Warriors Guarding Against a Loss

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The Warriors are still hopeful of trading for Kevin Love. The will-he-won’t-he saga the Love trade is turning into is building the anticipation to levels usually reserved for Lebron James. Speaking of Lebron, he wants Love in Cleveland, who are willing to give up Andrew Wiggins to make it happen. But the Cavs are set to sign the No. 1 pick which would delay any trade deal involving him for at least 30 days. This will, as well as ramp up the anticipation yet again, give time to Love’s other suitors, namely the Warriors, to strengthen their offers and their arguments in favour of them. Klay Thompson is apparently on the table, as are Harrison Barnes and David Lee. Lee represents a lite-for-like replacement option for the Timberwolves, and in Thompson they have a young, talented guard, already one of the best shooters in the league. The Warriors seem to be happy to let Klay go because Love is a player of the highest calibre, one that could push the Warriors over into Championship contenders. The hole that Thompson would leave would be a worrying one though; his defensive contributions will not be replaced by Love, and would leave Andre Iguodala as the only wing defender of any substance on the team. Not only that, the roster would be worryingly short of guards.

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At the moment the only guards that Golden State have secured on their roster is Steph Curry, Thompson, Brandon Rush, Shaun Livingstone and the youngster Nemanja Nedovic. Rush is returning to Oakland after a year in Utah (where he was pretty much a non-factor offensively for them), and has been a patchy player for most of his injury-hit career. Livingstone was acquired from the Nets just a few weeks ago, but he isn’t anywhere near as productive as Thompson in terms of scoring, nor is he a facilitator fully capable of filling in for Curry during games when the star PG needs a rest. Last season, that role was filled by Steve Blake, who they signed on a short term deal, and who is now at Portland. The ex-Laker’s confident passing and expert ball security were vital when the Warriors had to maintain a lead. After the starters had secured an advantage, Blake and the second unit had to keep it there or thereabouts. Jordan Crawford, another of last year’s short term signings, played a similar role, but more as a shot-maker, a scorer, who would often end the quarters such was his predilection for rangy buzzer-beaters. He is also a free agent this off-season, and the Warriors have decided against extending a qualifying offer to him. An arrangement might still be worked out for Crawford, but even if that were to happen, if Klay was to go, there would still be a bad shortage of covering options at the 1 and 2 guard. Livingstone averaged 3.2 assists and 8.3 points last year with Brooklyn, the same dime average that Blake did with Golden State, and the same number of points as Crawford last season. So the Warriors have replaced those two departing role players with one incoming one, a good piece of business, but it’s still one less player in the rotation. On top of that loss, the advantages the team gets from getting Kevin Love come in areas that would not cover for the additional loss of guard man-power that would hit the roster if Thompson were to be traded.

Points and rebounds would be boosted considerably by Love, which would fill the hole that losing double-double man Lee would leave. He might even make up for a lot of Klay’s 18 points a game as well. But how would it look going into the season with only Livingstone, Rush and Nedovic as the back up guards? Nedovic is nowhere near ready to succeed in the NBA, even for a handful of minutes per game. Even if Crawford were to re-sign, it would still be a bit thin. Does the market hold any promise in the guard department? One of the steals of the free agency period, Isiah Thomas, was snapped up by the Suns a couple of weeks ago. Eric Bledsoe is still available but he wouldn’t be looking for a role behind All-Star Curry. Besides, his wages would be too heavy for the Warriors to accommodate. Of the remaining free agent point guards, Mo Williams, let go by the Trailblazers to make way for Blake, looks the most attractive and feasible. He averaged 4.3 assists and 8.9 points in 24 minutes last season for the Blazers, good numbers. He would be content playing second fiddle to Curry, and would offer a deep shooting range that is bound to be central under new coach Steve Kerr. His salary wouldn’t be too large either.

It all depends on Love though and, though missing out on him would be a blow to the Dub’s immediate championship ambitions, the problems that might be caused by the efforts to trade for him could be more trouble than Love is worth. Then again, Love is a star player and there is a reason Klay is on the table for him. Arguments can be made for both points of view, but one thing both sides can agree on is that the longer this deal takes to happen, the harder it will be for the Warriors to manage the fallout.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS VS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

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