Monday, February 18, 2013

Unpopular Warriors Trade Deadline Opinion Alert

Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry are two of the biggest reasons for the Warriors success but there may be only one way for them to help in the future. Whether it be this week or the end of the season saying goodbye to these guys will be tough.
By Justin Taylor

Last week when I wrote about trading Klay Thompson the feedback came fast and furious. I would venture to say that most of the people who were calling me names and insulting my intelligence didn’t actually read the article. They probably saw the headline or the subhead and decided that Trapped in Golden State is a waste of time. I’m not saying they’re wrong but if they had read the piece they’d know that it was mostly an exercise in why you keep Klay and continue to let him grow in Oakland. With that being said, I can’t imagine what I’ll be called when I say that the Warriors should be looking long and hard at moving Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack at the trade deadline.

I'm not advocating that a trade be made just for the sake of making a trade but the questions are begging to be asked. What is more important right now, this year or the next four years? Are we done acquiring assets to build a contender because we’ve played one solid half season of basketball? Are we better off limiting future flexibility by paying market price for the dynamic bench duo at seasons end, letting them walk for no compensation or trying to leverage them into more than just a one year rental? I may be laughed off the internet and banned from attending any more games this season for suggesting it but I’m more concerned with surrounding Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson with pieces that can grow with them.

Trading Dorrell Wright for Jarrett Jack was a genius move by Bob Myers for more than one reason. Of course Jack is just a better, tougher player on his worst day but it also maintained financial flexibility because he was entering the final year of his contract. Signing Landry for next to nothing ($4 million) was just another feather in the young GM's cap. Now that both of them will be entering the summer as unrestricted free agents they won't be staying at the numbers they played for this year and the Warriors will be too close to the cap to give them raises, whether they deserve them or not. Some desperate team out there will give Jack at least $6 or $ 7million a year after making $5 million this year and Landry will get close to the same if not more.

Some might write this proposal off as a panicking fan coming off a five game losing streak with a full week until the next game is played. That might be partly true because waiting seven days for a chance to break this losing streak is killing me but that’s not why I’m suggesting we make a deal before the February 21st deadline. I think the Warriors are building something special right now. That doesn’t mean I ever had high expectations for this year. In fact, they’ve already exceeded my expectations considering Andrew Bogut hasn’t been even a small part of their success. The problem comes to be that the team doesn't have any draft picks to be used in a trade so it limits what they can get in return and how they can add to the roster in the offseason; more so on the trade front because the upcoming draft is already being called one of the worst we've seen in years and that was before one of the top picks, Nerlens Noel, tore his ACL.

The main reason for making a trade is the biggest reason the Warriors have been so successful this season. The teams greatest advantage over the opposition has been it’s bench and that’s not going to be the case next year unless Landry and Jack are paid starters money to continue anchoring the second unit. If and when they leave for nothing in free agency it's going to leave a gaping hole that Charles Jenkins, Kent Bazemore, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli just aren’t ready to fill. All I'm saying is that the thought needs to be entertained because if they leave and we strike out trying to find a cheap replacement in free agency Jeremy Tyler will be getting his minutes in Oakland instead of Santa Cruz next season. 

As much as both of these guys have meant to the team moving them won’t have nearly the impact that trading Monta for and injured Andrew Bogut had last year. First of all, I can only assume that whomever they get in return would be healthy enough to contribute this year. This wouldn’t be kick starting a tank-a-thon like we saw last year. If Myers pulled off a deal that brought back a guy that could be another real building block Lacob won’t have to worry about getting booed again either. There’s also the fact that they wouldn’t be getting rid of their first, second or even third best active player and for all the love these two have gotten from Warriors fans it’s not as if any of them have gone out and bought their jerseys.

The chemistry will take a hit in the short term but they’d still be very likely candidates to make the playoffs this season. They’d also be getting a jumpstart in meshing before the offseason as opposed to getting to know whatever ever free agents Bob Myers brings in on the cheap in July or August. Personally, I don’t think it would be such a bad thing for our younger guys to be forced into key roles in critical situations either. Getting those types of reps now will only help when this roster can be considered a true contender. If Jack is our best option to handle the ball at the end of every game how does that help Curry get experience running the team and get his own shot when the pressure is at its boiling point?

