NBA: Golden State Warriors Return To Elite Status Could Be a Phone Call Away

By Melvin Taylor II (@MelvinTaylorII)

As if the high heavens hadn’t blessed the Golden State Warriors franchise enough with two of the greatest shooters the NBA has ever had — plus the ultimate glue guy who works with both of their personalities, and a coach with a long championship record plus ownership willing to do anything to ensure they unlock their player’s best talents — they now have the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA draft.

In a postseason that sadly didn’t get the anticipated “Battle of L.A.,” GSW could have added a lot of spice to the deciding of a Western Conference champion had their stars been fully healthy and motivated to win their fourth championship in six years. Yet, the regrouping the franchise has endured may be a true saving grace for the Warriors and a pathway to an extended run of prosperity.

Not many teams can recover after losing all-time great players — in the immediate teams tend to fall off drastically, such as the Miami Heat in 2014 when LeBron James went home and the Cleveland Cavaliers twice in the last 10 years after losing King James. The Celtics know what its like too, the Bulls are over 20 years deep in their recovery from dynasty hangover.

Meanwhile, the Warriors have had to absorb the loss of Kevin Durant, who completed a rare all-time foursome along with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Make no mistake, Durant is an all-time talent who solidified the Warriors’ dynastic credentials, yet he was only one fraction of a championship whole.

Not only has GSW managed to retain the talents of at least 2 1/2 hall of famers (each the worst for wear after major injuries), but a big infusion of youthful talent is bound to come their way in the coming months with just about every top amateur in the game available to choose.

Looking at the current Warriors roster there’s already been a lot of change from just a year and a half ago, when they were last playing for an NBA championship. A lot of players are on the Warriors now who you can say don’t really live up to the brand that’s been established since 2015.

Outside of the big names, Andrew “Maple Jordan” Wiggins is the only true player that would make a notable difference on a contender or could be a valuable asset in a trade and that’s with all due respect to Kevin Looney, Marquese Chriss, and Eric Paschall, who did stand out enough as a rookie to earn league recognition.

Maple Jordan may not be the reincarnation of Durant, but his value as a trade asset, along with the draft picks the Warriors have this year (and next) could get them somewhat close to a suitable fourth that may not shame Durant, but it wouldn’t shame the winning-est franchise of the past 10 years either.

Here’s a look at five (or so) trades that Golden State is in position to make right now to continue their dynasty run just as they’d like.

5. Call Dallas for Kristaps Porzingis

Now, these first scenarios will err on the completely unrealistic side, to a degree, while working on down to more realistic and reasonable deals. Porzingis helped the Dallas Mavericks extend their championship hopes into the bubble postseason and maintained the kind of shooting splits that first made him emerge like a unicorn in New York.

Luka Dončić’s ability to provide open looks for Porzingis, as well as both men’s ablity to make them consistently, may rank them as one of the top duo’s moving into the 2020-2021 season and not something at all that Mark Cuban would want to split up. However, Porzingis’ health will always be a question mark for this duo and could wind up limiting just how great they can be.

For this trade to work Golden State would send the No. 2 pick for this year, the potential Minnesota Timberwolves lottery pick in 2021 and Andrew Wiggins to Dallas for Porzingis. Here, Dallas gets a wing who can shoot the 3 and give you 20 points a game while defending the opposing team’s best player — or, in other words, everything they (and I secretly) hoped Harrison Barnes would be — plus a chance at not one but two potential stars to pair with Luka moving forward.

GSW bringing back Porzingis may be unfair enough to cause an actionable David Stern to haunt the Chase Center. Adding a shooting big man of Porzingis’ caliber to a potent all-star trio would do wonders in extending the championship window and further opening up the Warriors’ offense. This will greatly benefit the big man as he’ll be able to develop a more consistent post game having such quality shooters to pass out to and on the defensive end he adds a layer of rim protection to rival that of Javale McGee’s or Zaza Pachulia’s from previous successful postseasons. 

