Amongst a flurry of moves during the NBA trade deadline Thursday afternoon, the Golden State Warriors were silent. Much to the chagrin of many of their fans, the Warriors, who currently have the second-best record in the NBA, did not make a trade of any kind. This was to be expected as GM Bob Myers hinted this was likely before the deadline saying, “I don’t think we feel urgency but we’re always listening and talking…if you don’t have to make a move, you maybe got some things right.”
The Warriors are not without flaws on their roster. They currently lack interior defense as their only true center on the roster now is the undersized Kevon Looney. Multiple factors played into the team electing to not make a move at the deadline.
For starters, the problem may be solved in time when the team gets healthy. All-Star Draymond Green should be returning from a back injury in the next three weeks or so. Draymond’s impact on the court cannot be overstated. He fundamentally changes what the team can do on defense as he can truly guard every position on the court. There is so much that Draymond can do on defense whether it be on ball, off ball, in the paint, on the perimeter that just getting him back will dramatically improve the overall defense of the Warriors. The other impending return is that of last year’s number two overall pick, James Wiseman. Wiseman tore a meniscus last spring and the recovery has been slower than anticipated. However, he has made positive steps in recent days advancing to contact work for the first time since the injury. Wiseman’s return date is still unknown but the team has said they believe that he will return with enough time to ramp up before the playoffs. Wiseman could be a real difference maker for the Warriors if he is healthy. A true seven-footer with absurd athleticism, there are very few players in the league like Wiseman. His ceiling is incredibly high, but the Warriors don’t need him to play at that level this year. All the Warriors need from Wiseman this year is to play 15 to 20 minutes, provide some size inside, be a pick and roll guy, lob threat at the rim, real basic, simple stuff, basically be Javale McGee. The long term potential of Wiseman is much much greater than that, but for this year and for this playoff run, there is a very simple defined role that they need him to fill.
Another component that led to the Warriors not making a move is the way the roster is constructed. They simply do not have contracts that they can use to match salaries for an impact player in a trade. The only players they have making above the league minimum are rookies Moses Moody and Johnathan Kuminga, promising youngsters Jordan Poole and James Wiseman, veteran Kevon Looney, and their all-star guys, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson. The core three of Klay, Draymond and Steph aren’t going anywhere and the emergence of Andrew Wiggins as a player who greatly impacts winning now and is young enough to build with going forward takes him off the table. Looney is too valuable to go anywhere, Kuminga has shown star potential so he’s untouchable, and Wiseman’s potential is too high to sell low on coming off an injury. That leaves Moses Moody and his $3.5 million salary as a potential asset to trade along with the league minimum contract guys like Nemanja Bjelica, Damion Lee, and Juan Toscano Anderson. Let’s use Bjelica as an example. Combining him and Moody would allow the Warriors to trade for approximately $6 Million in salary. When you start looking around the league in that price range and under, there really were not many players available who would make an impact. They maybe could have gone out and tried to get center Robin Lopez from the Orlando Magic, or Alex Len from the Kings but do you really want to give up a guy like Moody for a journeyman bench center? Smart teams don’t make trades just for the sake of making trades and don’t panic buy spending more than they should to fill a need.
Maybe the Warriors will look back at the end of the year and think they should have done more. Maybe they’ll regret preserving future assets at the expense of improving the team this season. Or maybe none of that happens. Maybe Draymond comes back healthy and Wiseman performs at the level that they truly believe they can and the Warriors win the fourth championship of the Curry-Klay-Draymond era. Only time will tell. What we know right now is that the Warriors truly believe that their current roster, the 15 guys in that locker room right now battling every night, are enough to get the job done.