Myers has already said that he won’t blow up this team before he gets a chance to see what it looks like as he envisioned it before the season. Does anyone think either guy I’m talking about was a part of that vision past this season? What’s the harm in getting something for them on their way out the door? If Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack are absolutely critical for you to win games and make the playoffs; when they’re being spotted a couple games since they currently sit in the 6th spot in the Western Conference; then there is still plenty of work to be done anyways. The only thing I know for sure is that they have more value as trade chips now than they will if they’re getting paid $7-8 million per over the next three years. At that point you will be stuck with them whether they continue to perform as they have been or not.

If the Warriors were to make such a preemptive strike with an eye on the next three seasons as opposed to focusing solely on what is possible this May they can add to the core before Biedrins and Jefferson become pseudo assets as expiring contracts. With that type of strategy in mind I’ll breakout the trustee trade machine to see what the roster could look like in a year or two.

1) Phoenix Suns: Marcin Gortat for Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry

Perfect trade for the biggest cheapskate owner in the league Robert Sarver. This trade would save him almost $8 million next year! For the Warriors Gortat would be a huge asset off the bench and in a trade as an expiring contract next season. It probably wouldn't go down like this but the framework of this trade could work many different ways with the main players remaining the same. Shit, Bob Myers might even be able to trade him back to Sarver the following year so he can take another contract off the books!

2) Los Angeles Clippers: Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler for Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry

Everyone knows that Bledsoe is a goner because #FlopCity won't be able to pay him once they max out Chris Paul for the next five years so somebody has to swoop in on that. Caron Butler isn't worth $8 million a year but I think that's the only advantage we have in making this deal. He's still better than Richard Jefferson and his deal comes off the books at the same time so he might be a decent trade chip next year at the deadline.

3) Denver Nuggets: Andre Igoudala and Andre Miller for Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and Andris Biedrins

Denver is a very money conscious franchise and even with Andris Biedrins involved it would save them money. It’s just a thought. I didn’t like the Monta/AI trade speculation or the rumors for the 7th pick in the past but if I could get him for a couple of guys who are leaving anyway? Sign me up.

4) Dallas Mavericks: OJ Mayo, Chris Kaman and Jared Cunningham for Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry

OJ Mayo could replace pretty much everything Jarrett Jack does except his toughness. People forget he’s only 25 so he’d be entering his prime as most of our guys are still coming into their own.

5) Philidelphia 76ers: Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes for Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry

Turner and Hawes are both young guys who would figure to add to the young core and give us the a high IQ eight man rotation that would be scary in two years and would continue to get better for the next five. Doubt the Sixers agree to that but I’d throw it at the wall and see if it sticks anyways.

6) Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry for Carl Landry, Jarrett Jack and Jeremy Tyler

I’m a Kyle Lowry fan and he could duplicate a lot of what Jack brings off the bench. I don’t know much about Valana…whatever his name is. He might be a project, I don’t know. I’ve heard the Raptors are high on him so it might need to be another name next to Lowry’s.

Here's a couple more that can be filed under the "what are you smoking?" category...

7) Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Marcus Thorton and Tyler Honeycutt for Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and David Lee

I don’t know why the Kings would do this unless they’re faced with some Chris Webber/Nellie type implosion and are dumb enough to send Cousins away instead of perennial interim coach Keith Smart. I just know that a Boogie/Bogut front line would scare every team in the league except Memphis. Put that with our shooters and everybody better watch their asses. The peripheral pieces of this trade are also better fits for our roster than theirs. High risk / High reward / Super low probability to be sure.

8) Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Love, Derrick Williams and Brandon Roy for David Lee, Carl Landry, Jarrett Jack

Everybody knows that Kevin Love is leaving Minny first chance he gets and the only reason this deal would even be considered is because David Lee can’t go anywhere. I don’t even care that Love may not play much for the rest of the season. All I know is that when you put him with Curry and Thompson it might make us the best three point shooting team in the history of the league. I know I’d do this deal in a heartbeat even if it meant sacrificing the rest of this season. We’d be right there with OKC as favorite to come out of the West starting next year.

