Best Potential Trade Packages and Landing Spots for David Lee
Understanding why Lee might be moved is the easy part: He's overpaid, ownership is eager to make a splash after hiring a new and untested coach, the Warriors need someone to space the floor, a second star is necessary to elevate the Dubs to real "contender" status—fair reasons, all.
Plus, there's the fact that Lee may not be all that content in Golden State.
Per Eric Byrnes of KNBR 680 in San Francisco (via BayAreaSportsGuy.com), Lee told a source that 2013-14 "was the most miserable basketball season that he had endured."
Kevin Love is looking to escape his current team. Carmelo Anthony could become available. The Warriors have an itchy trigger finger and a (reportedly) dissatisfied star.
You do the math.
Where might Lee end up? And what kind of return could Golden State expect in a franchise-altering deal?
Forget the tea leaves; we can figure those things out with equal parts speculation, ESPN Trade Machine tinkering and deduction.
Here we go.
Golden State Warriors Get: F Kevin Love
Minnesota Timberwolves Get: F David Lee and G Klay Thompson
Why Golden State Does It
In a perfect world, the Warriors would probably prefer to surrender some combination of Harrison Barnes and/or Draymond Green alongside Lee. But if they really want the Wolves to take them seriously, the Warriors will have to make this, the Godfather offer.
Will it hurt to give up Thompson, a lights-out sniper and a severely underrated defender still on his rookie deal? Absolutely.
But the Warriors know Thompson's next contract will require a significant financial commitment. For a long time, that was a commitment the Dubs were prepared to make. In a radio interview on April 24 with 95.7 The Game, owner Joe Lacob made the organization's plans for Thompson clear: "We are going to re-sign Klay Thompson. I will say that unequivocally."
He said that before trading for Love became a realistic possibility, though. The chance to snare a legitimate superstar might force Lacob and the Warriors to rethink their priorities.
On the court, Love and Stephen Curry would combine to form the deadliest pick-and-pop combo in the league. And alongside Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala and Green or Barnes, Golden State would have a terrifying starting unit.
Giving up a former All-Star and a promising young talent for Love is the kind of thing a team does when it needs to make a splash and believes it's close to contending for a title.
Sounds like the Warriors to me.
Why Minnesota Does It
Put simply, the Wolves won't get a better offer.
Lee is a terrific offensive player who could slip into Love's vacated power forward spot seamlessly. Minnesota may not yet know whether it wants to make a push for the postseason or start stripping down, but Lee essentially allows it to do both.
He'd represent a dropoff from Love's production, but not a huge one. And if the Wolves want to rebuild in a year or two, Lee could be the bridge to get them there.
Thompson would immediately become a franchise cornerstone, the perfect complement to Ricky Rubio and his broken jumper. Kevin Martin was supposed to play that role, but his complete defensive ineptitude nearly outweighed his offensive impact last year.
In Thompson, the Wolves get a true two-way threat. And one who's likely to continue improving over the next couple of seasons to boot.
Golden State Warriors Get: G/F Arron Afflalo and F/C Andrew Nicholson
Orlando Magic Get: F David Lee
Why Golden State Does It
Think of this deal as the second phase of Golden State's fallback plan to get Love from the Wolves.
If Minnesota doesn't want to take on the financial commitment of Lee's remaining two years and $30 million, perhaps it would prefer a deal focused on Thompson. In that case, the Warriors would still have Lee on the roster and a hole at the shooting guard spot.
Enter Afflalo, a rangy wing who actually shot the ball more accurately from long distance (42.7 percent) than did Thompson (41.7) last year. Afflalo's advantage may have been slim, but it's worth mentioning here since we're discussing the former as a potential replacement for the latter.
In truth, Afflalo would give Golden State everything Thompson does, and then some. The Magic vet averaged more rebounds and assists and, critically, got to the foul line twice as often as Thompson did last season.
As for Nicholson, well...he's largely included to make the finances work out under the collective bargaining agreement. But don't forget, new Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is desperate for a stretch 4. In an interview with Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, Kerr said:
And I evaluated all of the current players for the Warriors. And I evaluated how I see each of those players fitting into my style of play.
I didn’t… say anything about anybody else…
I take that back: I did tell them I think this team could use a stretch 4. I think a shooting 4 could really make things difficult on the opposition.
Nicholson had a down year in his second season, playing less and shooting less efficiently. But he added a three-point stroke, attempting 89 treys in 2013-14 and hitting at a 31.5 percent clip after attempting zero three-pointers as a rookie.
The mechanics and size are there for Nicholson to potentially become another floor-spreading option in Golden State.
Why Orlando Does It
First of all, the Magic have the No. 4 pick in this year's draft, and it might want to take a swing at somebody like Marcus Smart or Dante Exum with that selection. If that's how things shake out, the Magic might be open to the idea of moving Afflalo to free up minutes for a potential building block in the backcourt.
As for the appeal of Lee, Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group has heard a few things:
I’ve been told to watch out for Orlando as a potential trade partner for Golden State. They have cap space and after a second consecutive year finishing way down in the Eastern Conference standings, they need to make a move. They might be a taker for David Lee for the same reasons the Warriors were back in 2010: they need someone who can produce reliably and usher the franchise into respectability.
