After an uncharacteristic slump and a feud that was described as one of the most tense moments in recent memory, the Golden State Warriors are currently tied atop the Western Conference. After making the league believe, even if for a second, that they’re human, the Warriors are now starting to re-emerge as the unstoppable force they’ve grown to be in past seasons, Wednesday night’s egg against the Toronto Raptors notwithstanding.
Getting Stephen Curry and Draymond Green back has helped build some momentum, and the Warriors are finally starting to look like themselves again. With DeMarcus Cousins looming in the shadows, the Warriors, of all teams in the league, may seem the least likely to make a trade by the February deadline.
A trade for the Warriors may mean something has gone wrong. Perhaps Cousins’ injury hampers him more than anyone had thought it would. Perhaps a season-ending injury to Klay Thompson forces the Warriors to be in search for shooters. Whatever it may be, if the Warriors make a trade by the deadline, they could be in crisis mode. Or, maybe, they’re simple able to find a minor upgrade that helps balance out the roster.
That being said, let’s explore three possible trade targets for the team if they decide to try to fill whatever holes on the roster they may have.
#1: Trevor Ariza
With Andre Iguodala’s elite play in hibernation until the playoffs, the Warriors are in need of some wing depth. Coming into this season, Patrick McCaw was expected to grow and develop as Iguodala’s protégé. However, the sticky McCaw situation has left the Warriors short at the wing.
Jonas Jerebko has served as a nice option off the bench, but the Warriors could use another solid lengthy defender. Ariza is a proven champion, and his hustle and defense is well-known throughout the league. The ability to knock down 3s comes as an added bonus.
The 15-year veteran has averaged double-digit points per game in each of the past five seasons, and this year’s 9.8 points per game would provide a solid punch off the bench. The Warriors crave lengthy, athletic defenders, and Ariza fits perfectly into that role. Coming off the bench, he would not only be able to give Iguodala more rest, but would also be a veteran presence on the second unit to help out young guys Quinn Cook, Alfonzo McKinnie, and Jordan Bell.
The Lakers are currently in trade talks for Ariza, but if that falls through, the Warriors should pounce. As far as long, athletic, two-way wing players go, Ariza is up there with the best of them.
One issue here is Ariza’s $15 million salary, making it a tough match in a deal.
#2: J.R. Smith
While many Warriors fans joked that Smith was Golden State’s best player in Game 1 of last year’s Finals, he may actually be able to help them, on their side this time.
Since his comments about the Cavs and subsequent withdrawal from the team, Smith is just sitting around, a valuable 3-point asset ripe for the plucking. And the Warriors could desperately use some 3-point shooting off their bench.
According to NBA.com, the Warriors ranked dead last in the ’17-18 season in 3-pointers made from bench players. This season, they’re not much better — ranking 28th in the league in bench triples. Smith, who is a career 37.3 percent 3-point shooter, could be a strong lift for a bench unit in need of floor spacing.
The Warriors know full well from the past few NBA Finals that Smith can heat up in an instant. While it’s not often, that level of shooting would do wonders for a Warriors’ second unit that needs Jerebko and McKinnie to knock down 3s to be effective.
In the 2012-13 season, the Warriors had backup point guard Jarrett Jack come off the bench. And while he wasn’t a consistent shooter, he could heat up like few others. His hot shooting, while at times hogged the ball, let the pressure off a budding Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
That’s a role that Smith could fill in the Warriors’ star-studded lineup — the role they envisioned Omri Casspi and Nick Young to play. Shoot the ball when you’re open. Make 3-pointers. Take the pressure off the stars. That’s what the Warriors are looking for in bench shooters. And unlike for the Cavs in Game 1 of the Finals, Smith could be the answer.
Like Ariza, Smith’s bloated salary could make swinging a deal difficult, though.
#3: Justin Holiday
A former Warrior, Justin Holiday follows the archetype of the lengthy 3-and-D player the Warriors crave off the bench. When he was with Golden State earlier in his career, Holiday was merely a role player, averaging 4.3 points per game and knocking down the occasional open triple.
Since then, however, Holiday has blossomed, becoming a scoring option for a Chicago Bulls organization in disarray. This season, Holiday is averaging a career-high 12.4 points per game while knocking down triples at a solid 38.4 percent clip. He is also attempting 7.5 3-pointers per game, which ranks 11th in the league.
That kind of willingness to take 3s is something the Warriors need off the bench, as they’ve seen players like Quinn Cook do countless pump fakes and step in from the 3-point line for a long mid-range jumper. But if the Warriors’ second unit wants to space the floor and put more pressure on defenses, they’ll have to start shooting like Justin Holiday.
Holiday isn’t the best defender, but he’s a willing one who’s averaging 1.8 steals per game, good for seventh in the league, right behind Kawhi Leonard. The Warriors, meanwhile, have no player even close to sniffing the league leaders in steals. And while the absences of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green have impacted the defense, their recent blowout loss vs. Toronto, with the core healthy, revealed there are still holes to fill.
The Bulls are in a free fall, with players starting to rebel against new head coach Jim Boylen. Contenders should be lining up on the Bulls’ doorstep to snatch assets away as the season progresses. Holiday, who’s already familiar with former teammates Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, should be a prime candidate to be on the move in the near future, especially thanks to his cheap $4.38 million expiring contract. His development and maturity on both offense and defense should have plenty of playoff teams, including the Warriors, licking their chops.