If you’ve spent any time on the ESPN Trade Machine putting together trades that are realistic (as opposed to most of mine) please post them here or send them to me on Twitter or Facebook. Like it or rip it, all feedback from Warriors fans is appreciated.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Klay Thompson Conundrum

By Justin Taylor

Outside the fragile ankles of Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut the biggest X factor for the 2013 Golden State Warriors and beyond is Klay Thompson. The only consistency that Thompson has shown this season has been in his blank stares and slumped shoulders. I’ve probably had too much fun at Klay’s expense in this space, on Twitter and Facebook so far this season but it’s not because I don’t like him. Just because I rail on his body language, his shot selection and his decision making doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s vital to the future success of this team. I’m just not sure at this moment if the Warriors would be better served by waiting for him to fulfill his potential or by cashing in on him in a trade to raise the ceiling of this roster.

The lack of personality on display at all times is a key component of the unintentional comedy aspect in Klay’s game. He hasn't endeared himself to anyone and seem as though his own team; who seems to get behind everyone else at all times; has fully embraced him. It doesn’t help when you hear reports (substantiated or not) from behind the scenes that he feels he should get more touches or when his daddy does so publicly. All of the preseason Most Improved Player hype may have been the worst thing for him and for all of us because everyone wanted it to happen so badly.

Klay doesn't even take his eyes off the rim during post game interviews

When the We Believe Warriors took down the Mavericks in ’07 they did it with a crafty defensive scheme and a barrage of three pointers. Does anyone dispute that they couldn’t pull off a similar feat this year if they draw the right matchup right around the time that Steph and Klay lose consciousness from behind the arc? This isn’t a team that creates a ton of match up problems for the opposition but they are more than capable of demoralizing opponents for a week straight with a handful of well timed three point daggers. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Curry will get hot when it matters but if Thompson follows suit at the right time no team in the playoffs is safe.

At the same time, can anyone say with complete confidence that our young sharpshooter won’t try to do too much and end up just fumbling away a couple of postseason games? There aren’t many players in the entire league getting the type of minutes and opportunities that he is who have made more boneheaded plays. Just this week published some of the most detailed statistical analysis from STATS Inc. I have ever seen that says Klay turns the ball over when he drives 16% of the time. Of the 15 teams that use the STATS technology that allows them to track such data that is the absolute worst turnover rate in the league. That article pretty much just confirmed the eyeball test most of us have been conducting.

At times it looks like Klay's body language is straight out of the movie Friday

There seems to be some sort of disconnect in what exactly Mark Jackson means when he says that Klay has the ultimate green light. He’s an absolute knock down shooter so it’s obvious why the coach is constantly trying to build his confidence by encouraging him to shoot more. I just wonder what the conversations about pump faking, swinging the ball and getting teammates involved sound like. Every single touch does not need to end in a shot and while we all want him to attack the rim more (in spite of the STATS inc. article) his insistence on doing just that has made him the biggest lighting rod of criticism since Antawn Jamison.

The fact is that everything he does, good or bad, needs to be taken with a grain of salt because (clearing my throat to queue up my best Mark Jackson voice) at the end of the day, this kid has one full season’s worth of starts under his belt. (Now I’ll queue up most ESPN personalities so I can say) Oh! And by the way he just celebrated his 23rd birthday on Thursday (when he was absolutely atrocious against the Grizzlies)! To blame anything that goes wrong with this team on him is just wrong at this point. It’s not like he was a top 3 pick in a loaded draft. He came into this league with one surefire NBA skill and his shooting hasn’t disappointed.

If he learns his role and becomes a more efficient player it could be as a key contributor. If he doesn’t figure it out his biggest contribution to the Warriors might be the same as that of Monta Ellis where what he brings back in a trade outweighs anything he could do on the court. There is a path to a championship that Joe Lacob has traveled when the Celtics traded for KG and Thompson figures to be a big part of that in one capacity or another.

