Culture of Hoops

Could Kevin Love bring the Golden State Warriors a championship?

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

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The Golden State Warriors are one of two teams in hot pursuit of Kevin Love’s services. That being said, the Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves are engaged in a stalemate right now because of Golden State’s reluctance to part with the sharp-shooting Klay Thompson, whom Minnesota wants as part of the deal.

However, if and when that deal does push through, does Kevin Love make the Golden State Warriors a title threat?

What’s the Deal?

To know what effect Love will have for the Warriors, let us see what they have to give up in order to get him.

As reported by on July 16, 2014, this is how the resumption of the Kevin Love trade looks for Golden State:

The Warriors and Wolves have been talking about Love, a three-time All-Star who can opt out of his contract at the end of next season, since well before the draft last month. So far, the Warriors have discussed veteran forward David Lee, reserve swingman Harrison Barnes and future draft picks as potential compensation for Love.But Saunders has been adamant that Thompson, a 24-year-old shooter who plays a huge role in the Warriors’ perimeter defense alongside fellow ‘Splash Brother’ Stephen Curry in the backcourt, be the main piece coming back to get him to part with Love.

Aside from that, the Wolves also want the Warriors to take on Kevin Martin and the remaining $21 million of his four-year deal. In short, Golden State would be parting with Klay Thompson, David Lee, and a future first-round pick, while they would be getting Kevin Love and Kevin Martin in return.

Let us first examine how this would statistically impact the Warriors using the 2013-14 statistics of the players involved:

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks 3PM
Klay Thompson 18.4 3.1 2.2 0.9 0.5 2.8
David Lee 18.2 9.3 2.1 0.7 0.4 0.0
Total 36.6 12.4 4.3 1.6 0.9 2.8


Point Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks 3PM
Kevin Love 26.1 12.5 4.4 0.8 0.5 2.5
Kevin Martin 19.1   3.3 1.9 0.9 0.1 1.6
Total 45.2 15.8 6.3 1.7 0.6 4.1

If we look at the stats, it’s a win-win situation for the Warriors. Sure, they would be giving up a future first-round pick, but with Love in Golden State, that pick should be a 20-something pick, given their improvement. Then there’s more, from on July 17, 2014:

It’s not as though the Warriors would be mortgaging the future for a short-term boost, either. Love is 25, just a year older than Thompson. Last season, Love was fourth in the league in scoring (26.1), third in rebounding (12.5), while leading all power forwards in assists (4.4). Thompson was a slightly better three-point shooter (41.7 percent to Love’s 37.6 percent), but what the Warriors would lose in spacing at one position, they’d gain at the power forward spot.Love is a polarizing figure within the advanced metrics community, as some argue that he sacrifices rim defense to selfishly chase rebounds. However, the player he’d be replacing, Lee, isn’t exactly a defensive stalwart, so the drop-off would be minimal.

So if this is the case, then why have the Warriors been hesitant to include Klay Thompson and pull the trigger on the trade? Here’s the answer, from on June 21, 2014:

Thompson, 24, is not only half of what former Warriors coach Mark Jackson routinely referred to as the best-shooting backcourt in NBA history, alongside star Stephen Curry, but also is regarded as a top-notch perimeter defender.

Offense wins games, defense wins championships, or so they say.

Defense Is Key

Although the Warriors lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2013-14 playoffs, Klay Thompson was a revelation. As reported by on July 19, 2014:

“Klay guarded Chris Paul the entire Clippers series,” Kerr, who spoke about Thompson but did not discuss the Love situation, told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. “He has allowed Steph to conserve some energy at the defensive end, and to slide over to a shooter. The versatility that we have defensively between Klay and (new point guard) Shaun Livingston and (small forward) Andre (Iguodala), it’s really important for us…We’re excited about our roster.”

Steve Kerr is the new head coach of the Golden State Warriors. He viewed the playoffs courtside while he was still working the TNT booth. So it’s safe to say that Kerr witnessed Klay’s defensive prowess firsthand, and here’s the proof of Thompson’s defensive ability:

Chris Paul averages in 2013-14 Playoffs

FGM/FGA FG% Assists per Game
vs Golden State 41/97 .422 9
vs Oklahoma City 51/100 .511 11.8

When Kerr took the Warriors job, he brought along with him former Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics assistant Ron Adams, who is widely recognized as one of the best defensive coaches in the game.

