How Markkanen and LaVine can end up with the Warriors, or “an ode to Ainge”
[trade scenario done the LGW way]
Now that the trade deadline is in view, I think it’s best to explain our Lauri Markkanen/Zach LaVine scenario by detailing how we got here. But first, yeah, I get it. As you’ll read below, getting both Markannen and LaVine without having to give up Jonathan Kuminga? That’s far-fetched. And Danny Ainge reportedly wants picks. The Warriors don’t seem to have picks. Stick with me, though. You’re gonna love how this all comes back around.
I should note, my co-author Dean “of Positivity” Chambers
never wanted USUALLY DOES NOT WANT a trade in the first place. In fact, he was the only one who, [UPDATE: Dean tells me it was NOT him who was the only one to not vote for a trade, oops] out of a super-quickie poll of 23 audience members, voted “no” on doing any type of trade, although the poll was done in the midst of the loss to Dallas the other night, so our audience was itching to push the panic button.
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But for this piece we’re just doing our job trying to, quite honestly, provide some therapy to a segment of DubNation that has been noticing the swirl of chatter around them, especially during this ongoing losing streak, and kinda going bonkers over it, if our live chats are any indication.
The idea, mostly informational-slash-educational as opposed to entertainment, was conceived by Mr. Chambers, my livestream “sometimes co-host”. We hope that by reading this, you’ll better understand how win-win deals are the norm in the NBA now, and what considerations might be made by GMs, as well as what the philosophy of the Warriors is. And of course, fill up your cup of trade talk and feel like you’ve checked off that box (for now).
So yeah, obtaining Markkanen will require a small miracle. The one that Dean came up with happens to land LaVine as well. But it also circuitously appeases Ainge his “five draft picks” and, more importantly, enables a path to obtain by this summer… (drum roll)…
Jaylen Brown. 😱
Ergo everybody’s smiling ear-to-ear with their hauls by this off-season, but yeah, Dean had to walk the long walk, puff the Gandalf pipe deep in concentration, for Markkanen to end up a Warrior 🤷🏻♂️ and, quite honestly, fulfill Ainge’s destiny as a swashbuckler.
Like, if Danny actually pulls this off with anything remotely resembling Dean’s script, oh my God! I just — I gotta put this visual here that I used in a bunch posts while writing back in the day for GoldenStateOfMind, when we envied him:
Isn’t it amazing that we no longer envy him? 💍 💍 💍 💍 I hope some of you stay grounded, accordingly.
Aside from the obvious (that the Warriors are middling at 15-17), there are two paths of how DubNation got to this point where we’re talking about potential trades:
Explained in the text thread between Dean and me, below, and
A bunch of dominoes that fell from Tim Kawakami’s piece in The Athletic which led to the narrative of Andrew Wiggins being on the chopping block, explained at the bottom (because some of you might not care how we got here).
But before we embark, I do want to divulge two pieces of insider info I’ve obtained on New Year’s Eve (as I write this, which will publish on Jan. 1, 2024) leading me to believe that a big swing is possible, but also that Mike Dunleavy, Jr. will probably not make a big move — if he makes a big move — until the last minute, near or on the Feb. 8th deadline.
The first is confirmation that the Warriors are indeed interested in Markannen. I haven’t figured out how to divulge the specifics of who/what/where/when, but I’ll probably do it in a separate paid-subscribers-only post in the next week or so. But then again: Dubs management should be interested and interested in everybody.
If I were the GM of GSW, I’d certainly have a scout show up to a lot of random or not-so-random games and have the deepest database of player intel in the NBA. I mean, the fact that the Joe Lacob was the first owner to have his players wear those Catapult vests at practice, certainly backs up that assumption. Anyways, the tidbit I got is indeed eyebrow-raising, but then again it isn’t. That’s all I want to say publicly for right now.
By the way, as far as forthcoming paywalled posts, I think I’m going to throw short nuggets out there, here and there — I already owe you, as I’ve written in the past like five posts, one on Brandin Podziemski. There’s another insider-y thing on Klay Thompson, too. And remember, all of these are focused on the positives. I’m here to reinforce the notion that this is the best basketball team on the planet to root for and analyze, and tbh the behind-the-scenes stuff that falls in my lap almost always reinforces that. So, I don’t have any news that would fracture the team, for example. Our franchise just quite simply is the furthest thing from that, although Warriors Twitter would brainwash you otherwise.
