Our NBA insiders are debating the biggest topics in the league. Should the Warriors be worried about their slow start and consider trading their young talent?
Chris Mannix: Well, Howard, the Warriors, defending champions, four-time NBA champions, the team with three future Hall of Famers in the rotation, begin this week as the second-best team in the Bay Area (shout out to my Sacramento Kings). The once stingy defense is suddenly leaky, Klay Thompson has been streaky and the high-end, young talent has not developed as quickly as Warriors brass had hoped. It’s early, but where is your Panic Meter at right now?
Howard Beck: I think my biggest concern, as a Bay Area native, is that I somehow missed the news of a catastrophic earthquake that wiped out all of Solano and Yolo counties, causing the entire city of Sacramento to slide 60 miles westward. Your fellow Sacramento Kings fans would be surprised to learn they live in the Bay Area.
On the Warriors: I’m keeping my Panic Meter around a 6.5 on the 1-to-10 scale. I trust them to figure this out, and it’s still on the early side. Let’s look at the positives for a second: Steph is playing like an MVP, Klay is finding his stride, and Draymond has been solid. The starting five is still one of the best in the league. But yeah, that bench. The kids are not all right. Warriors brass made a decision this summer to let the vets walk (good-bye, Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica) and turn the second unit over to Jordan Poole, James Wiseman, Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga. It’s been a disaster. I’m confident Poole will return to form. The others? I’m not so sure. In your view, how long can the Warriors wait on the youth?
Mannix: First, apologies NorCal—I stand corrected. As far as the Dubs go, I’d say the current group has until Christmas to right the ship. But I’m pretty concerned about this supporting cast. You’re right, the starting five remains excellent. Six, if you count Poole, who I agree will regain last season’s form. But in years past Golden State had certain glue guys. For several seasons it was Andre Iguodala. Last year they turned to Porter and Payton. The hope was the young players would fill those roles this season, but I’m not seeing it yet. This is shaping up to be a developmental season for Wiseman and I’m not seeing the kind of defensive intensity from Kuminga and Moody that makes me believe they can develop into trustworthy rotation players, at least not this season. Do you?
Beck: Let’s look at it this way: Kuminga has played 84 games in the NBA. Moody, 68. Wiseman, 50. They’ve all shown flashes of excellent play, in limited roles. But two of them haven’t even played a full 82 games. Wiseman is, for all practical purposes, still a rookie—and he’s the one with the most talent and upside. Players all develop at different rates. Some guys blossom in Year 2 or 3. Some guys take longer. Can they become trustworthy rotation players? My guess is yes, but I don’t know how soon. And that’s the quandary facing the Warriors’ front office and coaching staff: How long will it take? And how much patience can we afford?
This is why the so-called “two timeline” or “dual track” plan has always been a little fraught—and why no team in modern history has pulled it off. It’s really hard to develop young players while simultaneously contending for titles. All three of these guys have talent and could become vital players. I just don’t know if the Warriors can wait that long, given the ages of their core vets. They owe it to Curry (as well as Thompson and Green) to do everything possible to extend this dynasty. If that means trading one or more young guys (and possibly future picks) to get veteran help, I think they’re obligated to do it. Not immediately. We’re still in November. But if the bench still looks this shaky a month from now? I don’t see how they avoid it. Do you see another way?
Mannix: It’s a tough call. On one hand Golden State is probably a trade away from separating itself from the conference, perhaps from the entire league. Play out this hypothetical: The Warriors swap some combination of Wiseman/Kuminga/Moody and picks for, say, Bradley Beal. They would effectively be adding an All-NBA caliber player in exchange for guys that are (currently) contributing minimally. Would that team not rocket to the top of your power rankings? The downside is that in a few years, when Curry, Thompson and Green are winding down, the kids you gave up could be All-Stars. But you have made this point, and I agree with it: Don’t you have to go all-in to maximize the prime years of Curry? So that’s a long-winded way of saying, yes, if this team is still struggling to find its footing in January, everyone is on the table.
Beck: Look, I admire the ambition and audacity of the two-timeline plan. And hey, maybe it still works out that way. They have four potential building blocks, counting Poole. Maybe you’re just trading one of them, or two, plus picks. Maybe you can still win now and plan for, say, 2025. But if things continue down this rocky path, if you have to make a choice, I say screw the future. Trade whoever you have to trade to ensure a deep playoff run this June. Figure out 2025 when you get there. The tricky part is it isn’t clear what Kuminga/Moody/Wiseman would be worth. And, well, it isn’t clear who will be available, either. The Wizards might be winning too much to consider trading Beal. The Nets seem wedded to their Bizarro Big 3, at least for now, so those Kevin Durant fantasies seem far fetched. But maybe the Warriors don’t need another star—just a solid 3-and-D wing, or two. The good news is, I do think their young guys have allure to a rebuilding team. There’s a deal out there to be done, when the time comes.
Mannix: Well, let me ask you this, if I may play devil’s advocate: Is there a scenario where you would say don’t make a deal? I mean think about it, Curry will be 35 in March. Thompson is 32 and who knows what the leg injuries have done to his longevity. Green may not be long for Golden State, regardless. In Wiseman, Kuminga and Moody, we are talking about three lottery picks who have shown varying degrees of potential. Is there a scenario where you—and when I say you, I’m asking you to step into Bob Myers’ office for a moment—would say don’t trade those players under any circumstances?
Beck: There are, in fact, two scenarios that would prevent me from making a trade: 1. One or two of the young guys suddenly click, stabilizing my rotation, ensuring we can contend this season without a dramatic move. 2. Steph gets kidnapped by aliens.
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