Our NBA insiders discuss the league’s biggest issues. Should the Warriors worry about their slow start and consider selling their young talent?
Chris Mannix: Well, Howard, the warriorDefending champion, four-time NBA champion, the team with three future Hall of Famers in the rotation starts this week as the second-best team in the Bay Area (Call my Kings of Sacramento). The once-stingy defense is suddenly leaking, Klay Thompson has been a mixed bag and the high-end up-and-coming talent has not developed as quickly as Warriors Brass had hoped. It’s still early, but where’s your panic meter 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 and caused the entire city of Sacramento to slide west 60 miles. Your Other Sacramento Kings fans would be surprised to learn they live in the Bay Area.
About the Warriors: I keep my Panic Gauge at around 6.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. I trust them to figure that out and it’s just beginning. Let’s look at the positives for a second: steph plays like an MVP, clay finds his step, and Draymond was solid. The starting five are still among the best in the league. But yes, this bench. The children do not feel well. Warriors Brass made the decision this summer to let the vets run (Goodbye, Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica) and turn the second unit over Jordan Poole, James Wiseman, Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga. It was a disaster. I’m confident that Poole will return to his former form. The others? I’m not sure. How long do you think the Warriors can wait for youth?
Mannix: First of all, I apologize to NorCal – I will be corrected. As for the dubs, I’d say the current group has until Christmas to get the ship in order. But I’m quite worried about these supporting actors. You’re right, the starting five remains excellent. Six if you count Poole, who I think will bounce back to last season’s form. But in years past, Golden State has had certain sticky types. For several seasons it was Andre Iguodala. Last year, they turned to Porter and Payton. The hope was that the young players would take on those roles this season, but I don’t see it yet. This is shaping up to be a developmental season for Wiseman, and I don’t see the kind of defensive intensity from Kuminga and Moody that leads me to believe they can develop into trustworthy rotation players, at least not this season. Do you?
Beck: Let’s put it this way: Kuminga has played 84 games in the NBA. Moody, 68. Wiseman, 50. They have all shown excellent play in limited roles. But two of them didn’t even play a full 82 games. Wiseman is still practically a freshman – and he’s the one with the greatest talent and advantage. All players develop at different rates. Some boys bloom in their 2nd or 3rd year. Some take longer. Can they become trusted rotary players? My guess is yes, but I don’t know how soon. And that’s the dilemma 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 bit strained — and why no team in modern history has made it. It is very hard develop young players while fighting for titles. All three of these guys have talent and could become important players. I just don’t know if the warriors can wait that long given the age of their core vets. You owe it to Curry (as do Thompson and Green) to do whatever it takes to continue this dynasty. If that means trading one or more youngsters (and possibly future picks) for help from veterans, I think they’re bound to do it. Not immediately. We are still in November. But if the bank still looks this shaky a month from now? I don’t understand how they avoid it. Do you see another way?
Mannix: It is a hard Phone call. On the one hand, Golden State is probably a trade away from parting ways with the conference, maybe the entire league. Play through this hypothesis: The Warriors are trading a combination of Wiseman/Kuminga/Moody and picks for, say, Bradley Beal. They would effectively add an All-NBA caliber player in exchange for people who (currently) only contribute minimally. Want the Team not at the top of your power rankings? The downside is that in a couple of years, when Curry, Thompson and Green retire, the kids you gave up could be All-Stars. But you raised that point, and I agree with you: don’t you have to go all out to maximize Curry’s prime? So that’s a long-winded way of saying yes, if this side is still struggling to gain a foothold in January everyone is on the table.
Beck: You see, I admire the ambition and audacity of the two timeline plan. And hey, maybe it’s still like that. They have four potential building blocks, counting Poole. Maybe trade just one of them or two plus choices. Maybe you can still win now and plan for, say, 2025. But if things keep going down this rocky road, if you have to make a choice, I say fuck the future. Act who you must act to ensure a deep playoff run this June. Imagine 2025 when you get there. The tricky part is that it’s not clear what Kuminga/Moody/Wiseman would be worth. And it’s also not clear who will be available. The wizards might win too much to consider a trade with Beal. The networks appear to be married to their Bizarro Big 3, at least for now, the 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 think their young people have appeal to a recovery team. There’s a deal to be made out there when the time comes.
Mannix: Well, let me ask a question, if I may play devil’s advocate: Is there a scenario where you would say Not make a deal? I mean, think about it, Curry turns 35 in March. Thompson is 32 and who knows what the leg injuries have done to his longevity. Green may not last long for Golden State, regardless. In Wiseman, Kuminga, and Moody, we talk about three lottery picks that have shown different potential. Is there a scenario where you – and if I say sheI’d like you to step into Bob Myers’ office for a moment – would you say under no circumstances trade these players?
Beck: In fact, there are two scenarios that would prevent me from making a trade: 1. One or two of the youngsters suddenly click, stabilizing my rotation and ensuring we can go this season without dramatic moves. 2. Steph is abducted by aliens.
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