Whenever Klay Thompson next suits up for the Golden State Warriors, he won't have played in an NBA game for well over two full calendar years. After missing all of the 2019-20 season rehabbing the ACL he tore in the 2019 Finals, Thompson ruptured his Achilles tendon just prior to the start of this season, all of which he'll also miss.
As the March 25 trade deadline approaches, almost everything the Warriors are doing right now is geared around what they think they can be when Thompson returns. When will that be? Thompson said on Sunday, via The Athletic's Anthony Slater, that he is targeting opening night of the 2021-22 season.
Is Klay Thompson's current return target opening night next season? "Yeah. Definitely. Could be a few weeks after. Could be a month after. But definitely geared toward early in the season."— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) March 14, 2021
The Warriors believe Thompson makes them a title contender, but that's assuming he's the same player he was before two significant injuries and two years of not playing. Even then, they probably need more to truly compete with the elite teams. Their best assets are James Wiseman and Minnesota's 2021 first-round pick, which is top-three-protected this year and becomes unprotected in 2022. Would they deal one or both of those pieces to bring in another high-profile piece to join Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Thompson?
If they don't, and instead choose to build around the margins, Kelly Oubre Jr. becomes an interesting conversation. Oubre is an unrestricted free agent this summer. After getting off to a historically bad start, he's played well for the Warriors over the last six weeks, and if the Warriors intend to be a team that relies on two-way versatility and depth over the multiple-superstar blueprint they might be able to chase if they trade Wiseman and/or the Minnesota pick, Oubre, now familiar with the Warriors' offense and the on-the-fly intricacies of playing next to Curry, fits the bill.
Also, if Thompson isn't back, say, for the first month of next season, perhaps Oubre keeps the Warriors from digging too big a hole in the early going. How much will Oubre command on the open market? How high will Golden State go? Perhaps those are questions that will be answered when we see what, if anything, Golden State does at the trade deadline.