Welcome to the latest installment of Heavy Sports’ NBA mailbag.
Insider Steve Bulpett will answer your questions — those pertaining to current league issues and even some off-beat perspective and opinion from his 37 years covering the NBA. (Want to know what former league city he misses most? Want to know about the Celtics‘ first-ever trip to Sacramento?)
We’ll try to tackle it all here in the Heavy mailbag.
Leave your questions in the comments section below or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
The Warriors’ Upcoming Challenges
Among the three Warriors veterans–Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green–who do you think will be the first to leave Golden State?
I frankly don’t see any of them departing any time soon, so this could be a little like worrying about what to wear to the prom before you’ve even found a date. But … ye ask and we answer.
So my educated guess would be Draymond out the door first. I’m basing that on a few factors:
- Steph ain’t going nowhere. He’s the face of the Warriors, he has four years left on his contract, and fans might force the team to relocate if were to trade him. (And Rancho Cucamonga Warriors just doesn’t have the same ring.)
- Klay is on the books for two more years guaranteed at $40.6 and $43.2 million, making him hard to move even if they so desired. Depending on how he holds up physically, Thompson is a good bet to stay around as a shooter beyond his deal.
- Like Klay, Draymond is 32 and has two years remaining on his contract, but the numbers are far more manageable ($25.8 and $27.6 million) and the second year is a player option. In the mind’s eye, it’s hard to picture Green playing anywhere else, but the Warriors, heavily burdened by the luxury tax, have to be hoping one or more of their young frontcourt types can emerge and provide meaningful minutes (particularly on defense) at a better cost.
And, hey, maybe Draymond becomes so wealthy from his podcast in a couple of years that he decides this running up and down a basketball court stuff isn’t for him anymore. Maybe he puts his feet up and BUYS the Warriors. He’d save money on technical fouls, but, alas, NBA owners do get fined for critical comments (see: Lacob, Joe).
How do you think the Clippers would match up with the Warriors in the West? It seems like everyone has forgotten them.
Long Beach, Calif.
To answer how the Clippers will match up with Golden State, one would have to know which Clippers are going to be on the floor and just how healthy those people will be. Therefore, I believe the lack of preseason chatter about the Clips is more related to their mystery factor than their being forgotten.
Is Kawhi Leonard going to be back full-time (or even quasi-full-time)? Is he going to be a reasonable facsimile of the old Kawhi Leonard now that he’s a bit older and hasn’t played since the 2021 Western Conference semifinals?
Intriguing, too, is how John Wall will fit. He’s a dynamic player, but he’s played just 40 games since the 2018-29 season and sat out all of last year as the Rockets “went in a different direction.” How will Wall mesh with returning point guard Reggie Jackson? If both are in top form, it could be either a major boost for the Clippers or a serious headache for Tyronn Lue.
It may take a couple of regular season months for this entire picture to come into focus.
Are trades getting harder to make? When the Celtics traded for Kevin Garnett they gave up two picks. Now teams want four or five.
Chapel Hill, NC
The Nets’ exorbitant asking price for Kevin Durant — if, in fact that TRULY want to move him — is being driven by two influences: the Jazz getting five first-round picks and a pick swap from Minnesota for Rudy Gobert, and the Celtics getting four first-rounders (two of which turned out to be Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown) for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
The key to the Celts getting KG from Minnesota was prized young big man Al Jefferson, who would suffer a knee injury with the Wolves but go on to make third team All-NBA and finish eighth in the 2014 MVP balloting.
The Nets gave up all those picks for Pierce and Garnett because they believed they could win a championship with them. That, of course, didn’t work out. Like the Celtics in 2013, teams that give up marquee players are looking to execute a major rebuild.
The problem with the current Nets is that, for KD, they’re asking for key players to keep them competitive now, while also getting major draft capital. As we’ve written here prior, a team getting Durant has to be going for a title NOW, and that would be pretty much impossible if you surrender the players the Nets are requesting.
Lakers’ Supporting Actors
The Lakers brought in a lot of new young guys but none of them have really accomplished a lot in their other places. Are any of them any good? Thomas Bryant has been OK when healthy but who else can really contribute?
Santa Ana, Calif.
Look to the stars, my son …
I honestly believe if new coach Darvin Ham can get the Lakers with the big resumes to play the right kind of complementary basketball (and keep Anthony Davis out of the trainer’s room), then the new people should be able to fit just fine. If LeBron James and Russell Westbrook and AD and the others are playing up-tempo and moving the ball, there will be enough food on the table for all to dine.
I really like what a healthy Thomas Bryant can provide when healthy (the Celtics were in the hunt), and Troy Brown Jr., Lonnie Walker IV and Juan Toscano-Anderson can be nice pieces if the Lakers aren’t again stagnant.
And this team needs to keep things flowing to avoid exposing their shooting shortcomings. A hustling, transition game is a must.