The second is I’m getting indirect indications that the team is just biding its time until the return of Draymond Green. Obviously, fans are typically impatient and driven by the fear of things remaining the same, i.e., the team finishing whatever the winning percentage is for 15-17 after 32 games, as it is after 82 games. As Moses Moody said on the podium recently, “A fool looks for happiness in the distance, while a wise man looks for it under his feet”…
And when the team fans are rooting for happens to be winning, it’s the fear of things changing 🙄 Telling the average fan that GSW management is being patient with their team, because this is not the Warriors’ actual team yet (because of Draymond’s absence), flies in the face of conventional fandom, I get that.
Dray coming back with probably less than a month to go before the trade deadline is not ideal in terms of deal-making, and you’d probably guess that any deal involving GSW would therefore be done near the deadline, but then again who knows. As I always say, enjoy the moment and don’t get addicted to predictions. You have to just trust Dunleavy. Maybe I’ll have time to write some more about this team patience thing and the nurturing of the squad by Steve Kerr, in a separate post in due time. There’s layers to this and I’m getting the signals.
1) DEAN’S TEXT THREAD WITH ME
The following occurred on December 18th:
DEAN: Just listening to our friend Keith Smith of SpoTrac talk about Ainge’s asking price for Markkanen. If it’s true that Lauri is actually available, the Warriors have to be involved in that. He’s too good of a fit and too good of a contract for us not to, as much as that hurts me as a Utahn. I hesitate to mention the “Death Lineup”, but Markkanen is a 3-4 lengthy big who can really shoot. So the archetype is there even if the expectations can’t be.
RICH: Wow, so the rumors of Markkanen being available are true, even though he was Utah’s franchise-building piece and a hometown All-Star last season?
D: Hearing it from Smith, quoting Ainge, and seeing major news headlines about, I'd say that it seems like it. It's on today’s “Front Office Show” with Keith and Trevor Lane.
R: Well, now that I’m checking that out, the beginning of Front Office Show says Ainge wants five picks. Pretty sure he can find something better than GSW’s 2026, ‘28, ‘30, ‘32, etc., no?
D: Why? Stephen Curry’s contract is over by then, so we could be truly terrible when those picks come due. That would be the bet Ainge is making, at least.
R: If Ainge is hell-bent on picks, there are probably several teams that have more attractive ones than the picks we own. Now, if he can budge on some of those picks for immediate talent, then we might have a chance.
D: The collection of talent we own and our desperation to stay at the elite level in the league for the rest of Steph’s career make us an attractive and powerful trade partner. Also, I think the Warriors have generally operated, during the Bob Myers’ tenure and into that of Dunleavy, on a win-win basis in most trades. That makes the Warriors the kind of organization that is able to draw the talent’s interest, as well as having positive relations with the other trade partners we'd talk to. Finally, Lauri’s too good to trade him to a non-contender, so there’s that aspect as well. Markkanen’s side would be expressing that to Utah.
THE DEAL FOR MARKANNEN/LAVINE
I’m gonna put the Kawakami domino effect stuff at the bottom of this post. Let’s just dive into it. Here’s Dean’s idea.
Warriors trade Chris Paul and Andrew Wiggins to the Chicago Bulls along with all second-round picks for Zach LaVine.
Warriors trade Dario Saric and Gui Santos along with all appropriate Jazz-favorable pick swaps and unprotected to lightly protected picks to the Utah Jazz for Lauri Markkanen, while the Jazz receive Alex Caruso from the Bulls.
Jazz trade Collin Sexton and Kelly Olynyk to the Detroit Pistons for Alec Burks and Bojan Bogdanovic, and perhaps some draft compensation either way. (This deal will be all part of the machinations for acquiring Jaylen Brown in Summer 2024, see below.)
