Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes were invited to Team USA practices in late July, David Lee made third-team All-NBA, Andris Biedrins' Decision and Jarrett Jack got some free-agent interest from the Dallas Mavericks, but something else stole the show on an NBA offday. Dwight Howard happened.
Marcus Thompson posted some of his thoughts here, and there are several interesting things to chew over, including the possibility of a sign-and-trade. I really wanted to write this yesterday but school got in the way. A little late to the party here but it helped with reflecting over all the options and avenues to go about this. Obviously, this would be the biggest offseason move in current Warriors' history, but something that might not have the same "franchise-defining" moniker it would have had if this happened in the past few seasons.
At least that's what I've been reading from Warriors fans on Twitter. I may not win popularity and "rah-rah" points with this one but if presented with the possibility of pairing up Dwight Howard with Stephen Curry in a somewhat watered-down Western Conference—Warriors with everyone healthy is a solid contender at the three spot behind the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder—I do that deal.
Since the Warriors can't just sign Dwight Howard, and that would not be ideal with Bogut already manning the middle, they would have to send some salary back to the Los Angeles Lakers. Unless you think LeBron James, Chris Bosh or Carmelo Anthony is coming to the Bay Area in 2014, signing Dwight to an extension would essentially cement his place as the Warriors center for years. Keep in mind Bogut is a free agent after next season. Don't give me any Richard Jefferson-David Lee for Dwight BS either, Mitch Kupchak isn't David Kahn. The talks will likely center around the contracts of either Lee (three years and $13.7+ million in 2013-2014) or Bogut ($14.2 million in 2013-2014) and then one of either Thompson or Barnes. Giving Lee or Bogut shouldn't slow down this trade but the additions of the other member of the Splash Brothers or rising 20-year old star Barnes would cause some immediate reservations.
Choosing one depends on your preference on judging talent versus fit. Barnes is the better talent and should become the more impactful overall player on offense and defense. He's also three years younger than Thompson and his extension numbers won't come up for a while. However, Thompson would probably fit in with Dwight a little better, without demanding the ball much on offense and spreading the floor for a potentially unstoppable Curry-Howard pick-and-roll. In Orlando's 2009 Finals appearance, they spread the floor with shooters like Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, J.J. Redick, Courtney Lee and even Mickael Pietrus, and ran the offense through Turkoglu and Howard, to surprisingly effective results. Why doesn't Stan Van Gundy have a job again?
Imagine a lineup with Curry, Brandon Rush, Thompson/Barnes and Draymond Green spreading the floor around Howard. The only thing stopping this trade from happening is an obstacle that wouldn't be noted without this season's playoff success: chemistry and necessity.
Dwight Howard is now infamously immature in the way we all thought LeBron James would be. His fart jokes and goofy grins during a terrible Lakers season didn't help endear him to any fans in Hollywood. Does this matter for a locker room as apparently tight-knit as the Warriors have been under Mark Jackson? Sure, but I'd argue that he was in two specifically terrible situations—the first being his last season in Orlando and the shitshow that is the Los Angeles media. With his every move scrutinized, it's easy to see how things escalated a little too quickly for anyone's liking.
Last time I checked, none of us are in actual locker rooms and know what's going on behind the scenes, but this hasn't stopped people from assuming that Howard is a bad teammate and even a bad person because he got bad PR advice in Orlando and is a generally unfunny person who thinks he is hilarious—and you wonder why Shaq, a similar personality, dislikes him. Just because someone is easy to dislike from an outsiders' point of view doesn't necessarily mean that his addition immediately breaks the loving bond between players and coaches. A trade to the Warriors would likely mean Dwight signs an extension so all the offseason talks quickly dissipate and the forthcoming wins would help squelch any apparent chemistry-killing.
As for necessity, one could argue that a core of Bogut/Curry/Thompson/Barnes/Rush/Lee/Green is good enough to make the Western Conference Semifinals again, but this assumes that Bogut is healthy for a whole regular season and then another postseason run. Dwight struggled through back and shoulder injuries but he was still effective, though not his usual dominant defensive self, and now has another offseason to heal. Bogut, on the other hand, has been battling injuries for the better part of five seasons and it wouldn't surprise anyone if he struggled to stay healthy again.
If the Warriors feel the moment (I had to) is now, a trade for a healthy Dwight Howard would immediately put them in conversations for a Western Conference Finals berth. Necessity, chemistry and continuity be damned, this trade makes the Warriors better in the present and the future. I can understand if Bob Myers doesn't want to pull the trigger on the potential trade and breaking up a roster that has just started to gel but the NBA, like all sports, can slam shut a team's window of opportunity as quickly as they open it. To say the team in its current construct will make the postseason isn't wrong; to imply that Dwight Howard wouldn't make this team better would not only be wrong but nearsighted.
More likely than not, this is much ado about nothing, as has been the case the past three years.