My first reaction when thinking about the possibility of the 26-1 Golden State Warriors making a trade this season is pretty much what David Aldridge wrote for NBA.com yesterday in his team-by-team preview of trade season: "Golden State: Nope."
Setting aside any deep analysis of team need, it would seem that a defending champion that is off to a historic start to their following season has no reason to change — if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?
Nevertheless, with the Warriors' bench struggling to score when Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson are off the floor — not to mention the absence of Harrison Barnes, which has affected the rotation — CSN Bay Area's Monte Poole reported yesterday that the general manager Bob Myers is keeping an open mind about trade possibilities.
Warriors general manager Bob Myers, like most executives, doesn’t talk trade-possibility specifics. But he surely realizes that when Curry, Thompson and Green are off the floor, scoring comes with considerable toil and strife.
The front office is studying the trade market, because if Speights can’t find his form, and soon, the Warriors will seek out another stretch four, somebody Walton or Kerr can call when they need a scoring punch.
Now, let's not overreact: it's a general manager's job to monitor the trade market and Poole's report isn't really enough to suggest that the Warriors are actively shopping Speights. But depth and complementarity matters if you're going to make a deep playoff run and if an opportunity to improve presents itself, you have to consider it.
Along those lines, San Jose Mercury News blogger Adam Lauridsen suggested that the Warriors might be interested in pursuing a deal for Channing Frye, a stretch big who would seem to fit the role of a post scorer off the bench.
Name to watch: Channing Frye. Ws interested when he was free agent but too much $. Could feel differently w new cap. https://t.co/Kyf1pdOxNk— Fast Break (@GSWFastBreak) December 21, 2015
Why Channing Frye might make sense
For context, there was in fact mutual interest between Frye and the Warriors during the 2014 offseason before he signed with the Orlando Magic. And entering this season, Zach Lowe reported that Frye could be had cheaply. And with him receiving only sporadic minutes until late-November, the idea that the Magic might be interested in moving him and his four-year, $32 million contract continued to hold some weight — as Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders described, the Magic have some personnel redundancy to work out and, if they feel they're still a few years away, shipping out a veteran who isn't playing to make more space for youth to play might make sense.
So if you're of the belief that playing in the Warriors' system would make just about anyone better, then Frye is quite an intriguing target for the exact same reason he was interesting in 2014: court spacing.
Frye is a career 38.8% 3-point shooter and is shooting a career-high 44% from beyond the arc this year. Setting aside other quibbles, that's greater range that Speights offers, if nothing else, and that could help give the bench unit's offense a jolt.
Then Magic coach Scott Skiles made a change that complicates Frye's availability.
Why Channing Frye might not be a possibility
Looking to shake things up a little, Skiles inserted Frye into the starting lineup on November 25th and has kept him there for the last 13 games. During that time, the Magic have gone 9-4, much more encouraging than their 6-8 performance ove their first 14 games. Both Bryan Toporek of BballBreakdown and Erik Gunderson of The Columbian have detailed the effect of that change, but Gunderson gave us a bit more context of what's going on with the Magic last Friday.
Enter Channing Frye–whom was reportedly on the trading block during training camp–the man they paid 32 million last season. The Magic starters are outscoring their opponents by 10 points per 100 possessions since Frye moved into the starting line-up. It’s opened up the offense and Frye is hitting at a 45 percent clip, which would be a career-high. Fournier has been a huge addition for the Magic this season, allowing the Magic to comfortably move Oladipo to the bench...The Frye move also allowed Tobias to move to the three position and have a more perimeter oriented approach to the game. He is getting out in transition and the Magic are really a fun, talented team. Pop the champagne, Orlando! You don’t have to tank any more!
As Gunderson described, the Magic's newfound success is about more than Frye's insertion into the starting lineup — they changed a few aspects of their rotation. But the point is that they're in playoff contention, which could be more valuable to their development than trying to compete with the Philadelphia Sixers in the tanking game. And Frye would seem to be a key figure in the Magic's improvement.
Until he isn't.
Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reported after the Magic lost 3 of 4 games earlier this month that Skiles would consider another lineup change, which could send Frye back to the bench. It didn't happen as they've since won 3 of 4, but if they decide to make another change before the deadline, could Frye be had "cheap" again?
Who knows, but it's not unreasonable to think that the Warriors might still be open to adding Frye to the roster at that point.
Who else might the Warriors pursue?
Ideally, as Poole suggests, Speights would just improve and make this conversation moot. But if he doesn't a stretchy forward like Frye would make sense, hypothetically. The question is whether there are any other reasonable targets that teams would readily give up in a world in which everyone is trying to figure out how to model themselves off the Warriors' pace and space model with a lethal small ball lineup.
What do you think of this idea of the 26-1 Warriors making a trade? Vote in the poll below and let us know in the comments.