clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Klay Thompson trade rumors: Let’s take a page out of Klay’s book

New, comments

Chill, people.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NBA: Golden State Warriors-Championship Celebration
Klay at the parade
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tough being a long-time fan of a franchise which makes all the wrong decisions. Even if your team gets good, you spend the whole time worrying about the other shoe dropping.

All last year, DubNation was fretting about whether Kevin Durant would take a discount to allow the team to operate over the cap and re-sign their players. He went even further than that.

Related to that cap conundrum was the constant worrying about whether Andre Iguodala would leave, along with many (including yours truly) already counting Shaun Livingston out the door.

The idea that we would retain all the players we had, let alone use the mini Mid Level Exception to add Nick Young to the roster, seemed highly unlikely given the limitations of the salary cap facing the Warriors.

But here we are with the band not only back together for another couple of years, but with several promising new additions. I’ve recently written about the team culture as being a key part of why that happened, and why the Warriors continue to be in a strong place.

But this is the NBA, and rumors never cease. The next subject for breathless speculation is what happens to Klay Thompson when his contract comes up in 2019, or perhaps before. It seems like the chatter has steadily grown all summer.

But while you can never predict the future maybe we should all take a page out of Klay’s book and chill.

Who benefits?

Firstly, whenever a trade rumor surfaces the first question you have to ask is who leaked it? This is invariably a case of looking at who benefits, as Alex Kennedy’s excellent article at Hoopshype did about how trades happen sets out.

However, most executives said that finding the source of the leak is usually as simple as looking at who benefits from the conversation being made public...

One GM also noted that some teams will make a call about a certain player and then leak that very conversation in hopes of souring the relationship between that player they’re pursuing and his current team’s front office.

The idea is to create distrust between the player and executive, which then increases the likelihood of a deal because the player may become unhappy and want out. It’s manipulative, but it’s certainly a tactic some executives use.’

So in Klay’s case is it in the interest of Klay, the Warriors, or rival teams who might like to unsettle our star and kill the kum-by-ya vibe going on over here? Hmm.

‘I ain’t sacrificing…’

Secondly what does the man say himself? There are numerous quotes from Klay where he talks about winning being what matters, and being part of an historic team. The most recent are from an interview with Anthony Slater at the Athletic.

When you hear the rumors, it means you're wanted. You're doing something right. Look at the bright side. But I'm happy I'm still with the Warriors. I hope to be here my whole career. It's a great place to play...

We got such a good thing going, I just don't want to leave yet. It's rare in the NBA to have a team that can win with the culture we created. It's hard to put a price on it. When that conversation does come up though… man, it's so far away. What are we talking about? So far.

But what about sacrificing for Durant and becoming a third banana on offense? After all didn’t he famously say ‘I ain’t sacrificing bleep’’?

Well the truth is he didn’t.

Thompson had 17.3 shots per game in 16/17 and 17.6 shots per game in 17/18. And as this team continues to build the chemistry they’ll fit together even better. Think about the on-court jump between the 2015 Warriors and the 2016 Warriors.

Of course Klay’s famously chill, even stoic, attitude to life and balling makes it seem unlikely he starts demanding more exposure. Not to mention the latest revelation that Rocco really doesn’t like travelling. This might be the clincher right here from the same interview:

Nah, he's a homebody. He doesn't like planes. He doesn't like going overseas. He just likes to stay on the West Coast, be by the beach. That's Rocco's vibe.

Show me the money

Then there’s the money - something that’s driving a lot of the rumors. The truth about the salary cap is that it doesn’t stop you from re-signing players, but it does make it mighty expensive when you hit that repeater tax. For the Warriors that’s likely the 2019-20 season, when Thompson would be up for a new contract.

But, by then, the Warriors will be printing money in the new arena complex. If anyone is traded that year it’ll likely be Iguodala in his final year age 35, a bit like they did with David Lee. By my calculation, that’ll save nearly $90 million in taxes and salary — which should be enough for Joe Lacob to pony up the dough for Klay. And Klay may well decide to take a discount just like Durant did, meaning they don’t have to do that anyway.

Of course the real squeeze doesn’t come in until you have to re-sign Draymond Green as well the following year. If ownership were going to cut costs, why trade Klay in the next couple of years with potentially less than a year left on his contract? Surely if you are going to break this core up you get more value back from another team if Klay’s on a long term deal rather than an expiring contract?

By the time Dray’s contract comes up we’ll be in year 4 of Steph’s mega-deal. So the real pinch might only last 2 years before we can duck back under the luxury tax line, depending on what Steph and KD do with their next contracts.

