On Christmas Day, the Golden State Warriors will face arguably their toughest test so far this season when they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Warriors went on a historic and unprecedented 24-0 start to the season, and even though they are no longer undefeated, they are still clearly the best team in the NBA, by record but also by the fact that they’ve easily beaten almost every team they’ve faced so far, with the exception of a few teams.
Although Thanksgiving has already passed, the Warriors have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: their 27-1 record, Stephen Curry, a deep roster, competent owners, a top-notch coaching staff, and the best fans in the NBA. In addition to that, the Warriors can use this Christmas Day game as a reminder to themselves and to their fans of the best trade that never happened.
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Remember about a year and a half ago when rumors surfaced of a Klay Thompson-for-Kevin Love trade? Dub Nation was somewhat split on what to do, but many fans were so enthralled about the idea of having Love on this fast-paced, spread-the-floor team that getting rid of Thompson was fine to them.
Back then, it was not the right decision for several reasons though, including, but not limited to, Thompson’s elite three-point shooting and, therefore, his ability to spread the floor and create more space, his quick feet and defensive prowess, his chemistry with Curry and within the Warriors lineup, in general, and his potential and the fact that he hadn’t reached his ceiling yet.
Now, it’s even more clear that keeping Thompson and not trading for Love was the best decision the Warriors possibly could’ve made, and this decision could’ve certainly been a significant factor in them winning their first title last year since 1975.
Thompson started off the 2015-16 season relatively slowly, but he has started to find his groove. He is now averaging 19.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.8 blocks, and 0.5 steals per game on 46.8 percent shooting from the field, 43.7 percent shooting from three-point range, and 85.3 percent shooting from the free throw line.
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In arguably his best game of the season, he scored 39 points and collected seven rebounds and six assists on December 8th against the Indiana Pacers, and he followed that up by scoring 43 points on 68.2 percent shooting from the field and 61.5 percent shooting from three-point range against the Phoenix Suns about a week later.
In addition to the recent success that he’s had individually, it’s become more evident just how important he is to this Warriors’ team. He is so strong in his role as the secondary scorer, behind Curry, his versatility mixes in so well with other players such as Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green, he provides the team with size, stability, and quality defense, he’s valuable in transition and in small ball lineups, and his ability to go on a hot streak at any time makes him especially lethal.
As he continues to develop his game and grow as a player, the Warriors continue to flourish as a team. Curry keeps getting better and better too, along with other players such as Green, Festus Ezeli, and Harrison Barnes. With the Warriors’ young core, their team chemistry, their confidence, their experience, and the organization’s values as a whole, it’s not a mystery why they’ve seen so much success.
Would the Warriors still have won a title last year if they had traded for Love? It’s impossible to tell, but it seems like they wouldn’t have been able to without Thompson. This isn’t a negative statement towards Love or his talent, but given the Warriors’ team chemistry, their development as a core the past few years, and how well Thompson fits into the team’s overall style of play, it doesn’t seem like Love could’ve come in and solely made up for the loss of Thompson.
Of course, we all know how the Love trade saga ended. The Cavs traded for him, which ultimately created one of the most powerful “big threes” in the NBA right now with Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Love. After this trade was completed, many NBA analysts and fans ultimately believed that not only would the Cavs win the NBA Finals last year but that they would win fairly easily.
Not so fast.
The Warriors shut down this notion by not only having an incredibly successful regular season but by beating the Cavs in the NBA Finals in six games.
Fast forward to Christmas 2015, and the reigning world champion Warriors are set to take on the reigning Eastern Conference champion Cavs for the first time since the NBA Finals. Not only will this Christmas matchup feature the best two players in the NBA and will be an NBA Finals rematch from last season, but it will also have the added bonus of Warriors fans seeing why the Thompson-Love “trade” was the best trade that didn’t happen, especially since Love didn’t play in the NBA Finals last season due to a shoulder injury.
The Warriors will be home for Christmas, and they must be holly jolly to be facing this Cavs team with Thompson on their side, a 27-1 record, and their championship banner hanging above them.