The Warriors seem invested in their two top-10 picks as the future. Will it work?
Let’s start with. atopic that’s only tangentially related to James Wiseman and Jonathan Kuminga. It’s a topic most Golden State Warriors fans are very tired of talking about.
Simmons will almost surely be traded before the start of the 2021-22 NBA season, and while the Warriors are considered by many to be the betting favorite to land him, he almost certainly won’t be playing his home games in San Francisco next year.
There are too many obstacles. Daryl Morey wants an entire vintage Ferrari collection in return for the young star, and the Warriors brass is reportedly split on Simmons. The season is fast approaching, and Golden State values continuity. The Dubs aren’t sure of their standing until Klay Thompson returns, and Steph Curry has already given his thumbs up to the organization by signing an extension.
And then there’s the prospects it would cost.
I’ve pleased a few and angered many by suggesting the Warriors should be ready and willing to part with their recent (and future) picks if it helps them land a star player.
But it isn’t a sure thing that Golden State’s front office feels similarly.
On Thursday, The Athletic’s Anthony Slater broke down why a Simmons trade is unlikely, and in it got to perhaps the heart of the issue: Joe Lacob is enamored with Wiseman and Kuminga, and convinced that they’ll be the face of the next dynastic era of Dubs ball.
You may be more dubious of Wiseman’s or Kuminga’s future ceiling. You may crave more aggressive all-out asset usage and unfettered spending with the singular goal of capturing another title before Curry’s prime expires. You may care less about the back half of this decade and the idea of elusive sustained success than Lacob does.
But you’d be naive not to calculate his mindset into any hypothetical trade talks. Lacob is the one signing the checks and is an influential voice in the room, listening to an array of voices but ultimately remaining the one who needs to be convinced to greenlight any monumental decision.
League execs might view Wiseman and Kuminga as intriguing but unproven young players who sweeten the pot a bit around Wiggins’ negative value contract. But they’d be talking to a front office that collectively remains higher on both their futures than the general consensus and Lacob, an ambitious venture capitalist, who has dreams of the two in their early primes connecting on 2026 playoff lobs in front of a packed Chase Center.
Yes, he may have been talking to me by prefacing it with, “you may be more dubious of Wiseman’s or Kuminga’s future ceiling. I openly am, especially with the former.
Even if you’re bullish on those two, betting on lottery picks is a dangerous game.
Here are the 15 draft picks from 2005 through 2019 in the draft slots of Wiseman (No. 2) and Kuminga (No. 7):
Marvin Williams, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Hasheem Thabeet, Evan Turner, Derrick Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Victor Oladipo, Jabari Parker, D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Marvin Bagley III, Ja Morant
Charlie Villanueva, Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, Eric Gordon, Stephen Curry, Greg Monroe, Bismack Biyombo, Harrison Barnes, Ben McLemore, Julius Randle, Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Coby White
I’m not trying to be a downer here. There’s some talent in those names, and if you assume that this 15-year slice of the draft is representative of the whole pie, there’s a one in 225 chance that Wiseman and Kuminga end up as the next Curry and Durant, which I think we can all agree is a championship caliber team.
But there’s a much better chance they’re Turner and Markkanen, or Kidd-Gilchrist and Gordon, or even Aldridge and Randle which … honestly is the core of, what … a No. 5 seed?
It’s a dangerous game to play, is what I’m saying. The Warriors clearly value Wiseman and Kuminga more than the league, and while that may be because they see something special, it may also be that they’re too close and too involved to see things objectively.
I’m not saying the Warriors should be calling Morey, begging him to take Kuminga and Wiseman off his hands. I am totally fine with a resistance to make that trade. You can do a lot worse than slowly developing two high-ceiling prospects while hoping that they’ll lead you into another era of championships.
But you can’t bank on it. Kuminga and Wiseman are exciting players, but they cannot be the primary plan.
It’s not a knock on them. It’s just the painful reality of rebuilding through the draft. Retooling on the fly carries the same concerns, but magnified because the options are fewer.
If Kuminga and Wiseman are one of the team’s plans for finding a way to extend their championship contention, then the team is in a perfect place. If it’s their primary plan? Suddenly things don’t look so good.