During August’s NBA draft lottery show, Golden State Warriors fans got a glimpse of their star point guard Steph Curry looking relaxed, healthy and sporting a new offseason look. Curry was there to represent the Warriors in whatever draft pick they landed.
After a disappointing season, the Warriors had a 14% chance at the No. 1 pick along with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves and ended up at No. 2. In any other draft year that would be tremendous news for the Warriors looking to bounce back and compete for a championship in 2020-21. However, this is a weak draft class and there isn’t a surefire pick at the top like Zion Williamson or Ja Morant.
General manager Bob Myers and the Warriors front office have a few options at No. 2. Do they draft a center (James Wiseman) or a guard (LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards) to come off the bench? There’s also the option to trade down and still get some value with players like Onyeka Okongwu and Isaac Okoro and save some cash space for free agency.
Keep the No. 2 pick. Who do they draft?
Myers told reporters after the draft lottery that he was wary of spending millions of dollars on a player he hasn’t seen play. “You don’t hire someone over a virtual interview and pay them 30 or 40 million dollars. There’s a ton of things that we have seen on film and in person for some of these guys but there’s a lot of things that we haven’t seen,” Myers said. We now know teams were able to get eyes on these draft prospects during a virtual draft combine, giving Myers and head coach Steve Kerr time to evaluate prospects at the top of the draft. Here are four options for the Warriors at No. 2 if they keep the draft pick.
Chris Mullin was a part of the Warriors front office from 2004-09 and when asked by Grant Liffmann of NBC Sports who he would draft at No. 2, Mullin said he would take Wiseman. “The guy I’m plugging in right away is Wiseman. He can definitely run the floor, he can put pressure on the rim for the lob and he can block shots,” Mullin said. The Warriors have some space in the frontcourt and Wiseman is capable of coming in right away and making an impact. He has a 7-foot-5 wingspan and is the best rim protector in this draft class. His outside game needs some work but there’s no one better to help develop a pick-and-pop game and 3-point shot than Curry and Klay Thompson.
The Timberwolves already have an All-Star center in Karl-Anthony Towns and a lot of mock drafts have Edwards going No. 1 to Minnesota. In the event he is still around at No. 2, Edwards could be an excellent addition to the backcourt and someone who can come in off the bench for Curry or Thompson. Edwards has a solid frame at 6-5 and still has a lot of room for growth in his game. He just turned 19 years old in August and was one of the best scorers in college basketball last season, averaging 19.1 points per game in his one year at Georgia. His shooting percentage was down but teams cannot look past his unbelievable performance against Michigan State where he scored 33 points in one half, including seven threes.
If the Warriors are looking for a third Splash Brother, Ball is it. He already has deep range similar to Curry and Trae Young and could be a good addition coming off the bench and developing further under Curry and Thompson. There’s a lot of criticism surrounding his jump shot after shooting 37.5% from the field and 25% from 3-point range in his one season for the Illawarra Hawks (Australia’s National Basketball League), but he has a high basketball IQ and his shot selection is getting better. Ball is a terrific passer, especially out of the pick-and-roll situation and averaged 6.8 assists per game. He has the highest ceiling of any player in this year’s draft and, like Edwards, is one of the youngest players in this class just turning 19 in August giving him time to grow and develop his game.
Toppin is another player who can come in right away and help the Warriors get back to the playoffs next season. He’s one of the older players in the draft turning 22 last March and he played two years at Dayton where he averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this past season. At 6-9, Toppin has great size and runs the floor extremely well in transition. He’s also a solid shooter shooting 41.7% in his two seasons and 68.8% from the field. He has the length to defend the perimeter and can step in the lane and be a rim protector.
Come draft night, Avdija will be the highest-drafted player to ever come out of Israel. The 6-9 forward didn’t put up huge numbers in the Euro League, but he dominated the Israeli league earning league MVP honors while averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds per game. Avdija has great size and can play multiple positions. He has one of the quickest releases on his jump shot out of any player in the lottery and can defend multiple positions. Avdija’s draft range is anywhere from 2-to-6 and with teams looking for “the next Luka,” the Warriors could take a risk on the young European player.
Trade down. For who?
There is a lot of value in the 6-to-12 draft range and the Warriors could save some money, trade down and still get a talented player. There could be a team that really wants Ball or Edwards with players like Advija, Okognwu, Okoro, Devin Vassell and Tyrese Haliburton hanging around further down the top 10.
Okongwu is second to Wiseman as the best rim protector in this draft class. He had eight blocks in his first college game with USC and continued to be a consistent defensive presence all season long. He’s been compared to Miami’s Bam Adebayo who had a breakout year for the Heat and the Warriors could plug him in right away with the fast-paced offense they run.
Haliburton is another great backcourt option to add to the Warriors. His 6-5 frame gives him great length on the wing, and he’s able to guard multiple positions on the court with his athleticism. Haliburton was a phenomenal facilitator and passer in his two seasons at Iowa State. Even though he’s a little undersized, he’s already added muscle weight to his frame during this extended break before the draft.
Vassell was one of the most improved players in college basketball this past season jumping from averaging only 4.5 points and 10.7 minutes per game to 12.7 points and 28.8 minutes per game at Florida State. The 6-6 shooting guard was in the 94 percentile in scoring in transition averaging 1.4 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports. He’s a great spot-up shooter and can knock it down from the 3-point range making 44 out of 106 threes this year. Vassell could be the guy to grow with the Warriors and has the potential to take over the role of the lead guard for the franchise later down the road.
Okoro was one of the toughest defenders in college basketball last season and has the speed and strength to guard four positions on the court. On the offensive side of the ball, he has a quick first step on the wing and has a solid mid-range jumper. His 3-point shot needs improvement, but that will come with reps and is probably a focus point during this downtime preparing for the draft. Okoro can get solid minutes off the bench coming in for Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green as he takes his time adjusting to the speed of the NBA.
Free agency options
Giannis Antetokounmpo made it very clear about his chances of leaving Milwaukee, telling Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes after the season, “It’s not happening. That’s not happening. We just have to get better as a team, individually, and get right back at it next season.” Warriors fans had hoped they could at least make a run for the two-time MVP, but now Myers and his staff will have to look elsewhere for some veteran talent to add to his three stars. Serge Ibaka made $23.3 million this past season with the Toronto Raptors, and it’s unlikely he’ll get that wherever he ends up next year. He’s averaged at least 12 points and six rebounds in his last 10 seasons in the NBA and can be that stretch-4 or stretch-5 they need in the offense.
Another option for the Warriors is 6-10 Danilo Gallinari. He just had one of his best seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, averaging 18.7 points per game and shot 40.5% from the 3-point line. Gallinari could be the stretch-4 option with Green at the five, along with Wiggins, Thompson and Curry rounding out the starting rotation.
Marc Gasol is a defensive presence at 6-11 and has won the Defensive Player of the Year award in the past and is a three-time All-Star. He spent most of his career with the Memphis Grizzlies before being traded to the Raptors in 2019. Gasol was instrumental in the Finals against the Warriors two years ago and is a player the Warriors could get with their mid-level exception.
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