As we've learned so many times before this time of year, trade talks are often dead until they're not dead. They always seem to have this wild way of coming back from the grave, like some sort of NBA version of The Walking Dead where general managers rise up and grab their cell phones just in time to get a deal that was on life support done.
So will that be the case with the Golden State Warriors-Minnesota Timberwolves discussions that center on Kevin Love and were deemed dead on Monday? We shall see.
But there's no mistaking the fact that the pro-Klay Thompson camp is speaking up in ways that they didn't seem to be just three days ago, and the stance — for now — that the Warriors third-year guard is going nowhere means there will likely be no deal done here unless someone budges. What's more, the Thompson component is hardly the only sticking point.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Warriors aren't keen on the idea of taking on the contract of veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin (three seasons, $21.2 million remaining) or giving up the future first-round pick that the Timberwolves are known to have asked for. (Because they owe their 2014 first round pick to the Utah Jazz, they would have to wait until the draft begins on Thursday night to trade their 2015 pick since league rules prohibit a team from owing first-round picks in consecutive years.) The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of negotiations.
Thompson is only part of this complicated process, but the reality remains that this Warriors management team that has talked so often in recent years about doing anything necessary to win a championship still has a prime chance to land one of the few available players who could help get that done. Which is why the Warriors' quandary — one that is being deemed dead now but will likely be miraculously revived by tomorrow — is so fascinating at the moment.
The Timberwolves clearly covet Thompson and are well aware of the financial implications of the Warriors holding onto him beyond next season. It's the driving force of their hope that Golden State will relent on this front, the idea that keeping him after his rookie contract expires next summer while somehow landing Love in the process means the Warriors' payroll would be somewhere between painful and untenable.
Golden State's decision to execute a sign-and-trade with Andre Iguodala last summer (four years, $48 million) is having a serious ripple effect now, as there are only so many eight-figure players that can fit under one team's arena roof. Thompson is known to be seeking a maximum-salary contract, but even a more modest salary would make things extremely challenging when it comes to the financial front.
If Thompson's deal started with a $10 million salary in Year One, and Love was in town on a newly-negotiated max deal that would start in that same summer, then Golden State would have approximately $64 million tied up in just five players who all would be making at least $11.3 million (starters Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut, Thompson, Iguodala and Love). The salary cap is projected to be $63.2 million next season with the luxury tax starting around $77 million, meaning it will be in that same neighborhood for the following campaign.
The Warriors have a few handy tools at their disposal, too, as their ability to use the midlevel exception this summer as well as a traded player exception means they can work around the pesky salary cap that they're already unofficially over to find all the right role players.
So is it inconceivable that Joe Lacob and his band of deep-pocketed Warriors owners would be willing to cut a monstrous check for the chance to truly contend for a title? Don't rule it out, especially since Curry, Bogut and Iguodala come off the books after the 2016-17 campaign, and the Warriors could reassess their financial future at that time. That raises this question, of course: Do the T'wolves have enough interest in any of the Warriors' non-Thompson packages?
That part remains unclear, and it's impossible to assess without knowing every last detail of the other offers in front of Minnesota President and head coach Flip Saunders. (The Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets are believed to be on their short list as well.) But if the Warriors were indeed so hell-bent on keeping Thompson, they could (and may have) offered forward David Lee, small forwards Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes and the first-rounder and feel as if that's about as good as it will get for the Timberwolves.
Their opinion of Barnes would be key, as he showed serious star potential in the Warriors' 2013 playoff run before falling off so badly last season (largely because of Iguodala's presence). And whereas Thompson's payday is coming either this summer (via an extension) or next, Barnes has two seasons left on his rookie deal and would thus be a more manageable contract. Green is owed $915,243 in 2014-15, the last year of his deal.
Minnesota has been sending mixed messages along the way here, telling some teams that they feel no pressing need to move Love until the February trade deadline while offering other indications that he'll be outbound by Friday morning. But "dead" is a different kind of term in the NBA, where front-office possums are so prevalent. Don't be surprised if this Golden State-Minnesota situation is the latest reminder that even the most lifeless of trade talks weren't so dead after all.