Either Danny Ainge, Bill Simmons or both have queued up the trade machine to see how a Paul Pierce Klay Thompson deal would work since Rondo went down. Pierce could actually make us a contender this year but it would be a small window that is closing fast. The conversation is moot unless Ainge calls Bob Myers and offers to swap Pierce and Richard Jefferson’s AARP cards if he’ll throw in Klay’s Student ID card. The Warriors have a perfect storm of potential coming on right now. They have competent management, more assets then they’ve had in decades and the ability to deal from a position of strength for the first time seemingly ever. Using the trade machine is so much more fun when it’s done out of pleasure as opposed to the usual Golden State cocktail of panic, desperation and necessity. 

 Still looking at the rim...

For his part, Thompson’s trade value is still relatively high but the problem is that part of that value rests with his rookie contract. That means in order to move him for something that would actually upgrade the starting lineup he’d have to be packaged with someone else to make the money match up in a swap. That would in turn reduce the overall valuation of the bundle and interest from a possible trade partner. In the interest in saving you time I’ve gone ahead and spent some time trying to find guys that would upgrade the Warriors starting lineup.

We all assume that this team can only get better but that may be tough when two of this season's biggest contributors; Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry; are gone next season. y goal was to improve this team's chances this year. Here’s what I came up with:

Klay Thompson         for       Paul Pierce
Festus Ezeli
Charles Jenkins
Richard Jefferson

Prognosis: This trade is all about what you think the Warriors can accomplish this year. Pierce would mesh perfectly with Curry, Lee and Bogut while upgrading the starting lineup with championship experience, versatility and supreme basketball IQ. He is overpaid at this point but his contract expires at the same time as Jefferson’s so it’s no like you’re adding any long term payroll on either side. For Boston’s part they’d get some pieces that won’t be collecting social security when Rondo returns.

Who hangs up the phone first: Celtics. Danny Ainge will not get an offer that includes this amount of youth, potential and cap savings for the aging vet from anywhere else. There is a chance that Draymond Green’s name might put it over the top but that’s when Bob Myers hangs up the phone.

Klay Thompson         for      Ben Gordon
Jeremy Tyler                          Hakim Warrick
Charles Jenkins
Richard Jefferson

Prognosis: Ben Gordon is another guy who would add veteran savvy and playoff experience without downgrading the floor spacing that Klay provides to the starting lineup. It may be a step down in size, defense and rebounding but it still Gordon is still a better backcourt mate for Steph Curry than Monta Ellis due to his ball handling, decision making and long range shooting. Hakim Warrick would also provide a cheap option for the Warriors off the bench next season when Carl Landry more than likely accepts an offer for more money elsewhere. For the Bobcats part, they’re already trying to move Gordon and this wouldn’t satisfy their motivation to save money but Klay would give them the young shooter that they will desperately need to add to their core of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker.

Who hangs up the phone first: Warriors. Ben Gordon is past his prime and isn’t a guaranteed upgrade past this season but it’s close and not as far off as you might think.

Richard Jefferson      for       Kevin Durant
Andris Biedrins

Prognosis: Just Kidding…

Klay Thompson         for      OJ Mayo
Charles Jenkins                     Shawn Marion
Richard Jefferson

Prognosis: Wouldn’t it be ironic if Klay Thompson ended up getting dealt for the guy that generated Monta Ellis trade rumors for years. Mayo is yet another seemingly undersized option to play alongside Curry but he brings so much more to the table than Klay. He offers identical rebounding numbers, gets more steals, would allow Curry play off the ball more, gets to the rim and get this…he’s shooting a higher percentage from downtown this season. The rub here would be that even though Mayo is only making $4 million this season you’d have to give him a raise the minute you trade for him or risk watching him walk for nothing next season and we all know Bob Myers isn’t doing that.

Who hangs up the phone first: Dallas. The Shawn Marion downgrade would probably be the biggest hang up on this one for Mark Cuban due to the “Why in the hell would we want Richard Jefferson?” factor. If you pare down the deal to just Mayo for Thompson/Jenkins/Jeremy Tyler you MIGHT be a little closer to the mark.