The Warriors have choices with their draft picks this year.
The Golden State Warriors fanbase base has spent the last seven months debating James Wiseman. The range of opinions spans from thinking the the Dubs should trade him if they can get so much as a role player off the bench in return, to thinking the Warriors will be ruining their future by giving up on a superstar in the making, with plenty of fans occupying both ends of the spectrum.
Regardless of where you sit, almost everyone can agree on one thing with Wiseman: the Warriors were worse when he was on the court last year. Their quest to do well during the 2020-21 season was not aided by him.
Perhaps you think this is because of the hand he was dealt — only getting to play three college games, getting drafted in a season with no Summer League, and then missing all of training camp with the coronavirus. Maybe you think it’s because rookies usually aren’t good, and 19-year old rookies at the center position doubly so. Or perhaps you think he just isn’t a quality NBA player, and won’t ever be.
Reality tends to dip its pen in all shades of ink, and I think that’s the case here.
But while Wiseman did not help the Warriors win games last year, there aren’t many options that would have. Take a look at the 58 players drafted after Wiseman in 2020, and see how many you think would actually be contributors to a team fighting for the playoffs. I see two or three: LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, and maybe Onyeka Okongwu. Yet even with those three you have to wonder if they would have developed into the players they became if forced to play a smaller role.
The point I’m trying to make is this: even if you thought the Warriors should have drafted someone else, they had limited options for players who actually stood a chance to push them from the play-in to the playoffs.
And now they get to make that choice again. Twice, even!
The 2021 NBA Draft is just over a week away, and the Dubs hold two first-round picks: No. 7 and No. 14. They could make a trade and end up with just one, or even no lottery picks, but for now let’s assume they keep their two selections.
They’ll have options. Goodness they’ll have options. They can choose what they like from position, strengths, ceilings, floors, fit, favorite pasta shape, and bed-making habits.
But perhaps the biggest choice they’ll have to make is with readiness. Do the Warriors opt for a player in the Wiseman mold, who they determine to have an endless stream of untapped potential that they can extend the championship window with and build the next era of Dubs basketball around? Or do seek out the Haliburton route, and try to identify a player who can provide 20 quality minutes a night as they pursue a sixth trip to the NBA Finals in the last eight years?
The dream, of course, is that those player are the same thing — call it the LaMelo Ball Exception. But that’s exceedingly rare.
It helps that Golden State has two lottery picks, for now. They can take one approach with one pick, and a different approach with the other.
It very well may be that the Dubs survey the trade landscape before making a decision. If the goal is to get better immediately — and it certainly should be — it makes sense to dangle the picks. But if no one bites and Bob Myers is pessimistic about anyone’s chances at being the next Malcolm Brogdon, then it might be time to grit your teeth and draft the player with the best chance at blossoming into an All-Star a few years down the road.
It’s a difficult place for a GM to be in. There’s pressure — from the players and fans alike — to increase the quality of the roster immediately. Yet if the Warriors want to follow the Spurs model — and we know they do — you need to reload with franchise players in the draft. And not having one of the top picks in the draft doesn’t make it any easier.
But don’t worry, Mr. Myers. It’s just the future of the franchise that potentially hangs in the balance.