2024 TEAM ROSTERS
(Players in parentheses are Dean’s personal choices to fill roster spots and are only included to show a full roster, and are not to subject to this proposal…)
1. Stephen Curry
2. Zach LaVine
3. Klay Thompson
4. Lauri Markannen
5. Draymond Green
6. Brandin Podziemski
7. Gary Payton II
8. Moses Moody
9. Jonathan Kuminga
10. Kevon Looney
11. Cory Joseph
12. (TJ Warren)
13. (Juan Toscano-Anderson)
14. (Marquese Chriss)
15. Trayce Jackson-Davis
16. tw Lester Quiñones
17. tw (Eric Paschall)
18. tw Usman Garuba
1. Alex Caruso
2. Jordan Clarkson
3. Talen Horton-Tucker
4. Bojan Bogdanovic
5. John Collins
6. Keyonte George
7. Alec Burks
8. Ochai Agbaji
9. Dario Saric
10. Walker Kessler
11. Kris Dunn
12. Simone Fonteccio / Brice Sensabaugh
13. Taylor Hendricks
14. Luka Samanic / Gui Santos
15. Omer Yurtseven
16. tw Josh Christopher
17. tw Johnny Juzang
18. tw Micah Potter
1. Collin Sexton
2. Cade Cunningham
3. Ausar Thompson
4. Isaiah Stewart
5. Jalen Duren
6. Killian Hayes
7. Jaden Ivey
8. Isaiah Livers
9. Kelly Olynyk
10. Marvin Bagley III
11. Monte Morris
12. Marcus Sasser
13. Joe Harris
14. Kevin Knox
15. James Wiseman
16. tw Malcolm Calazon
17. tw Jared Rhoden
18. tw Stanley Umude
2024 OFFSEASON SCENARIO
Jazz trade Alex Caruso, Jordan Clarkson, Dario Saric (if extended veteran minimum), John Collins and 2027 Lakers, Timberwolves and Cavaliers picks to the Boston Celtics after July 26th, 2024 for Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Luke Kornet (if extended the veteran’s minimum).
JUSTIFICATION FOR WARRIORS
CURRENT THEORY — Simply, this team should go all in to get a Jordan Poole replacement role, although LaVine would be a starter, to replicate the needed perimeter offense of 2022 at a higher caliber, while getting a lesser-yet-close version of a stretch 3-4-5 a la Kevin Durant in Markannen. Sacrificing the picks and sending Caruso to the Jazz would allow for the team to keep the rest of our main vets and young talent together.
FUTURE THEORY — The Warriors go all-in on trading/swapping every pick and taking on salary at the expense of financial flexibility for three main reasons…
1) The team can rest assured that moving such a haul for the right return is worth it to remain competitive for the rest of Curry’s contract; the Warriors also save $5,773,457 from their tax bill this year and that could be more if Cory Joseph is included. Veteran’s minimums that are used to sign other players is less-taxed than normal contracts.
2) The team has the young players needed right now if signed to fairly strong long-term contracts for the years these picks come due. The team could be quite bad by 2028, with potentially Curry, Thompson and Green retired, LaVine, Podziemski, and Jackson-Davis’ contracts up the year prior, with Markannen’s extension or free agency in 2025, and with Kuminga, Moody, Payton and Looney all up for contracts that year as well. Still, the team should focus on the fact that, if those negotations go well, this team is making a bet the front office can keep these players going forward.
3) This is a market where the NBA is iffy on LaVine and trying not to spend all their draft picks on Markannen. But the Warriors have every reason to go after both and to offer what I think is fair value for them to the Jazz and Bulls. (The justifications for other teams will be explained as an addendum in the Comments below.)
There were actually a few things I needed to clear up with Dean as well, and I think it’s once again best told through conversation…
R: Wait, so the Warriors aren’t gonna send Ainge any actual first-round picks?
D: Detroit is a place that has Alec Burks and Bojan Bogdanovic, who are Jazz vets I thought could help. The Bulls would get our second-round picks. Ainge has four picks in 2027 and three picks in 2029. The Warriors would give him lightly-protected to unprotected picks in 2026 and 2028, thus allowing the Jazz to have three first-round picks at least in 2027, 2028 and 2029. The Jazz have another 2026 that’s not their own which has a lot of restrictions. The draft years are for the season that follows too, the 2026 pick is for the ‘26-27 season (after Steph’s current contract runs out).
R: Oh okay. Sorry all that went over my head from your write-up.
D: I think I wrote it up but maybe in a confusing way haha. Also, the Dubs would be able to give the Jazz favorable pick swaps in 2027 and 2029, so Ainge is betting that, at that time, the Jazz would have a better record than the Dubs. Warriors would bet that the core is still okay as aging vets while BP, LaVine, Moody, Markkanen, TJD, and Loon are enough good young talent to continue competing.
R: Anything else you want to add before I hit “publish”? Because for us to get Markkanen without giving up JK and Moody — while at the same time giving a script for Ainge to make Utah a contender — honestly this is kinda mind-blowing.
D: Caruso to Utah plus the valuable picks makes this reasonable. If we were to try to do something without that, then it would be totally ridiculous. There may indeed be a Moody side to the Jazz thing as well, just looking at it, but then I think you’d start advocating for either a pick or a young player in return from them.
