History is littered with close calls. Dystopian (or utopian depending on your perspective) visions of what would have happened if things had worked out differently. Would World War 1 have happened if Franz Ferdinand hadn’t been shot? What if Kennedy hadn’t been assassinated? What kind of a world would we live in Kanye’s new album wasn’t The Life of Pablo, but Swish? It’s impossible to know for sure, but it’s fun to think about. A mere 2 years ago, we were discussing the idea of Golden State trading Klay Thompson for Kevin Love. A lot of smart people really thought this was a great idea, but if it had happened it might have changed everything we know about the NBA today. Well, at least for 3 teams.
Golden State gets Kevin Love
The loss of Klay destroys the greatest shooting backcourt of all time. You’re also taking out a key chemistry piece. And since the Warriors are the greatest chemistry team of all time, that’s a big mistake. But would it have destroyed the Warriors? It’s hard to say. It obviously opens up a door for Livingston and Rush who average 11.6 and 10.4 pts/36 respectively. Compare that with Klay 24.3 pts/36 and we can see why this trade didn’t happen. However, consider the possibilities it creates for the Small Ball Lineup of Death:
1) Steph 2) Iggy 3) Barnes 4) Love 5) Draymond
While you mess with the Small Ball Lineup of Death at your own peril (it is easily the most devastating lineup in the NBA) that’s a pretty tasty lineup. The real problem the Love trade would have created is that you now have to split time between Draymond and Love, or play one of them out of position. Which could work in small ball time, but when you play Bogut at the 5 you now have to decide which one you put on the bench. Do you go with the guy you just traded for in Love and risk isolating Draymond (which sounds ludicrous and terrifying)? Or do you keep Love on the bench despite the fact you just gave up one of your biggest assets for him (which seems insane)? This is sort of the same thing Cleveland is going through now. The lesson here seems that if you have a great player, who is a good fit for what you need, and the chemistry of the team is great, don’t mess with it!
Minnesota gets Klay
This gets interesting too. My guess is that the T wolves would push Lavine to the 3, and go 1) Rubio 2) Klay 3) Lavine 4) Dieng 5) Towns. This assumes that the draft worked out the way it did and Towns ended up on the T wolves (which is debatable, but would require me doing a lot of research that I don’t want to do). Klay would definitely have improved the Wolves outside shooting (Lavine is the leader currently with .388 %/36, Klay shoots .428%/36) but it would have made Flip Saunders’ death even more tragic than it already is. Klay would now be stuck on a team with Sam Mitchell as his coach and would go from a team that ranks near the top in offensive pace to near the bottom. There is a definite possibility that Klay would become frustrated on a young team with a bad coach. Now, is Klay the type of player to put a team on his back and try to carry them? I don’t think so. That’s not a knock on Klay, that’s a nearly impossible thing for anyone to do. Personally, I think Minnesota is better off with Wiggins and Towns as its young core. They just need a better coach and those guys can grow together and hopefully pull the Wolves out of the cellar. Ultimately, that’s a better situation that Towns and a grumpy Klay. Which brings us to team 3.
Cleveland keeps Wiggins
Basically, if Love goes to GSW, then LeBron can’t pull off his Wiggins and Bennett for Love trade that he very clearly orchestrated and now appears to regret. The one team in this reverse history that is absolutely improved is Cleveland, mainly because this trade saves them from
General Manager LeBron themselves. You could play some combo of 1) Irving 2) JR Smith 3) Wiggins 4) LeBron 5) Mozgov/Frye/Thompson. That is a much more cohesive unit than Cleveland currently has. It allows LeBron to play at the 4, but he could also slide over to the 3 and you could move Wiggins to the 2. A “Big 3” of Wiggins, Kyrie, and LeBron makes a lot more sense than Love, Kyrie, and LeBron. It doesn’t solve all of Cleveland’s chemistry issues, but it definitely improves things. Cleveland becomes a much more flexible team, and Wiggins allows them to play a little faster and fixes their main problem of “What the hell do we do with Kevin Love?” It doesn’t solve the problem of “Kyrie and LeBron kind of hate each other.” But it is definitely an improvement.
Which is why this is one of the greatest non-trades of all time. The team who would have benefited the most from this trade would have been a 3rd party team that wasn’t involved at all. The reality of what happened makes more sense for both teams. GSW gets their historically great team. The Wolves get a nice young core they build around. Only Cleveland is worse off because it didn’t happen, and that’s
LeBron’s their own damn fault. Sadly, neither real life or this trade helps poor Anthony Bennett…