The trade deadline looms, but will Golden State make any moves?

Warriors have movable pieces, but no urgency

The big story heading into tonight’s game against the Brooklyn Nets is actually about what could happen off the court. The NBA’s trade deadline is noon California time on Thursday, and if there’s one thing NBA fans love talking about more than basketball, it’s trade rumors.

Adding fuel to the fire, a lot of media gets into it as well. Here’s Marcus Thompson of The Athletic, trolling the world on purpose for twenty minutes:

So let’s break down the moving pieces quickly:

D’Angelo Russell - Young, efficient scorer playing top tier basketball. He’s the Warriors most valuable asset, which means he’s the most coveted but also that the Warriors are going to be extremely thoughtful in what they do here.

Alec Burks / Glenn Robinson - Productive wing players that come cheap and are having great seasons.

Kevon Looney - Highly valued versatile forward, only in trade rumors because his salary is enough to drop the Warriors below the tax apron, which would help them avoid the dreaded repeater tax.

Let me start with the most likely: a trade of Burks, Robinson, or both.

Both players are on cheap, single-year contracts. Burks is more of a scorer, which tends to be prioritized more in the NBA. But I’d argue that Robinson is a more valuable player overall. He’s more efficient, requires the ball less, and would fill a need with the Warriors moving forward. That said, the common wisdom here is that both are available in exchange for a mid-2nd round draft pick. Seems like the sort of deal an NBA team would go for, but it’s essentially a three month rental since neither player is under contract next year, which makes it less of a slam dunk from a value standpoint for any potential trade partner.

The remaining two trades, Russell and Looney, are extremely unlikely, in my opinion.

Russell is getting attached to names like the Timberwolves and Knicks, neither of which can offer the sort of top tier player that the Warriors have historically coveted.

But there’s a problem. Most of the noise is centered around the Timberwolves, a team extremely motivated to get a star to pair with their disgruntled franchise cornerstone, Karl Anthony-Towns. But they just don’t have intriguing talent that they can offer, and have some salary matching problems.

Which leads to a wild four team trade rumor.

Now, in general a four team trade is already pushing the limits of credulity, but the case here is further complicated because Andrew Wiggins appears to be the main player that the Warriors are getting back. Wiggins is a mediocre player on a max contract that doesn’t score efficiently and is an unreliable defender.

Sorry for the self tweet reference, but please take a moment to look at Wiggins offensive profile - that’s the current season there at the bottom of the table. The percentages for each shot type are shown (with no highlight color) and the colored numbers are that players percentile rank in the relevant shot categories (meaning higher is better, low numbers highlighted in blue are bad):

As friend of our blog family, Patrick Murray wrote yesterday, “The less said about Andrew Wiggins and his toxic contract the better.”

It’s not an asset with value; in fact, Wiggins is a hugely negative value asset - which makes it extremely unlikely that Golden State would burn their one fungible asset (Russell) on a move that is a significant drop in talent and locks the team into an albatross max contract attached to a player that will be hard to move without adding in significant other assets (which is why the Timberwolves are scrambling to find a bunch of high draft picks to make the trade as palatable as possible). 

There’s just no viable reason that I can see for the Warriors to take on what is widely regarded as one of the worst contracts in the league; and certainly no time pressure to make it happen before Thursday.

Finally, we have Kevon Looney. A player that has been referred to as a franchise cornerstone by coach Steve Kerr just a few months ago, he mostly is getting churned into these rumors because his salary is essentially the only way for the Warriors to duck the extremely punitive repeater tax (barring a major trade with Russell that brings back less salary).

I could be wrong, but it seems way out of character for the Warriors to sell low on a player that they clearly believe in as a long term asset. The team may well want to save the money, but they’ve never unnecessarily dumped talent just to save money before, and I can’t imagine them starting by dumping on of their most versatile defenders.