Again, Dean actually included justifications for all teams involved, but I think I’ll just tack those onto the Comments section below, so that the structure of this post maintains a logical flow and transfer of information from our brains to yours. There’s also a mini-essay by Dean on the culture of “win-win” among NBA GMs — with the exception of Masai Ujiri, where Dean criticizes him as being “zero-sum”. It’s crazy because I literally got a piece of intel about Ujiri after the OG Anunoby deal went down the other day, from someone who works for a prominent NBA agent, and it was along the same lines.
And so coincidentally, a week-and-a-half later (as Dean wrote this awhile back after watching the Smith/Lane podcast) I’m asking Dean to concoct a Pascal Siakam trade scenario. More on this and the Ujiri tidbit, soon.
We’ve already had Siakam musings on our last livestream (see timestamps in its Comments) and, at first glance, it seems a lot more straightforward to obtain him than Markkanen, but I always go back to keeping my feet on the ground: all of this trade talk is always so 🤯 and mind-bending — you could waste hours and hours dreaming up of whatever — that I (and Dean) personally find it better to just sit back and let MDJ and Kirk Lacob and Jonnie West 😉 do their jobs. And that, my friends, is the essence of LetsGoWarriors anyways!
2) KAWAKAMI DOMINO EFFECT
And so how did we get here in the first place? It actually started even before Kawakami’s article on 12/28/2023 where the “bomb-dropping” (maybe too strong a word, TK would definitely think so) happened, and then he was aggregated on social media apps for writing this paragraph in https://theathletic.com/5124391/2023/12/28/warriors-andrew-wiggins-jonathan-kuminga/:
Side note: Though I’ve said in the past that the Warriors might be reluctant to trade Wiggins so soon after he signed a relatively bargain-rate contract extension specifically so he could remain with this team, I’ve since heard that this would not be a major barrier for the Warriors to explore Wiggins’ trade market. Especially if he can’t play with Kuminga and the Warriors decide that Kuminga is their full-time small forward.
The fact that TK had such detailed analytics on the Wiggs-JK combination (you’ll have to look in the article for those) makes me wonder if his source is in the GSW analytics staff, or at least the front office for which that person works. It could very well have been an outside observer, though.
I’ve always been curious about where most of his and Anthony Slater’s sources come from and over the years, observing who they talk to here and there, whether it’s at morning on the road, two hours before tipoff in the lower bowl of Chase (and Oracle) or, let’s say, Las Vegas Basketball Center during Summer League, where the Warriors completely take over all three full-sized courts as well as the adjoining cafe and have the place to themselves, even installing their own chef to cook meals. I’m convinced The Athletic is in quite deep with members of GSW brass. And then Marcus Thompson has Steph and the players’ angles, usually, so it’s quite a local trinity over there, plus Shams Charania nationally to break all the trades as they’re happening. Shout out to their NBA writer Sam Amick residing in nearby Sacramento, as well.
In other words, do your best to ignore the rest of the trade rumor mill. Focus on The Athletic and, of course, news breaks from (the real) Charania and Adrian “Woj” Wojnarowski. Be careful with those fake Woj accounts! And you’re always welcome to ask me anywhere you can comment on our YouTube channel — I see 99% of them.
So, anyways, here’s how we ended up here:
A few games ago, TK sees that JK with Wiggs has a bad two-man net rating, like really bad (again, don’t know if it was him or he was spoon-fed by his source),
He then asks Steve on the podium about it, Steve says yeah they probably won't play them together,
TK (and I, separately and independently) notice that Steve actually does play them together (I mentioned this on that game livestream but right now I can’t remember exactly which game it was),
TK does some Sherlock Holmes deduction and concludes — with maybe a source that is not necessarily tied to the Warriors — that they are probably evaluating Wiggs because of the looming trade market and, of course, the subpar season by Wiggs plus bad W-L record,
TK writes the article,
It takes like 48 hours, but the aggregators finally get to it and proclaim that Wiggs is on the trading block,
Some aggregators (probably not ClutchPoints, they’re getting better) do what they do and spice things up by tweeting things like “Warriors open to trading Wiggins,” which technically isn’t 100% correct per se, but can still be bottom-line interpreted as such, and finally,
So now people are believing and want to believe that Wiggs is being actively shopped around right now, even though it’s conceivably possible his name might not have been uttered just yet, this early by any GSW rep talking to another team, and you’re seeing the memes all over the place, when in fact it’s a little more nuanced than that. Obviously, any deal that is going to bring back a salary the weight of a Markkanen and/or LaVine has to be matched in weight, and that points to the contracts of Wiggins and/or Chris Paul.
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