Warriors

Trade deadline offers glimpse into Warriors' impossible dream

Warriors
Steph Curry, Kelly Oubre Jr.

Indecision can be a death stroke in professional sports. Greed, likewise, can derail championship hopes and send an organization spiraling.

For the Warriors, they want it all. It's part of the "light years" mantra that might as well adorn the entrance to Chase Center. They are equal parts innovation, idealism and unfettered self-belief.

And so, the Warriors approach the 2021 NBA trade deadline with an impossible mission. One that would crush any franchise trying to traverse it, and one the boundary-pushing Warriors believe they can and will conquer.

After Kevin Durant's decision to leave the NBA's greatest dynasty and head to Brooklyn in the summer of 2019, the Warriors began planning their rebirth around their championship core while simultaneously planting seeds to grow a winning machine not powered by Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

Injuries and exhaustion cost the Warriors a fourth title in five seasons and the cumulative effect has seen them lose two more years of Curry, Thompson and Green's remaining prime.

Now the Warriors are walking a tight rope in between two realities, trying their best to do the impossible: Reignite the fading embers of a dying dynasty while holding onto and developing the key cogs for what they believe life after their franchise-altering Big Three will look like.

The Warriors have gotten a glimpse of their new reality this season in a Western Conference with a lot more teeth than when they were last on top. Curry, now 33, has been sensational in his return to the big stage, but Green, Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. have only been able to provide enough of a jolt to keep the Warriors hovering around .500.

 

The hope is that Thompson's return next season, after missing two years with separate severe leg injuries, will buoy the Warriors back to title-contention status. Surely Golden State's brass has seen enough to know that Thompson's return, even at 100 percent post-Achilles tear, won't fix everything. They need more shooting around Curry, more playmaking, more athleticism and better depth. More everything.

The Warriors have a roster living in two separate realms.

Curry, Green and Kevon Looney are the old guard, hoping to return to prominence or at least go for one last ride in the sun during their prime. James Wiseman, Jordan Poole and Nico Mannion are part of the Warriors' future, a young trio that needs time and minutes to grow, fail and develop, but whose value to a current title contender would range from moderate to zero. Wiggins and Oubre, 26 and 25 respectively, are tweeners in this regard, proven NBA players with the talent and skills to help the Warriors win now, but young enough to factor into the next phase should Bob Myers and Steve Kerr deem it so.

Only the San Antonio Spurs have been able to extend a current championship window while simultaneously building for the future, and that success was due in large part to luck with five-time NBA All-Star Kawhi Leonard falling into their lap in the 2011 NBA Draft. It also quickly disintegrated once Leonard got tired of life as a Spur.

Life at the top in the NBA is fleeting. The price of success heavy. Championship paths are paved either by mortgaging the future to win now, or by hoarding assets to build something from the ground up.

The Warriors, in all their brilliant arrogance, have elected to find the path never traveled by. To hack away and discover an NBA middle ground. One that can see them reload for a title run next season with a healthy Curry, Thompson and Green still in their primes, without having to surrender Wiseman or the Minnesota Timberwolves' top-three protected first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft to do so.

Wiseman and the Timberwolves' pick, which the Warriors believe will lead to another key building block for their post-Curry reality, are off-limits unless a superstar becomes available. With Bradley Beal set to continue toiling away in Washington, there won't be said player available at the deadline. Perhaps Beal changes his mind this summer, but for now the Warriors won't have to make a choice they are dreading.

One that pits their loyalty to Curry against their visions for their next great dynastic dominion.

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The Warriors flipped the league on its head last decade, putting together the greatest collection in NBA history to craft a winning behemoth that won't soon be rivaled.

It was an impossible thought, one that materialized thanks to those same characteristics that still define the franchise.

Their latest light-years endeavor is one few organizations would try to complete. Their loyalty to Curry demands they find a way to bolster the roster and give him as many title chances as possible. Their hubris and greed lust for a world that sees Curry and the Warriors ascend back to the top before seamlessly handing off the baton to Wiseman and Jalen Suggs, Jalen Green or whoever else arrives in the future.

 

It's a dream born of ambition and arrogance. One the Warriors might be uniquely suited to bring to fruition.

But what if the dream is unachievable? What if the Warriors are faced with that unenviable dilemma? Will they sacrifice the future to save the rest of Curry's prime and make sure the player who put them back on the map doesn't finish his career wallowing in mediocrity?

The Warriors have bet their present and future on a quest for the uncharted NBA middle ground. Only time will tell if they truly are NBA's greatest innovators or just the latest to be devoured by a desire to achieve the impossible.

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