Thanks as always to everyone who submitted questions. You can send questions for future mailbags to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter to @wcgoldberg.
Q: If the Warriors do wind up getting the No. 1 pick in the draft, what do you think they should do with it? I know there’s a lot of options with a D’Angelo Russell trade package, drafting James Wiseman, or drafting someone else, like LaMelo Ball. – JJBAYEG
I’ve been thinking about this question quite a bit. It’s hard to say what the Warriors should do without getting all the scouting information on prospects like Wiseman and Ball. I’ll say this: The problem with drafting a player in the top five is that those aren’t the sort of players you stash on the bench — he’ll need to play right away.
Can the Warriors afford to bring along a 19- or 20-year-old while pursuing a championship during what remains of Steph Curry’s window?
Unless Bob Myers and the front office believes there’s a sure-thing available, they could trade out of the pick, move down, and select an athletic wing while picking up future draft assets (Washington’s Jaden McDaniels, for example).
Few things in the NBA are as valuable as the No. 1 pick, or a top-three pick, for that matter. Trading it for several future picks could provide the sort of ammunition needed to add multiple high-end talents as the Warriors see through the Curry era.
I’m not saying that’s what I would do, but it’s worth considering.
Q: Are the two-way players going to play in Santa Cruz any time soon, or will they play out all their days before going down to Santa Cruz? – Gloria Richardson
The Warriors two players on two-way contracts — Ky Bowman and Damion Lee — will mostly be used in Golden State. Bowman won’t go to Santa Cruz unless he has to — the Warriors need his ball handling. Bowman is beginning to sit out of practices as Golden State monitors his remaining days of NBA eligibility.
Lee, on the other hand, may see some time in the G League if only to maintain his NBA eligibility for the balance of the regular season. Lee’s length and scoring potential (10 points per game before fracturing his right hand) were helpful in his first 11 games. He could make his return as soon as Monday night against the Grizzlies.
Several people in the Warriors organization have made clear they want to find a way to keep Bowman. While waiving Marquese Chriss’ non-guaranteed contract remains an option, it’s not the preferred method for the front office.
Rather, expect the Warriors to test the trade market for their minimum contract players in the coming days, with Dec. 15 marking the date when 2019 free-agent signings can be moved.
The Warriors have three players on a minimum contract — Chriss, Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks. Of the three, the bet here is that they sniff around for second-round picks in exchange for Burks, who could help bolster a playoff team’s bench.
Q: Any chance we see Alen Smailagic playing for the first team? And, what’s the latest news on Kevon Looney? Played only eight minutes against the Bulls. – Raja
Barring injuries, we won’t be seeing Smailagic in Golden State this season. The plan is for the 19-year-old to spend the year developing in Santa Cruz. The Warriors love his potential — especially as a passer and shooter — but he remains raw.
As far as Looney’s minutes, Steve Kerr will be careful with him. Looney has missed a lot of time this season and, in the last year, has dealt with a painful chest contusion, hamstring strain and neuropathic condition. Looney remains part of the Warriors’ future, and they want to maintain his health for next season’s playoff run.
With so many players who can play center on the roster (Looney, Willie Cauley-Stein, Chriss, Omari Spellman and Draymond Green), Kerr can afford to keep Looney’s minutes short.
Q: Despite the losing season, what players on the team do you get the vibe might want to stay longer term? I get that from Robinson, but I’m wondering which guys are hoping to be with us next season. – Kinefresh
The Warriors have 11 players under contract for next season, so we’re mainly going to focus on players who will be free agents.
Before we get to that, however, a quick word on Cauley-Stein and Spellman, both of whom are under contract for next season (Cauley-Stein has a $2.3 million player option, and the Warriors picked up Spellman’s $2 million option): Golden State has been impressed with Spellman, and his skillset fits within a team that has a healthy Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Cauley-Stein, though underwhelming early in the season, is a good value at less than $3 million per season, and provides size not otherwise found on the roster. A trade remains possible, particularly if a playoff team is willing to part with a draft pick in order to add some size to its bench.
As far as the free agents to be — Burks, Chriss, Robinson, Bowman and Lee — Robinson and Bowman are good bets to stick around. Robinson envisions himself somewhat as an Andre Iguodala-lite. Bowman projects as a valuable reserve guard.
Chriss played well next to Curry during the preseason, and the Warriors would like to explore that more. As for Lee, it’s about time to make a decision. He will be 28 next season — old for a two-way contract spot. Depending on how he performs the rest of the season, they could bring him up to the regular roster.
Q: What are the chances of trading D’Angelo Russell to the Wolves? He looked pretty disengaged during the game against the Chicago Bulls. – 326695RS
It’s interesting that you use the word “disengaged.” I’ve actually been quite impressed — surprised, even — by how engaged Russell has been the last few weeks. Not only was he the most vocal player on the bench while he was injured, but he remains a leader on the court and in huddles, constantly pulling players aside for additional instruction. Teammates rave about his energy and ability to project confidence.
Russell was one of the few players to make the trip to East Lansing for Draymond Green’s jersey retirement at Michigan State. Having made the trip myself, I saw Russell excitedly tag along with Green throughout the day. For someone fans have been trying to trade since day one, he sure seems like he wants to stick around.
As far as trading him to Minnesota, you’re not getting an All-Star back from that team. Trading a talent like Russell for depth, to me, is a bad idea. Top front offices find depth on the margins (just look at Bowman, Eric Paschall and Robinson), not by trading max players.