Opening the first 10 games with the losing record has the Cleveland Cavaliers hardly in the Play-In mix during the early season.
A team in similar dismay is the longtime Finals rival of Cleveland, the Golden State Warriors. After a seemingly endless reign of dominance over the NBA, the Warriors cannot find a steady foothold and are slipping in a stacked Western Conference. Not only has Stephen Curry faced injury setbacks already, Warriors forward Draymond Green is under a five-game suspension after being ejected from two consecutive contests for his tiresome and worn out antics.
For the Cavaliers, a string of injuries to their primary rotation has left them without a single game over the first 12 matches with their entire team healthy, dating as far back as the preseason. Additionally, Darius Garland’s unexpected shooting slump and turnover issues plague Cleveland’s aspirations for the season, though these woes will hopefully subside once consistency and health are maintained.
With two teams in an early spiral, both squads could use an answer. The Warriors have invested heavily in their dynastic core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Thompson, though, has especially opened his 2023-24 campaign in a shockingly poor way. Seeing Thompson struggle might be the biggest shock of the year thus far. Over his career, Thompson has averaged 41.5 percent from deep on over seven attempts per game. He played a crucial role in all four Golden State Finals wins and has been the perfect running mate for Stephen Curry.
His value extends beyond shooting, as well, cementing a legacy as a historically talented perimeter defender. While Curry struggled to maintain opponents on defense, Thompson has always sufficiently performed well enough to negate Curry’s defensive flaws. Standing at 6-foot 6-inches, Thompson is rarely undersized on the perimeter, and he puts his height and athleticism to work night-in and night-out.
However, scoring his lowest average since his rookie season on his worst 3-point shooting ever, Thompson is undoubtedly out of his rhythm. As the Warriors shift into their next era, Kendrick Perkins suggested to fellow NBA analyst Zach Lowe that Golden State should explore the trade market for their All-Star guard.
Joining the Association in 2011, Thompson has never suited up in any NBA team’s uniform other than the gold and blue of Golden State. Next to Curry, the two all-time shooters were one of the most lethal backcourts in basketball history. In 607 games together so far, Thompson and Curry have an astounding 440-167 record. Trading Thompson is more than a roster decision; it is a paradigm shift away from a 4-time NBA Championship core.
With Thompson’s long history of winning and unstoppable shooting, does it make sense for the Cavaliers to target him? The idea of the two biggest rival franchises of the 2010’s seems impossible, especially including one of the biggest causes of heartbreaking across Ohio sports in those years. But, have the times changed to make Thompson the right move?
As aforementioned, Klay Thompson’s basketball resume is nothing short of a first ballot hall of famer. Over the past few seasons, though, the Warriors have slowly transitioned from their legacy core to a younger team led by Andrew Wiggins and formerly Jordan Poole. With Poole’s absence in favor of Chris Paul this summer, it seemed the Warriors wanted to buy in on one final run of a veteran team with championship goals.
Thus far, those ideals seem far off from reality.
While the Cavaliers improved over this summer, a historic shooter such as Thompson would undeniably improve Cleveland’s offense – on paper. NBA records will long remember prime Klay Thompson, but at 33 years old, Thompson’s prime is behind him. Since his two-year absence due to an injury in the 2019 NBA Finals, Thompson has never reclaimed his dominance. He has still been an incredible talent and puts the Warriors into the playoff mix nearly every season. Could he elevate the Cavaliers, though? Not likely.
In a vacuum, even the current 13 points per game Thompson is a benefit for Cleveland, but his $43 million price tag is wildly high, unless the Cavaliers believed unloading nearly all the depth they acquired this offseason is worth the swing on an aging NBA legend not named LeBron James.
Truthfully, Thompson is far from the only player struggling in the Bay Area. Andrew Wiggins is having his worst season since joining the Warriors, and the team’s overall cohesion seems uncertain at best. Trading for Thompson is a high-risk move with an unknown reward. Even trading for Wiggins, a player who looked like a perfect fit on any team only two years ago, would be a potentially disastrous move for the Cavs.
Even if the Warriors, a team built on loyalty and connection, decided to explore Thompson trades (which is in no way confirmed), a package from the Cavaliers would hardly be suitable for either team to accept. The Cavs’ rough season opening suggests that trades could be the right path toward improvement, but Thompson is not the right call.