What can the Warriors do to improve? Here are eight possible trade targets

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What can the Warriors do to improve? Here are eight possible trade targets

The futility of the Phoenix Suns, the struggles of the Los Angeles Lakers, even the troubles the Philadelphia 76ers are having with the New York Knicks — they’re all illustrative of the league’s shift. It was evident during the regular season and is proving true in the playoffs. Winning in the modern NBA is much less about star power and experience, the hinges on which the Golden State Warriors’ hopes swung. Those traits are being conquered with athleticism, shooting, flexibility of style and chemistry. Aggressiveness is employed on both ends like a double-edged sword.

Experience is still important. But whatever advantage the Warriors have in that department will be lessened after the best teams accrue more in this postseason.

So how can the Warriors compete moving forward? They couldn’t beat out the Lakers or Suns, the New Orleans Pelicans or Sacramento Kings after 83 games. And none of those teams pose a real threat in the Western Conference. So what do they need to get in the mix?

It’s easy to surmise they’re in the hunt for an upgrade, more than just tweaks around the edges. Even after it all played out, Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. still said he didn’t believe he saw any move at the trade deadline that would’ve changed their fate.

“We know clearly what this team was,” Dunleavy said. “It wasn’t good enough, and so there’s no doubt about that. There’s no what-ifs — if we had made a move at the deadline, well maybe that wasn’t the right move, what if we had kept this guy or that guy. We answered all those questions, and so now we can move forward with clarity.”

The Warriors are both close and far. Close in the sense they have some of the elements that fit the modern game. They have depth, too much even. They are comfortable relying on role players. They have youth and experience. Also, they have Stephen Curry. Which means the right piece(s) could elevate what they have.

Put them in title contention? That’s unlikely. But they’ve got a few steps to clear first anyway. Like making the playoffs.

They need to get more athletic. They need more shooting in the rotation. They need on-ball defenders badly.

“I thought the (Play-In game loss to the Kings) was telling in that Sacramento pressured us everywhere,” Steve Kerr said in his end-of-season media interviews. “Can we pressure the ball better? … Do we need more personnel who can pressure the ball? Is it something we can do scheme-wise? Can we be more aggressive? Should we blitz more? Should we double-team more? Should we trap more? Those are all things that we’re going to be examining, watching the tape, thinking about our personnel.”

The best teams in the league are long, athletic and swarming. They also have size, and not just at the center position. They also have multiple playmakers. The Warriors have to catch up.

The Warriors’ problem: what they lack is hard to acquire. They need a difference-maker. They need another Andrew Wiggins-type find.

In 2020, in the throes of their worst season ever, the Warriors acquired Wiggins from a Minnesota franchise that had given up on his star power. But with the Warriors, in a lesser role, he flourished and in the 2022 playoffs was a difference-maker in a title run. It was one of the signature moves of the Bob Myers era.

Mike Dunleavy needs one of those.

Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins’ strong play was a key factor in the Warriors’ 2022 title run — a kind of magic they’ll need to rediscover to contend next season. (Elsa / Getty Images)

The Warriors may be one of the most popular and profitable franchises, but they aren’t a coveted destination. They don’t have money under the cap to sign free agents. They have an incumbent trio who run the culture. They aren’t the team to sign with to chase a ring. So they probably won’t get the most attractive options.

But what the Warriors do offer is minutes and shots. They’re prepared to open up a starting spot (and move Klay Thompson to the bench), maybe two. What the Warriors do offer is a kingdom in need of a successor, a massive platform for a player to refashion his career or take it to a new level. What they do offer is Curry, who tends to bring out the best in his co-stars.

So what could the Warriors do to really upgrade their situation?

Wiggins 2.0

Who are some star types who need a change of scenery or might be ready to leave their current digs? They come with risk. But the Warriors aren’t in a position to turn their nose up at undesirables — not if they’re building around the core three.

Zach LaVine. The freshly 29-year-old is typically not the Warriors’ type. But he is an explosive athlete and a player who can get 30 on his own. Before this injury-plagued season, his previous four he averaged 65.5 games and more than 25 points per. The Warriors need that type of scoring. He’s a career 38 percent shooter from 3. He isn’t a profound passer but averages nearly twice as many assists as both Wiggins and Thompson. His defense is suspect. He’s only played four playoff games because he’s never really been the focal point on a winner. The question is how much better can he get in the Warriors’ system? Is there upside they can squeeze out of him?

