Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make.
Long before Kevin Love teamed up with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving with the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer, the Golden State Warriors were in a golden position to add the three-time All-Star forward and one of the most versatile offensive players in the game to a 51-win team on the rise.
All they had to do was give up shooting guard Klay Thompson as the headliner of a package going to the Timberwolves, and Love was theirs. Wolves President Flip Saunders coveted Thompson as the Warriors inquired about Love early in the summer.
To the surprise of many, the Warriors declined to include Thompson, a very good fourth-year player but not believed to be of Love's caliber, in their offer and Saunders held firm. Talks broke down and Love eventually landed in Cleveland when James decided to return home, a trade that brought No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins from Cleveland to the Wolves.
Two months into the season, the decision has been validated. Thompson has emerged as a star alongside Stephen Curry and the Warriors are an NBA-best 27-5 after beating Oklahoma City on Monday.
"For me as a new coach, what I saw was maybe the best backcourt in the NBA and a chance to keep the group together," coach Steve Kerr said. "And that's pretty powerful, especially when you know you're already pretty good."
After spending the summer with Team USA, Thompson — the son of Mychal Thompson, Saunders' college teammate with the Gophers — has blossomed into so much more than a shooter, showing an ability to put the ball on the floor and create his own shot while still playing strong defense.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have languished while trying to fit all their new parts together, and now they are without James for at least two weeks because of knee and back injuries.
In Golden State, the main pieces of the roster have been together for years, and that familiarity and chemistry is paying dividends.
"Whatever lineup we throw out there, I feel like we have the ultimate high confidence to play well," Curry said. "That comes with the experience of going through a couple of playoff series together and falling short of our expectations before. And now being even more hungry as a group to get to the next level."