Mike Dunleavy

NBA trades aren't as difficult as Warriors GM Dunleavy implies

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SAN FRANCISCO – It’s the final days before the 2024 NBA draft and the opening of free agency, and Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy is holding his cards close enough to leave paper cuts on his chest.

The tell is that Dunleavy on Monday implied trades are exceedingly difficult to construct and complete in today’s NBA.

“Beyond certainly learning about our team in general – I think I mentioned just before – it’s just hard to do deals,” he said in a news conference at Chase Center. “I can't stress that enough. There's a lot of good teams out there that know what they are doing, whereas in the past, it just seemed like you could pull a fast one on somebody, or there's different reasons for doing a trade.

“Now it's hard.”

Nice try, tough to buy.

This is the GM who last summer shocked the league by acquiring Chris Paul. It was no surprise that Dunleavy traded Jordan Poole in the deal, but it raised eyebrows around the globe that Golden State was taking on a 38-year-old point guard making $30 million.

If an aging point guard making $30 mil, even with a one-year guarantee, can be moved, the market is open and explorable options are available.

Moreover, the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks, who met in the 2024 NBA Finals, stand as proof that trades not only are available but can shift the balance of power within the NBA.

By trading for Kristaps Porzingis last June and Jrue Holiday last October – two megadeals – the Celtics affirmed themselves as the franchise most likely to win The Finals.

By trading for Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington at the Feb. 9 trade deadline, the Mavericks restructured their roster on the fly – adding two starters – and overcome a middling start by winning 21 of their last 30 games and then spanking three Western Conference heavyweights to reach The Finals.

Trades still are very much an NBA thing, as much or more than either MLB or the NFL. Indeed, trades are the lifeblood of the league, often more impactful than signing free agents.

Timing is, however, the most crucial element.

“It's having a willing partner,” Dunleavy said. “I think to do that, you've got to find the right time. You've got to find the right player that works for you and just having players that are available.

“I'm calling everybody, but if the player is not available and there's not a price, then there's no trade that can be made.”

Trades are not easily made. But they’re not incredibly difficult, particularly if you have assets. The Oklahoma City Thunder, acknowledging a need for perimeter defense, traded 2022 first-round pick Josh Giddey to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Alex Caruso.

The Mavericks pulled Gafford and Washington from two teams – the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets – on a bullet train to the lottery and seeking salary cap flexibility.

The Celtics, by contrast, simply went all in to surround incumbent stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with enough two-way talent to form a championship-or-bust roster. Boston shed a core member, Marcus Smart, to add Porzingis, and swapped two players and two future first-round picks (including this year) to bring in Holiday.

That’s what it took to win a championship.

The Warriors seem firmly committed to maximizing the next two seasons, with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, as well as coach Steve Kerr, all under contract. With or without Klay Thompson, that’s not a core built for a long future.

That’s why such players as Paul George and Jimmy Butler, both into their 30s, invite intriguing speculation for a Golden State team holding two future first-round draft picks.

Getting a veteran impact player almost certainly would require moving Jonathan Kuminga, who projects to have the highest upside of Golden State’s under-25 players.

The Warriors have exhibited no desire to part with Kuminga, and their same intent has been applied to Moses Moody, Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis.

"Everybody is making calls right now, whether it's on future draft picks or current players,” Dunleavy said. “Everybody is trying to get better, and so everybody is exploring and asking. It's good that the phones are ringing and there's interest in our guys. That's a good sign for kind of the level and quality that they are at.

“Doesn't mean we are too engaged with it, though.”

That could change. The Poole-for-Paul deal came together rather quickly. Dunleavy never tipped his hand.

He’s not tipping it now, other than trying to play it cool when all signs point to Golden State have a desire to add a veteran impact player.

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