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As I pointed out in last week’s NBA Power Rankings, the Warriors are the team with the most potential to disrupt this offseason, by far. While James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo or Ben Simmons suddenly becoming available by trade could change everything, the probability of any of those players actually being moved is exceedingly small. And, if any of them were moved, there’s a good chance the Warriors would be involved.
If you’re building a Venn diagram for this NBA offseason, of assets that have value and assets that are likely to be dangled, the Warriors No. 2 pick would fall right in the center of that overlap. The problem is, this draft class is widely considered to be unusually weak (and unusually high-variance, considering the way the pandemic interrupted scouting and preparation). Even with Andrew Wiggins as some kind of monk fruit sweetener that package, on its own, isn’t likely to pry away the top tier star the Warriors might be looking for. But there are other possibilities.
I fell down a trade machine rabbit hole this weekend, messing around with the Warriors and the 76ers as centerpieces and I found something interesting enough to share. It’s a pipe dream and fans of all five teams involved will be quick to point out that I’m a moron, but I still think it’s fun.
Could trading Draymond Green get the Warriors what they need this season?
Golden State Warriors get: Ben Simmons
The Warriors are parting with Draymond Green (and the No. 2 pick and Kevon Looney) here but arguably getting a younger version with more offensive upside. While he doesn’t play with the same rabid ferocity and doesn’t have the same high-leverage playoff experience, Simmons is already one of the league’s most versatile and impactful defenders. With his elite passing and vision, he could theoretically fill the roles Green played at both ends of the floor during the Warriors’ last championship runs. His match-up busting post game also gives Steve Kerr another toy to mess around with as they look to evolve into something else. This might lower the Warriors ceiling in the short-term but I think it improves their long-term outlook much more than keeping the pick or swinging for a lesser star.
Boston Celtics get: Draymond Green
The Celtics have three first-round picks this year but the best of these is only the last pick in the lottery. Assuming Gordon Hayward picks up his player option (the deal only works if he does), the Celtics move the pick, Grant Williams and the last year of a declining Hayward for a versatile big man who can buoy their defense and let them survive playing small against the Bam Adebayos, Giannis Antetokounmpos and Anthony Davises of the NBA world. Of all the teams in this trade, the Celtics might make out the best.
Philadelphia 76ers get: Kevin Love, Collin Sexton, No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft (via GSW)
The 76ers would probably like to get more for Simmons, even if they felt their hand was forced and the pairing with Joel Embiid was untenable. But there aren’t a ton of perfect trades out there and this might be a nice bridge between present and future. Love’s shooting would be a welcome addition to the frontcourt rotation and he could play well off Embiid. Sexton is a bit of a black box, with strong box score numbers but middling impact because of woeful defensive performance. But he’s worth a look in a new setting. And the No. 2 pick probably isn’t going to return a player of Simmons’ caliber, but it could and it gives Philadelphia a chance to restructure the roster and potentially even get more creative fielding trade offers that include Tobias Harris or Al Horford.
Cleveland Cavaliers get: Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Gordon Hayward, No. 14 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft (via BOS)
Love and Larry Nance Jr. are somewhat wasted on a young rebuilding team and, despite the small sample size, Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. don’t really look viable as a three-man backcourt combination. Here, the Cavaliers get to shed some salary swapping out Love’s deal for Hayward’s with one year remaining and turn Sexton into the slightly older, but more established Derrick White. That combination seems to work a little better on paper with White working as more of a facilitator letting Garland and Porter Jr. operate more off the ball. And they pick up a second lottery pick.
San Antonio Spurs get: Kevon Looney, Grant Williams, Larry Nance Jr.
Derrick White has done some incredible things for the Spurs, far outpacing expectations. But he’s also 26, a few years older than the Dejounte Murray-Lonnie Walker backcourt the Spurs should probably be focused on. Looney missed most of last season with injury and may have already peaked but he’s still a fun hypothetical. Nance Jr. is mostly a rotation filler until his contract runs out. But Grant Williams is the real hypothetical prize here, a defensive dynamo whose versatility and passing ability wasn’t really explored that much with the Celtics as a rookie. He could be a key frontcourt partner for their young backcourt as the Spurs grow into their next iteration.
What can hypothetical future contenders like the Hawks, Bulls, Spurs and Pelicans learn from this year’s conference finalists?
The NBA Finals coaching matchup between Erik Spoelstra and Frank Vogel was supposed to be an advantage for the Heat. But Vogel used six games to turn himself from a cliche into a champion.