In the wake of LeBron James’ recent decision to opt of out his Miami Heat contract, speculation has run rampant regarding the future home of the King. This past season, James carried the ailing Heat to their fourth consecutive Finals appearance, only to run out of gas and be run over by the superior San Antonio Spurs in five games. Though James is still the best player in the world, an aging Dwyane Wade and ineffective Chris Bosh are not the complementary pieces James needs to compete for and ultimately win another championship.
Trade rumors involving Kevin Love have made headline news lately as well. The potential trade would send Minnesota Timberwolves starters Love and Kevin Martin to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Klay Thompson, David Lee and a Warriors future first-round pick. This trade would benefit all parties involved. The Warriors would add a perfect pick-and-pop partner for Stephen Curry, and the Timberwolves would add a future All-Star in Thompson and unload Love’s expiring contract. Get over it, Minnesota fans; Love is never going to re-sign with his current team.
If and when that trade goes through, the Warriors’ starting lineup would look something like this: Curry, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Love and Andrew Bogut. While that lineup would undoubtedly produce a competitive team, it probably wouldn’t be strong enough to get past teams like the Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets or Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference playoffs. Best possible scenario: a second-round exit.
Consider this: with the best shooter in the NBA (Curry) and the most versatile power forward (Love), why wouldn’t Golden State be an appealing landing spot for James? In 2015, the Warriors would owe Martin (from the Timberwolves) $11.5 million. In his dream scenario, Martin plays 22 minutes a game and averages 12 points on a team loaded with young talent. The Warriors don’t need a shoot first guard who plays less defense than the 2012 New Orleans Saints.
In order to make cap room for James, the Warriors would need to negotiate a sign and trade with the Heat. They would happily unload Martin, Marreese Speights and Jordan Crawford to create $20+ million worth of cap space in 2015. James immediately adds perennial defense to an otherwise defensively anemic ball club, except for Iguodala. He opens the floor with his court vision and would create incredible opportunities for both Love and Curry, who would see exponentially less double teams with James on the floor.
Adding James and Love makes Golden State the immediate favorite in the west and gives James some offensive help from the most prolific shooter in the NBA. Envision this lineup: Curry, Iguodala, James, Love and Bogut as the starters, with Barnes, Draymond Green and Jermaine O’Neal coming off the bench. That is a championship caliber roster.
In order for this scenario to be realized, the Heat must play ball. Pat Riley isn’t necessarily the type to participate in helping the competition earn the rights to his best player via sign and trade. Without the sign and trade from the Heat, the Warriors can’t clear enough cap space for the enormous contract James would demand and deserve.
Though it may be a long shot, the combination of James, Curry and Love immediately transforms the middle-of-the-road Warriors to not only tops in the west, but the entire league. Move over, the 2008 Boston Celtics, 2003 Spurs and 2011 Heat — there is a new big three in town.