How to get him: He reportedly wanted out of Chicago. He’s probably gettable, but it requires eating $138 million over three years.

Brandon Ingram. He’ll be 27 this year, and he’s had a rough postseason. He’s super talented, a 6-foot-8 forward who can create his own shot. Not a great 3-point shooter and mostly lives in the midrange. But a good playmaker who can handle the ball and pass. The Warriors would have to believe he’s got a lot of untapped potential they can harvest, which is not unreasonable.

How to get him: The Pelicans would have to want to move on — which seems possible the way Ingram has looked in the first round against Oklahoma City. He’s got a year left worth $36 million, and then he’ll want a big contract.

Dejounte Murray. He’ll be 28 this year and is coming off his best season as a pro. Not a great shooter but is becoming a reliable scorer who is proving to be good at the end of games. Has defensive roots from his days with the Spurs, but at 6-foot-5, he’s just barely big enough to play next to Curry. Has some star power to him.

How to get him: The backcourt experiment with him and Trae Young in Atlanta doesn’t work. The Hawks might be looking to make some changes. Murray starts a four-year, $120 million contract extension next season.

Dejounte Murray

The pairing of Dejounte Murray (right) and Trae Young hasn’t helped the Hawks get rolling in the Eastern Conference. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Myles Turner. A tougher get now, presumably, with how he’s looked in the playoffs for the Indiana Pacers. But he just turned 28 this year and has an affordable number with one year and $19.9 million left. He’s 6-11 and can knock down open 3s. He’s a decent rim protector, still pretty athletic, and has been available the last two seasons.

How to get him: The better the Pacers do, the less likely he is available. They never decided to move him when they weren’t good. Now that they’re on the verge of a first-round upset? Doubtful.

Lauri Markannen. The 7-footer will turn 27 next month. He fits the Warriors’ style of play perfectly. He can shoot. He can play off the ball. He can get 30. Defense is a question and his talent has never produced winning. But still, he’d be a dreamy acquisition.

How to get him: First, Utah would have to manufacture a reason to trade him. Not sure why they would. After that, the Warriors would have to work Danny Ainge — who rarely, if ever, gets worked.

Same Timeline

A few of the tempting targets go against the Warriors’ need to get younger and more athletic. Still, these players would likely bring enough to get the Warriors out of the Play-In realm.

Paul George. He turns 34 next month. But he’s a wing who can create offense and be the primary scorer with reliability. He plays both ends and still has some athleticism at his age. He’d instantly start and be a key figure in the Warriors’ offense. Also, while he played 74 games this season for the L.A. Clippers, he tends to miss a lot of action.

How to get him: He’s a pending free agent. It would have to be a sign-and-trade (would the Clippers help the Warriors?) and the Warriors would be hard-capped.

Kevin Durant. Fresh off getting swept, it’s clear he can still play. His peak was next to Curry, so the Warriors know it can work. He’d be an instant upgrade. But we are five years removed from those days. A lot has happened.

How to get him: The Suns are in a tough spot, and trading Durant might be one of their only ways out. Should the Warriors try to turn back the clock for one last run?

DeMar DeRozan. Approaching 35 and would be good for the Warriors for similar reasons — a clear upgrade as an offensive cog. His midrange game and isolation ability would add a new wrinkle to the Warriors offense. He’d thrive at the end of games while teams focus on smothering Curry. He doesn’t help much defensively, though, and hasn’t historically done much off the ball.

How to get him: A pending free agent, so it would have to be a sign-and-trade. The Chicago Bulls would probably prefer to send him West. But a few teams would want DeRozan, and he’d likely prefer going home to Los Angeles.

Of course, there are some pipe dreams out there. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Joel Embiid. If the Warriors somehow got their hands on one of those players, they’d be in business for years to come. They’d have the face of a new era. But those are pipe dreams for a reason. It would require the team wanting to move them, or the player demanding a trade and the team obliging. Then they’d have to all but demand a trade to the Warriors. Because if a player like that becomes available, there would be a bidding war the Warriors can’t win. And then that demand would have to work.

Better believe, though, if there is a player out there who could take the baton from Curry and carry the Warriors into the future, Golden State owner Joe Lacob is interested.



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(Top photo of the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and the Hawks’ Dejounte Murray: Adam Hagy / NBAE via Getty Images)