In filling out the remainder of the roster the Warriors have always done a good job of finding value where others can’t — ask the Bulls about their ability to find 2nd round draft talent. Sure, the top picks in this year and next would be nice to have, but they’re not completely necessary if the Warriors really want to win it all again in that same time frame.

4. Call Toronto for Pascal Siakam

Don’t immediately shake your head at this one. Do you remember the last time Toronto Raptors had an all-star player who averaged over 20 points per game, had a funny first name, and saw Toronto exhibit ever greater success after his departure? Yeah, general manager Masai Ujiri doesn’t miss any opportunity to start fresh when he could and he clearly didn’t miss Demar DeRozan when he traded him for Kawhi Leonard.

DeRozan had been the main guy in Toronto for almost ten years and was traded as quickly as we forgot about Killer Bees earlier this summer. As good of an all-star as Siakam is right now, will he be enough to win another title in the near future with the team they have? No. And the Raps second round exit in the bubble proves it.

This team is aging with veteran stars Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka each on the wrong sides of their prime. Meanwhile, Fred Van Fleet is going to command a hefty pay day in free agency whether he remains in Toronto or not. This is the perfect opportunity for the Raptors to look at what their future could look like in the next phase.

For this trade to work, Golden State would send this year’s No. 2 and No. 48 picks, the potential T’Wolves lottery pick in 2021, and Andrew Wiggins to Toronto for Siakam. This trade works for the Raptors because you acquire a very good player in your core moving forward to develop alongside OG Anunoby, Norman Powell, and the possibly resigned Van Fleet. For all the jokes made about Wiggins, and I fully admit to creating some good ones myself, this would be the best situation for Maple Jordan, a Canadian native who would have a chance to establish himself as a true basketball hero for his home country.

On Golden State’s end this trade puts you right back in the conversation of competing for a title in 2021. Siakam provides a great and much needed wing defender who can play the 3, 4 or 5 — he could be the centerpiece in a new and improved Death Lineup. Natural improvement both physically and mentally should come from him while alongside all-time greats who should only make the game easier for him. This isn’t a comparison I’ve seen thus far, but its something I predict you’ll see if this trade occur — Siakam turning into a modern version of “Big Game” James Worthy while being on a team like this.

3. Call Elton Brand for Ben Simmons (or Joel Embiid)

Granted, Elton Brand has officially stated this summer that he will not be trading Ben Simmons nor Joel Embiid in the near future, but the mind of the Sixers’ general manager could change. How much more could he want to deal with Simmons’ reluctance to shoot a 3-pointer for 25 games just because his coach was upset with him?

Simply, Simmons needs a change of scenery. I’m of the thinking that his pairing with Embiid will not work if his reluctance to shoot the ball will continue to be a long-term concern. For as good as Simmons is (and he is very good) Philadelphia should have been in the last three Eastern Conference Finals. Them not being in one is a distinct failure. Better to break it up now and get the most value why you can versus the reality of dealing with injuries over time and not being able to receive the assets you could have gotten before.

For Golden State to make this deal they would include this year’s No. 2, No. 48, the potential T’Wolves lottery pick in 2021, Wiggins, Kevon Looney, Jordan Poole, and the Willie Cauley-Stein trade exception for Ben Simmons and Al Horford.

On top of Simmons needing a change of scenery, the Al Horford experiment hasn’t worked either for Philly. Collected originally to guard reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Horford wound up being exposed in matchups with smaller and quicker guys like Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Siakam in pick and roll situations, leading to losses in tight series against Boston and Toronto.

For the Warriors, this opens their championship window wide. Simmons is the best transition player in the league and he’ll have a ball feeding the ball to shooters like Curry and Thompson. As a defender he is among the best on the wing and could play the 5 in their small ball lineup while running point-forward. Meanwhile, Horford can move back to his natural center position in a rotational situation where he can emerge as a leader on the second unit with scoring and stability.

