ALAMEDA — On the heels of the blockbuster/fire-sale trades by the Cleveland Cavaliers last week, I thought I’d come up with a surefire Warriors column. Since the Cavs traded nearly half their roster, I was going to point out that the Dubs rarely make major midseason trades.
And that would lead me to opine that a big part of the reason is that they have searched out less-touted “building block” players, like Shaun Livingston and David West (one of the few bright spots against OKC). Other teams end up making midseason deals to fill roster holes because they can’t find and sign these incredibly rare and valuable role players.
I pitched it to head coach Steve Kerr, who listened thoughtfully, then dumped a bucket of cold water on the idea.
“There’s a million guys out there that can play a role,” he said. “We’ve got All-Stars.”
OK. Point taken.
But again, now that the trade deadline has come and gone, Warriors fans may recall that the last big deal during the season was Andrew Bogut back in 2012.
And says general manager Bob Myers, that’s no accident.
(FYI: Myers is a law school graduate, passer of the bar exam and is the first GM I have ever spoken to who used the word “disparate” in a sentence … correctly … I think. And to be clear, I talked to Myers before the Cleveland swap-athon took place.)
“Trades are the hardest way to construct a team,” he said. “The trade deadline is probably the most challenging time because you find yourself the most desperate. Unfortunately, it is the hardest time of the year to expect a good result.”
Now, Myers wanted to make it clear he wasn’t talking about any specific team, like Cleveland, but that’s fine. We can make the point ourselves.
Cleveland is the classic plug-and-play squad. Whatever you say Lebron James’ role is with the team — I’d go with assistant general manager at the very least — it seems pretty obvious that each year, during the season, he takes the team’s temperature, and if things are not going well, will agitate for change.
This deal — dumping Isiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade and four others — is extreme, but it fits the Cavs’ pattern.
In 2015, after James complained they had no outside shooting, the Cavs made a midseason trade for J.R. Smith. And when that didn’t solve things, James approved a January 2017 deal for Kyle Korver. James also applauded the Kevin Love deal and publicly lobbied for the trade for Wade. (He then gave Wade a fond farewell when he was shipped out.)
And how did all that work out? Cleveland was a finger-pointing hot mess. They were not just bickering; they were losing. Every day there was another news story about the unhappiness of King James.
Trade-for-success was a workable plan for the Cavaliers for a while. But when those veteran trade targets get older, they run into diminishing returns.
Teams are still doing it, of course. Oklahoma City, with the addition of Paul George (and the whatever of Carmelo Anthony), outmuscled the Warriors impressively last week. Houston is proving us wrong with Chris Paul turning out to be a good partner for James Harden.
But the irony is that the league is trying to put together a “Super-Team” when that’s not how the Warriors were built. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were products of draft classes.