Decisions, decisions

Even still, it seems unlikely that Myers can’t thread this needle given his track record so far. The Warriors have set this up nicely so they have contracts expiring at different points and therefore options every year.

Now this is going to get pricey, but as Myers said on a recent interview with KNBR, conversations with Lacob go like this:

Bob: Payroll’s getting high, we might need to make a tough decision

Joe: Does that make us better or worse?

Bob: It makes us worse but financially...

Joe: No, spend the money!

So given that attitude, it’s certainly not a given that Lacob will avoid paying for a couple of expensive seasons as the team moves into a new arena. Ultimately all the important decisions they have made so far have been about improving the team, rather than reducing the bills. The point of having these options and decisions is you make an assessment every year or two about what the team needs to succeed.

Yes the NBA is a business, but the Warriors are in the business of winning.

There’s only one Klay

Sometimes I wonder whether some of the speculation comes from a lack of appreciation of the uniqueness of what Klay brings to this team. If this decision when the time comes is to be made on the basis of what helps the team win, then it’s going to be a no-brainer. For starters, he’s still going to be in his prime, at 29. And given his durability so far it seems unlikely he’s going to drop off dramatically during his next contract.

His historic shooting opens up the floor in a way that if you just had one of Steph Curry or Klay Thompson it wouldn’t have the same impact. It’s not duplicative or redundant, the combination is what really breaks defenses.

He operates off the ball, as a silent assassin. Remind me how many dribbles did he take when he dropped 60 on Indiana? How long was the ball in his hands? That’s not to mention his contribution on the defensive end, in the age of point guards often guarding the best players on the opposing team.

As Rob Mahoney pointed out in his excellent article on Klay’s unique value to the Warriors.

Thompson was made for the superteam era. The focus of his game locks him into a healthy, streamlined role. No player to average 20 points per game last season held the ball less or saw it less often, according to NBA.com.

What Thompson does with those touches is incredible; without ever dribbling the ball, Thompson flashes around screens to create shots that wouldn’t be there otherwise. Some shooters are made to be passive participants in the offense.

What elevates Thompson is his activity. There is nothing in the league more dangerous than a shooter on the move, and Thompson works to make that danger ever present in the minds of his opponents.

Everyone rightly remembers Durant’s shot in Game 3, but the truth is we wouldn’t even have been in range for that if Klay hadn’t quietly dropped 30, including 16 in the first quarter to help withstand Cleveland’s aggressive start.

And of course, Durant wouldn’t even be here without this...

His demeanour means he doesn’t need to be the focal point of everything. He’d be the last person you’d expect to pull a Kyrie. Yet his impact on the game can be immense {insert obligatory reference to 37-points-in-a-quarter here}

A few ‘ideas’ to slay

So for any Warriors fans dreaming of Paul George, or some other star, ask yourself this - are they are going to bring all that, and without any drama too?

But let’s put a nail in the coffin of the Paul George 2018 nonsense. They can’t trade for him, or anyone else, in a sign-and-trade because they’ll be over the apron for the foreseeable future, which precludes receiving players in sign and trades. If that was going to happen it would have happened when the Indiana Pacers called this summer and the Warriors told them where to get off.

As for Bram’s nightmare scenario, it’s true the L.A. Lakers meet Rocco’s important criteria: on the West Coast and near the beach. But there might be a few issues with the salary cap that our Laker friends have missed. I’ve helpfully outlined that in the comments section...

Now is a time to chill

Either way we won’t know what the future holds for a while yet. At this point it seems unlikely he’ll be eligible for the Designated Max Extension next offseason. He could sign an extension under normal rules, but the CBA stipulates that players can only get 120% of their previous salary. In Klay’s case this would put him at a contract starting around $22 million if he signed it in 2018, so it seems unlikely.

But given how the breathless speculation on Durant and Iguodala this year turned out, the burden of proof should fall on those who think Thompson is out the door when the time comes — ultimately there’s really no evidence to suggest Klay doesn’t want to be here for the long term, or the team doesn’t want him. In fact all the evidence suggest that they both love winning above all else.

And you know what? In all this, he’s still under contract for another two years.

So Warriors fans likely have two more years at the least to enjoy this core. It certainly suits fans of other teams to speculate about breaking up this historic team - it might be the only hope they have - but we don’t have to play their game.

So let’s sit back, chill, and enjoy the wins and hopefully titles while they come. Maybe the Anta doesn’t need to drop at all.