulled off.