OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam are already ensconced with the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks. The Utah Jazz haven’t made Lauri Markkanen available barring the king’s ransom they received in exchange for Rudy Gobert, a lavish price the Dubs aren’t equipped to pay. Dejounte Murray is still likely to be traded by Thursday afternoon, but there’s been no recent smoke connecting the Warriors and Atlanta Hawks.
All signs point to Golden State standing pat at the trade deadline. If Mike Dunleavy and the front office do pull off a deal, expect it to involve Andrew Wiggins or Chris Paul in a framework that prioritizes long-term luxury tax savings over increasing the Dubs’ chances to re-emerge as long-shot contenders in 2023-24. The Warriors can wait until summer to ship out Wiggins or Paul to lower Joe Lacob’s tax bill for 2024-25, though, and the fact Steve Kerr still believes his team can “do something special” this season indicates that’s the likeliest tack Dunleavy and company will take at the trade deadline.
Ahead of Golden State’s matchup with the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, Kerr reiterated his recent stance that the Warriors have the personnel necessary to turn their season around going forward.
“The guys who are here, it’s an incredibly accomplished group. We’ve got some exciting young players. We’ve got a good group,” he said when asked about the trade deadline, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “Like I said, they’re really committed. Every guy on our team has really overcome a lot individually this year—being taken out of the starting lineup, being injured and bouncing back, young players who have emerged through young players and patience. I’m just really enjoying coaching this team. It is a long haul, as I mentioned earlier, and I feel like this group can do something special, I really do. So if we don’t do anything tomorrow, then we feel like we’ve got a good group we can push forward with.”
Can Warriors really ‘do something special’ without upgrading at trade deadline?
The truth is that Golden State’s ability to level up over the remainder of 2023-24 probably isn’t contingent on changes at the trade deadline.
Wiggins possesses negative value across the league right now, teams in need of impact contributors on the wing wary of his career-worst season so far and the three years and $86 million remaining on his contract. Paul has been solid for the Dubs when healthy, but there just aren’t many contenders looking to shell out approximately $30 million in salary for an undersized, 38-year-old point guard who falls victim to injury seemingly every spring.
Trading Jonathan Kuminga is a non-starter. The same goes for Brandin Podziemski, low ceiling compared to Kuminga’s be damned. Maybe Moses Moody could be the centerpiece of a trade that brings back win-now value, but salary-matching complications once again whittle down the list of trade targets who could realistically make a difference for Golden State.
Case in point: Even if the Orlando Magic were willing to part with Wendell Carter Jr. and his bargain contract for a package built around Moody, would Carter’s presence really make the Warriors better?
Kerr’s bright-eyed optimism stems from Golden State playing its best ball of the season since shifting Draymond Green to full-time starting center. Lineups featuring he, Stephen Curry, Kuminga and Wiggins boast a gaudy +21.1 net rating, per pbpstats.com, dominating on both sides of the ball.
Golden State has finally found the identity it’s been lacking since 2023-24 tipped off. Wouldn’t bringing in an impact center, even one as versatile as Carter, risk the Dubs losing it altogether? They’ve long been at their best with Green playing small-ball five, and his advancing age coupled with the league’s increasing reliance on pace and space has made center Green’s most natural position at this stage of his career.
It’s naive to assume the Warriors’ new starting lineup will vault them up the Western Conference standings over the next months, making them the proverbial team “no one wants to play” come the postseason. The early returns are certainly encouraging, though, and Wiggins’ disruptive on-ball defense and versatile, if inconsistent, scoring punch has been a driving force behind that success. Trading him would save Golden State money, but definitely wouldn’t make this team any better. The same goes for Paul.
Don’t be surprised when the deadlines comes and passes with the Warriors’ status quo in place. Backwards as it seems given the nature of the season so far, that really does seem like Golden State’s best path toward a second-half turnaround.