Winning the NBA Finals in three of four years, signing a player to trade him for a former number one overall pick and a future first rounder, and then getting the second pick in the NBA Draft is an embarrassment of riches. It’s the story of the Golden State Warriors.
With that said, the luxury of picking second in next month’s draft is a perplexing matter for the Warriors; they don’t have a clear course of action with the selection.
Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball don’t make sense
Edwards is a thick scorer but would be a forced fit in head coach Steve Kerr’s offense. It’s an offense that’s founded on ball movement and outside shooting. There’s nothing wrong with offensive variety but not at the expense of getting away from your roster hallmarks. Plus, the Warriors already have a player with a similar set to Edwards in Andrew Wiggins, who they acquired at the 2020 NBA trade deadline from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Kansas product is a primary isolation scorer who needs the ball in his hands to make a profound impact. Do the Warriors want two of the same player with one making over $29 million a season and the other being the second pick in the draft?
Outside of a funky, inefficient jump shot, Ball is a well-rounded ball handler. He gets to the rim with ease, finishes through contact, and has a difficult-to-slow-down 6-foot-7 frame. The Warriors have Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. A lead guard and an off guard are not of the essence.
Yes, you always want to take the best player on the board, but this is obviously a wee bit different. When healthy, the Warriors have one of the best backcourts and shooting tandems in NBA history. You don’t want a number-two selection coming off the bench.
James Wiseman fits but could go against organizational philosophies
The Warriors don’t have a prominent big man. A handful of impactful frontline players who have done their part? Yes, but they don’t have an intimidating inside threat; Wiseman could be that threat on both ends of the floor.
Albeit he appeared in just three games this season at Memphis, Wiseman showcased his tantalizing athleticism by means of denying shots at a high level, finishing inside with ease, and putting the ball on the floor. A raw skill set is intriguing for any team, and the Warriors are no exception.
At the same time, the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau reports that the Warriors aren’t comfortable dedicating a front-line rookie contract to a center. Letourneau says the Warriors will likely look to add big men in free agency. To their credit, this thinking has merit.
While they’ve had some respectable centers through the years, none of the Warriors’ three recent championships featured a dominant center. They won by out-scheming and outscoring teams with speed and shooting. In their eyes, using the draft to add fit probably furthers their case to get back on top in the Western Conference.
Deni Avdija is compelling, but would he be impactful?
Avdija might be the most fascinating lottery talent. His statistics aren’t wowing anyone; his skill set is, though. Avdija is quick, has superb court vision, and has shown an increasing ability to score at a high level off the dribble and finish through contact.
He wouldn’t literally be him, but Avdija could somewhat fill the role Kevin Durant held with the Warriors from 2016-2019. Again: that doesn’t mean Avdija is going to be Durant, rather he can fill the isolation role that Durant vacated last summer by departing for the Brooklyn Nets. All that said, how impactful would the revival of this role be for the Warriors?
While he has a shooting stroke that could improve at the next level, is it a given that Avdija’s career 27.7 percent shooting from distance in Israel last season turns a corner? How does a rookie, who likely plays starting-caliber minutes once he gets his feet beneath him, fit in with an offense of proven commodities with continuity?
The chance for Avdija being a bust exists if he doesn’t become a vital part of an offense. Maybe he serves as the Warriors’ sixth man? Even that role doesn’t ensure positive results. It’s a boom-or-bust selection.
Trading down is prudent but difficult to facilitate
“No prospect makes total sense for the Warriors, so they should trade down and corral more assets.” This is a sentiment that makes a lot of sense.
In a draft that has few standout players and a double-digit amount of players that are difficult to separate, the Warriors could trade down in the seven-to-nine range and get a player as impactful as one taken with the fourth or fifth selection. They can trade down and acquire a productive player on a rookie deal and use the acquired draft pick on a player with a “three-and-d” skill set like Florida State’s Devin Vassell or Villanova’s Saddiq Bey. Another option is taking a player with upside like Auburn’s Isaac Okoro.
Of course, there’s a catch: it takes two to tango. While there’s buzz about a team trading up for Ball or Wiseman, it’s a gray area how deep that interest runs. As previously alluded to, it’s a draft class with a lot of players on the same tier. Teams know why the Warriors want to trade back, and chances are they’ll get a bit less than they would in a typical draft.
The Boston Celtics moved back from one to three in the 2017 NBA Draft and added a future first rounder in doing so. It’s difficult to envision a return much better than that if the Warriors trade back even five spots. Does the Warriors’ enthusiasm about trading down match a team’s enthusiasm about trading up?
There’s no preeminent option for the Warriors with the No. 2 pick
Most of the previously mentioned prospects have logic behind them but none are transparently better than the others.
Even if it’s only by a few spots, the Warriors should attempt to trade down and draft a player who fits their system. Ideally, fit matches value where they end up selecting. If they’re unsuccessful in trading down, then drafting Wiseman makes the most sense, as he’d be a day-one starter. But again: a center isn’t typically a priority for Golden State.
What the Warriors end up doing is anyone’s guess.