This makes a lot of sense, as Orlando could use someone to elevate the organization's profile. Lee's a real pro, an established All-Star and a great guy to trot out in front of the media because he can always be counted on to toe the party line.
The Magic could simply draft Julius Randle or even Jabari Parker at No. 4 if the Duke product slips, but Lee would be a much more ready-made option.
New York Knicks
Golden State Warriors Get: F Carmelo Anthony
New York Knicks Get: F David Lee, F Harrison Barnes, G Klay Thompson
Why Golden State Does It
It would be extremely difficult to give up more for 'Melo than it might take to get Love. But if the Wolves star winds up elsewhere, the Warriors might angle for Anthony as a high-priced consolation prize. His bigger salary necessitates Barnes' inclusion in the deal.
Before any Dubs fans start screaming about their team giving up too much in this exchange, stop and think about a starting five of Curry, Iguodala, Green, Anthony and Bogut.
That's drool-inducing stuff right there.
Fill out that rotation with folding chairs and parking cones and you've still got a ridiculously dangerous team. And remember, GSW has its full mid-level exception to offer free agents this summer. You'd have to expect one or two very useful vets to find that core attractive.
Securing role players is easy. Putting together a first unit like the one above is hard. But the Warriors could do it if they're willing to risk Anthony walking away next summer. (This entire deal assumes, of course, that Anthony would not terminate his contract this summer, which is a huge assumption.)
Why New York Does It
Something's better than nothing, right?
Anthony could very easily skip town this summer by exercising his ETO, and the Knicks would be left without any compensation for their erstwhile star. Lee, Barnes and Thompson are a far cry better than that.
They'd be a godsend for New York.
Two rotation players (one, Thompson, a borderline star) on rookie deals and a top-notch offensive big in Lee would give the Knicks a huge boost in the asset department. Now, there'd have to be a long conversation in the NBA league office about whether or not it would be cruel and unusual to inflict the defensive horror that a trio of Lee, Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani would undoubtedly perpetrate on fans.
But I think Adam Silver might let it slide.
Remember, Lee is a former Knick and has always made his affection for New York known. In 2008, he told B/R's Howard Beck, then with The New York Times:
Put it this way...I love New York, I love playing in New York, love everything about New York. I wish we could win more...If I could choose to make it anywhere, it’d be in New York, to be a part of the team that turns it around.
Well, Lee's got a chance to engineer that turnaround now, a mere six years later.
Look, is this a long shot? Of course it is. But in the event Love escapes their grasp, the Warriors could get desperate for a splashy acquisition. And the Knicks are always desperate.
Two teams with high anxiety could combine to make a mutually beneficial—if risky—deal.
Golden State Warriors Get: F Kenneth Faried, F Danilo Gallinari
Denver Nuggets Get: F David Lee
Why Golden State Does It
Faried is a young energy player who could make for a devastatingly effective combo with either Draymond Green or Andrew Bogut up front. The Warriors would lose the post scoring ability Lee brought, but the Manimal is younger, cheaper and would do a lot more dirty work than Lee ever did.
Gallinari is a risk coming off of ACL surgery, but he's exactly the kind of space-creating forward the Dubs seem to have an eye for. If he returns to full health, his game could fit very nicely alongside Curry, Thompson and Iguodala in small-ball lineups.
Why Denver Does It
If JaVale McGee is the center of Denver's future—and his remaining three years and $36 million left on his deal would seem to indicate he is—the Nuggets are going to need a frontcourt counterpart with the skill and touch to complement McGee's raw athleticism.
Lee is comfortable operating out of the high post, and he's a terrific weapon in the pick-and-roll—two areas Faried struggles in. As a polished offensive product, Lee could work well in tandem with the much wilder McGee.
Plus, getting rid of the unknowns surrounding Gallinari's health would be a nice pressure release for the Nugs.
Golden State Warriors Get: F Ersan Ilyasova, F John Henson
Milaukee Bucks Get: F David Lee
Why Golden State Does It
The Warriors stand to save a bundle on this exchange, with Ilyasova under contract for just two more fully guaranteed years at an average of $8 million a pop and Henson still on his dirt-cheap rookie deal.
But more than that, Golden State gets the potential big shooter it needs in Ilyasova and a really intriguing young defensive option in Henson.
Depth was an issue for the Warriors during the 2013-14 season, and the imported Bucks duo would be a significant rotation upgrade over Marreese Speights and Jermaine O'Neal, both of whom logged significant minutes this past year.
Overall, the Warriors cut costs, address a couple of needs and add flexibility. Win, win, win.
Why Milwaukee Does It
Go ahead and try to name a reliable frontcourt scorer on the Bucks. It's fine, I'll wait...
You can't. There's just nobody on Milwaukee's roster who can put the ball in the hole reliably. Lee can do that, and he'd also inject some much-needed veteran experience into a rebuilding club.
Milwaukee is committed to a young, raw core of Larry Sanders, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brandon Knight, but you can't just leave those young guys out there alone. A player like Lee could stabilize the offense, help his teammates grow and give fans a reason to show up to the game.
Plus, he's only under contract for another two years. So Lee wouldn't necessarily gum up Milwaukee's larger rebuilding plans.