The Golden State Warriors are going through a difficult time, not just on the court but more so off of it. For the past four years, the Dubs have been virtually invincible, winning three titles along the way. No one has found a way to stop them except themselves and now they may be at their most vulnerable.
With the team seemingly imploding after the Draymond Green and Kevin Durant spat, there’s a chance that someone will want to swoop in and take advantage of the situation. We’re looking at the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks as potential players hoping to make a trade for Durant. Though the odds are slim that the Warriors will bite, any of these teams could potentially make them an offer they can’t refuse.
In this three-part series, we’ll be looking at the best trade offers that the Lakers, Clippers and Knicks can make to the Warriors in exchange for the former league MVP.
First, the Lakers.
What Golden State hates most is making their sworn enemy’s team stronger and is now in the same conference as theirs. LeBron James, their opponent in the Finals over the past four seasons, is no longer content in playing in the East but wants to set his kingdom in the West in the remaining years of his career.
The Lakers look to strengthen their position as the next great superpower in the NBA with James as the foundation. They want to build on that foundation with other superstars and Durant fits right in with that vision. For Magic Johnson, the team’s president of basketball operations, to convince the Warriors to trade Kevin Durant to them, they will have to give their best offer from the start, one that would be hard to reject.
In terms of players that the Warriors may be interested in, these three are the primary targets: Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram.
With all three in rookie deals, they don’t take up much cap space and Golden State can afford to wait for these guys to develop. It also ensures them that in the event of an apocalyptic future (Draymond Green and Klay Thompson go elsewhere once their deals expire). They can add other free agent stars as well including possibly New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis who is reportedly looking to play for a title contender once his deal is up.
But this isn’t the Lakers’ best offer yet. If the Warriors are going to bite on their bait, they need more in return. They want to win a third straight championship but they can’t do that with a few young ones replacing Kevin Durant. At the same time, the salaries don’t match either so the Lakers will have to add a couple of players to make the deal work. That will involve too many players, however, more than the Warriors can afford to add to their roster. To make the numbers work, a third team will have to be involved.
How about the Washington Wizards? The Wizards are imploding and a fire sale of their players may be forthcoming. Should the Wizards get involved and they choose to rebuild, they will want to get some young blood on their roster, too. The Warriors will want Bradley Beal from the Wizards in this scenario.
Here’s how the trade packages could look like in terms of player movement:
Warriors give up Kevin Durant, point guard Quinn Cook and shooting guard Jacob Evans. They receive: Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Bradley Beal and Jeff Green.
Lakers give up Hart, Kuzma, Ball, Ingram and shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They receive: Kevin Durant and Quin Cook.
Wizards give up Beal and small forward Jeff Green. They receive: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jacob Evans.
The salaries will have to match with a couple of first or second-round picks thrown in to round out the deal between the three teams. This will not be an easy trade to execute with general managers Bob Myers of the Warriors and Ernie Grunfeld of the Wizards working with Rob Pelinka of the Lakers aside from Johnson to make this work.
With the Lakers roster depleted from this trade, they will have to sign a couple of veteran free agents who are still looking for new homes such as Corey Brewer who played in 54 games with the team last year.
Here’s what the lineups will look like after the trade:
G – Stephen Curry
G – Bradley Beal
F – Klay Thompson (yes, he’ll have to play the three position vacated by Durant)
F – Draymond Green
C – DeMarcus Cousins
G – Josh Hart
G – Shaun Livingston
G – Damion Lee
G/F – Andre Iguodala
F – Kyle Kuzma
F – Jeff Green
F – Kevon Looney
F – Jordan Bell
F/C – Jonas Jerebko
C – Damian Jones
G – Rajon Rondo
G – Lance Stephenson
F – Kevin Durant
F – LeBron James
C – JaVale McGee
G – Quinn Cook
G – Isaac Bonga
G – Alex Caruso
G – Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
F – Michael Beasley
F – Johnathan Williams
C – Tyson Chandler
C – Ivika Zubac
G – John Wall (soon to be traded)
G – Otto Porter Jr.
F – Brandon Ingram
F – Markieff Morris
C – Dwight Howard
G – Lonzo Ball
G – Tomas Satoransky
G – Austin Rivers
G – Jodie Meeks
F – Kelly Oubre Jr.
F – Troy Brown Jr.
F – Jason Smith
C – Ian Mahinmi
C – Thomas Bryant
If a trade of this magnitude gets done, it will most certainly shake up the entire NBA. The Warriors may actually be better with this trade as it makes them deeper. The Lakers also make a huge leap in terms of championship potential and will be taken seriously as a title threat from here on. As for the Wizards, patience will be the key. They will have to hope that Ingram and Ball become the superstars they were expected to be when they were drafted as lottery picks. If not, Washington will have sacrificed their superstar for nothing. But the Wizards won’t be done with their roster upheaval until John Wall is traded which is likely going to happen this season one way or another.
The Lakers will be sacrificing their depth for a chance to win a championship now. It’s a risky move since Durant isn’t guaranteed to re-sign with the team next season. But if he has every intention of staying as a Laker beyond this year, then this move is a no-brainer.
A championship window is a fleeting opportunity and teams should take advantage of them whenever it presents itself. Having Durant on the roster greatly boosts the Lakers title chances this season and, if he re-signs next summer, for the foreseeable future.
If I were Johnson and this trade scenario is the best I can offer to the Warriors to accelerate my hopes of a championship, I’d do this deal in a heartbeat. The only question is whether the Warriors would want to allow their conference rival to be stronger.