Wiggins’ game is much more of a compliment to Embiid’s than Simmons and it establishes Embiid as the clear cut No. 1 option in Philly. With the draft picks you can now work on players who will be able to immediately contribute or flip them for veterans who could do the same (Victor Oladipo anyone?).

The same trade scenario could net GSW Embiid as well if the Sixers brass sees Simmons more as their guy for the future in possibly a Giannis / Luka Dončić type role of surrounding him with defenders and shooters, a role where Wiggins can do well and Philly can pinpoint new talent in the next two drafts. 

In the Bay, this provides a unique possible evolution for the Warriors offense. Having the insurance of Kevin Looney and Marquese Chriss allows the team the flexibility to last for extended stretches when injuries occur to Embiid or even spell Embiid for stretches where he can rest and keep from getting injured due to overuse.

Given the new era of load management, Embiid doesn’t need to complete a full 82-game season for the Warriors to be an effective member of the roster. They’ll certainly have adjustments to make during the regular season, as Embiid is best when he is on the block, but his shooting will be able to keep most defenses honest and it gives the team a new benefit of having a true low-post threat to unleash in the postseason.

2. Call the Orlando Magic for Aaron Gordon

Here’s where we begin to get more realistic. Aaron Gordon needs a way out of Orlando and they need to find a way to get him out. He’s certainly entertaining with his dunks, freestyle diss tracks aimed at Dwayne Wade, and open court style of play, but he’s not on any projection to reach the upper echelon of NBA players alongside the Magic’s current roster.

Unfortunately for Orlando, they’re not bringing in marquee NBA talent anymore and it’s not because they won’t allow their significant others to occasionally ride on the team plane. Yes, that could have been a Dwight Howard joke but no, it is not. 

The Magic are set to move more like the mid-market team they really are, they have to draft well and develop their players — which in the case of Markelle Fultz they’ve done an impressive job. Gordon has done a good job as well but a change of scenery may be best for him and the Magic franchise as they can create a fresh chance at building a good core around Fultz moving forward.

For this trade to work, Golden State would send the No. 2 pick and Wiggins to Orlando for Aaron Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu. This helps the Magic by drastically lowering the expectations for Wiggins’ star potential and allowing him to simply play again on a loose, young team who can surprise the league.

In every scenario I’ve mentioned thus far, as well as the last one to come, Wiggins lands well in positions where he can maintain as a 20-point per game scorer and a good to great elite wing defender which, all Maple Jordan jokes aside, I believe he can still do. 

Developing under the radar is working for Fultz and could work for Wiggins as they would make quite the pair of two sizable defenders who can finish in transition and get their own shot in a half-court set. It also brings another top-tier talent into the fold with the draft pick. Steve Clifford has done a great job with Orlando keeping them in the top 10 of NBA team opponent points per game and including the skill of Wiggins and talent of the pick will only help in the future.

On the other end, Gordon is the almost perfect player to add into the mix for the Warriors. Overall, his reputation is a slasher who defends well and hustles, two things which they’ll need but who wouldn’t love to see Curry, Thompson or Green throw lobs to Gordon on a fast break? It’ll happen so much SportsCenter Top 10s would likely have to reserve one spot for such a play each night.

Being in the Warrior offense and at the disposal of GSW’s development staff, it wouldn’t be hard to see Gordon reaching new heights as a complete player and taking the reigns eventually as their go-to as Curry and Co. age gracefully. Gordon’s height and length also help on the defensive end as he can technically play the 5 in a small ball lineup and bringing along his current teammate adds value to the defense and possibly the shooting where Aminu has flirted with around 40% shooting from three during much of his career.

1. Call New Orleans for Brandon Ingram

Okay, y’all ready? Here is the guy I’m most excited and pumped to talk about as a potential Golden State Warrior — Brandon Ingram. This idea makes THE most sense out of all of them, but I’ll get to that shortly. Let’s first address the Pelicans primary concerns. Will Zion Williamson lose enough weight to play 25+ minutes consistently and last an entire season, or is his career going to be the equivalent of a ticking time bomb? Only Emmett Lathrop “Doc” Brown and Marty McFly know for sure but there are two scenarios that come to mind. 

