The Golden State Warriors‘ season took what could have been a lethal blow this week. The injury to Klay Thompson, ruling him out until 2021/22, relegated them from title contenders to middle-of-the-pack. Already facing a sizeable tax bill, Warriors ownership could have sat back and shrugged.
That’s not what they did. Within hours of the severity of Thompson’s injury being confirmed, they made a trade for Kelly Oubre.
The trade exception, that has been the centre of NBA rumours since the Andre Iguodala trade, was finally used. Golden State didn’t shed salary to get Oubre – ownership took on the substantial financial burden to make the team as competitive as possible. The Warriors’ tax bill grew over $80 million with the trade for Oubre (his salary is just $14.4 million).
Oklahoma City Thunder received the Warriors’ 2021 first-round pick, heavily protected. It only conveys if the Warriors are picking between 20 and 30. If it doesn’t pass over next season, it becomes two second round picks. This adds to the Thunder’s haul of future draft selections, but it’s an underwhelming return by Sam Presti’s recent standards.
Lacob willing to spend
This Oubre trade is really about the Warriors. It’s a bit of a surprise the Thunder didn’t get more, but they managed to shed salary. Joe Lacob made a commitment to Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. There was no waiting for Klay to return, this was a move of an organisation giving it another shot.
Lacob told Tim Kawakami he spoke to the Warriors’ front office. Lacobs words were, “I said: ‘We’re not tanking. If anyone’s even thinking that, get it off your mind. Forget it. Give me options. What can we do to make this team as good as we can make it?”
Oubre was that move. He brings size and length on the wing at 6’7. He had a career-best shooting season in 2019/20, hitting over 35% of his threes, and he’s shown defensive improvement. Crucially, he’s switchable, and that gives Golden State versatility defensively with Green, Andrew Wiggins and Oubre alongside James Wiseman and Curry.
He’s a different, and inferior, player to Thompson. This is no straight replacement – such a move is impossible. It gives Steve Kerr a strong starting five and defensive potential alongside the game’s greatest ever shooter. The Warriors are still dangerous.
More moves are needed, of course. Eric Paschall is a nice piece off the bench, and Kevon Looney is useful if he’s healthy, but they need to pad out the depth. A guard like Avery Bradley would be a great fit if he’s available in the price range the Warriors can offer.
Langston Galloway is an option for shooting off the bench. Maybe Austin Rivers joins the team he could never beat as a Houston Rocket. There are limited options in free agency, but veterans are always tempted to join the Warriors. Lacob’s willingness to spend only helps that – it proves they view themselves as title contenders.
This Warriors roster isn’t perfect, but trading for Oubre makes them better. Don’t write them off just yet.