NBA in Golden Limbo

Randy Ollie, Sports Editor

As another NBA trade deadline came and went on Thursday, the NBA ros­ters officially cemented for the rest of the season. Bar­ring a few possible excep­tions, teams will remain virtually the same until af­ter the NBA Championship this summer, when trades become legal by league guidelines once more and teams look to bolster their talent and productivity for the upcoming season. In past years the trade dead­line has commonly been associated with blockbust­er deals in which franchise players are exchanged be­tween teams, usually to help fulfill championship aspirations or to serve as building blocks for future success.

However, this deadline was devoid of any such transactions, a testament to both its insignificance as well as the current hier­archy of the NBA. One can’t help but wonder whether the Golden State Warriors’ current league dominance had anything to do in the lack of front office initia­tive to shake things up. With a historic record of 48–4 under their belt, the Warriors look poised to break the 1995–1996 Chi­cago Bulls’ all-time league record of finishing a sea­son 72–10. Stacked to the brim with talent, the War­riors have four franchise-caliber players who would each star on any roster across the league.

Scarily enough, the prolific scorer and reign­ing 2014–2015 NBA MVP Stephen Curry is the third-highest paid of the quar­tet, behind the max con­tracts of shooting guard Klay Thompson and two-way superstar Draymond Green. If Harrison Barnes agrees to return next season for less money than he could get elsewhere and the Warriors’ bench unit remains large­ly intact — something that seems high­ly likely if the Warriors claim a consecu­tive NBA championship — the team will boast the league’s most talented roster for the third year in a row.

In the wake of what could turn out to be a formidable dynasty, you can’t blame teams for playing it relatively safe in the midst of a season that the Warriors are running away with. Sev­eral notable moves were made prior to the deadline: the Phoenix Suns got Kris Humphries, Dejuan Blair and a first-round pick by sending Markieef Morris to the Washington Wizards. Similarly, the Los Angeles Clippers bolstered their bench with the addition of Jeff Green for the small cost of the inconsistent Lance Stephenson and a first-round pick.

One could argue that the Clippers and the Wizards profited most from the dead­line, considering that they gave up little to acquire two versatile players. But the Clippers are 14 games back from the War­riors, and the Wizards are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. While both teams will undoubtedly benefit from their new acquisitions, it is unquestionable that they played this deadline cautiously, since neither player will substantially im­pact the prospects of their new team.

While the Cleveland Cavaliers were no exception to the lackluster dealings that took place Thursday, their transaction makes the most sense. In a three-team deal, they received a dependable shooting big man from the Orlando Magic for the minimal cost of Anderson Varejao, Jared Cunningham and a conditional first-round pick. Like the rest of the league, the Cavs played it safe, but adding a veteran shooting big man to their roster means Kevin Love’s place in Cleveland has be­come even more uncertain.

A questionable defender, and at times the odd man out with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, the former Minnesota Tim­berwolf has been at the core of Cleveland’s trade discussions since his arrival last season. While the Cavaliers followed the rest of the league by completing a mini­mal-risk trade, considering their erratic front office and the consistent scrutiny of Love’s role on the team, there seems to be some dramatic changes on the horizon.

In any case, it is undeniable that the Warriors’ current NBA dominance ex­tends beyond the court and into the front office. With Golden State poised to run away with the league, general manag­ers and team executives were faced with the choice of rolling the dice or playing it safe — the latter being a general trend throughout the league since the start of the season. While a rational person might find this trade deadline understandable, diehard NBA fans recognize that the War­riors are commanding the league on and off the court. While being safe is certainly sensible, taking risks is far more enter­taining and is why fans across the globe love the NBA.