So is Steve Kerr’s coaching philosophy anchored on defense? Not really. When Kerr was hired, he told on May 14, 2014:

“This is more just this team has done great things the last couple years and let’s try to build on that. I love the mentality. I think Mark really instilled a defensive identity and the emphasis on rebounding. He did a lot of really good things. That makes my job a lot easier. I’m able to build on that rather than starting to try to build a foundation. The foundation is already there.”

No Need To Fix Something That Isn’t Broke

Kerr is picking up where Mark Jackson left off. The Warriors were the third-best defensive team in the NBA last season in terms of defensive efficiency, allowing just 99.9 points per 100 possessions. While the other teams in the NBA are busy changing lineups, the Warriors do have their core intact. They also added Shaun Livingston to strengthen their point guard spot and give Stephen Curry some breathing room to keep him fresh for the playoff run.

Stephen Curry is Golden State’s chief gunner. It is also a known fact that defense isn’t one of his strong points. That is why it was Klay Thompson who guarded Chris Paul in the Clippers series.

Taking the defensive pressure off Steph Curry doesn’t only spare him from foul trouble, it also lets him concentrate on what he does best: SPLASH. This was successful, or at least so very close to being successful, in their first-round series, in which they pushed the favorite Clippers to a Game 7. Also, remember that Golden State played the entire series without Andrew Bogut.

They could’ve won that series, but that’s another story. The point here is that Steph got to play Steph’s game because of Klay’s defense on CP3.

Here is Kerr’s summary of his plans for next season, as per on July 19, 2014:

“We should be very balanced. We should be good at both ends of the floor. I’d like to use our bigs a little bit more offensively as passers and playmakers. The strength of our team, besides the backcourt shooting, is the length on the wings. Between Andre and Harrison (Barnes) and Draymond (Green) and Klay and Shaun Livingston, we’ve got a lot of long defenders, who can switch and play a lot of different people. We should be able to take advantage of that and be a very good defensive team.”

Again, we go back to defense, because it’s what Kerr is preaching right now. This is the main reason the trade hasn’t happened yet.

What If It Happened?

Since we’ve been talking about defense, let’s see how the defense would look for the Warriors if the trade materialized. Per again:

A starting five of Curry, Kevin Martin (who has been offered as a Thompson replacement), Andre Iguodala, Love and Andrew Bogut would be dynamic, to be sure, but only Bogut and Iguodala are known as elite defenders and the defensive deficiencies of the other three are well-chronicled.

This will surely impact the Warriors’ defensive efficiency of 99.9 points per game. Yes, adding Love and Martin would mean more firepower, but that isn’t what Golden State lacks and needs right now. That team is loaded with scorers who can fill it up if they have the shot attempts. And yes, Steph Curry is there to score the points.

Offensively, bringing in Kevin Love will give them elite scoring from their frontcourt. David Lee was an inside threat, but Love takes that threat way back to the three-point line, and with consistency.

Martin is a known scorer, but other than that, he doesn’t have much strength. So there is no problem with the offense, it’s just a matter of shifting some focus to that 4 position. The problem is whether they can adjust in time for the season and make the offense as cohesive as they do now with the Splash Brothers on board.

Playoff Experience

The Golden State Warriors have one of the youngest and most talented cores in the NBA today, but because they are young they don’t have much playoff experience. Taking the Clippers to the brink will definitely give them some confidence and should have taught them valuable lessons. However, they need the veteran spark that will push them to the next level.

Unfortunately, neither Kevin Love nor Kevin Martin can give them that. Kevin Martin has played 17 playoff games in 10 seasons. Kevin Love scores a love here (zero playoff games).

There is no doubt that Kevin Love will be the star that the Warriors never had before. There is no doubt that like Stephen Curry, Love is a franchise player. There is no doubt that he is a top 10 player in the NBA worth trading for, but he won’t guarantee an NBA title. Nor will he even guarantee winning the Western Conference.

Even Steve Kerr agrees, again as reported by

“The way I look at the West, Oklahoma City and San Antonio are a step ahead of everyone else and we’re in that mix behind those two teams right now. Our goal is to be as good as we can be and we’ll see what happens.”

With Kevin Love, the Warriors won’t only be good, they will be definitely better, but again, a title is not guaranteed there, as it is not in Cleveland either.

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