If Williamson’s body isn’t healthy enough to do either of the previously mentioned things they need to look at who their next guy will be. Ingram won’t be enough to do it on his own, but New Orleans’ roster is structured too well at the moment for them to get a high lottery pick. Thus the Pelicans are likely to return to the early stage cycle of its experience with Anthony Davis — good enough to almost make the playoffs but not bad enough to draft another marquee talent to play alongside him. No big name free agents are signing there within the next couple of years either, not that N.O. has ever been a big free agent destination.

If Williamson’s body is healthy enough to do both of those things this presents the challenge of will he and Ingram be enough to win a title? Those are essentially both of your max slots (I fully expect New Orleans to offer Ingram the max this upcoming off-season) and your future. If they have any doubt that their duo could not do it, wouldn’t it be better to not go the Anthony Davis route early and instead bring in a highly ranked draft talent to grow and mature alongside Zion? That is where Golden State enters the picture.

Golden State could provide this year’s No. 2, No. 48, the potential T’Wolves lottery pick in 2021, Andrew Wiggins, and Kevon Looney for Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holiday (plus a surprise 1B scenario at the end).

This trade gives New Orleans the chance to draft high talent in back to back years while also drafting serviceable talent with the No. 48 pick on top of the Lakers picks they received and their own draft picks from not being as good anymore. Wiggins fits their defensive and wing scoring needs to replace some of the production they’re losing from Ingram and Holiday while also having, similar to Orlando, lower expectations which he could supersede.

Looney can be an efficient backup big in the case that Jahlil Okafor or Kenrich Williams are no longer good enough options. The remainder of the production they’re losing is made up from drafting well and they give Williamson time to grow into his greatness rather than forcing him to be consistently great from the moment he steps on the floor.

For Golden State, this is their top trade option to explore. Not only does Ingram bring you the offensive prowess that no other player mentioned in this piece has (aside from Embiid arguably two seasons ago) but his defense is enough that it can bother and hinder other players when he’s engaged and he has the tools to be even better. Ingram also isn’t done growing on the offensive end. He certainly will get easier scoring opportunities with defenses keying on the other Warrior stars and is shooting 39% from the three-point line.

Not to mention, in this season with the Pelicans, his time at Duke, his first few years with the Lakers, and at times last season with them, Ingram has played the point guard position. He may not have the natural passing ability of Ben Simmons but having another point forward on their team who can find the open man gives more opportunity to Curry and Thompson to run off screens after Green sets them. 

Having Draymond Green not run the point forward position as much benefits him as the attention the Splash Brothers receive, from screens he sets, gives him even more open shot attempts which he has said he’ll work on to return to his better shooting stretches. We’ve gone through all of that and haven’t even mentioned the addition of Jrue Holiday. Off the bench he provides GSW with scoring they’ll need out of their sixth man and on top of that is a lock-down type defender that the Warriors have missed since Andre Iguadola’s decline and departure.

A small ball lineup of Curry, Holiday, Thompson, Ingram, and Green has me not only intrigued but could be dangerous for every other team in the NBA. I will also mention, there is a scenario where New Orleans includes Lonzo Ball in the package as they’re rumored to be shopping him around. Golden State could add a few other players and one name from their list of trade exceptions (they have 7) to make this work. While it isn’t necessary, they’ve repeatedly been to find value where others have not and not having the pressures of being the next Jason Kidd may bode well for Ball.

Overall, Golden State could keep their draft picks and choose a player who’ll fit their plans the most. It should be James Wiseman, as him developing an outside shot and a better low post skill set isn’t out of the question and fits their future needs. Yet if they want to continue to break the NBA with outside the box thinking while extending their championship window, Ingram and Holiday should top their wish list.

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