The Warriors’ goal should be reduced to two words as the June 22 NBA draft draws near: No teens.
No more teenagers, if you must, in three words.
Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson, both 19 years old, are absolutely presuming that they will be long gone before the Warriors choose their first-round pick, No. 19 overall.
It would go against the franchise’s reasoning from four months ago to add another project if Golden State makes a first-round selection it intends to keep. Each 19-year-old who joins the league has a project.
At the trade deadline in February, the Warriors exchanged a project for a well-known good. James Wiseman, a center, was sent away at the age of 21. They once again got Gary Payton II, a 30-year-old utility player who was a crucial component of their 2021–22 championship squad. They exchanged a potential contributor for someone they knew could support them once they were healthy.
The four teenagers who were first-round picks in three straight drafts were reduced to three by that action. Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and Patrick Baldwin Jr. are still on the roster. Ryan Rollins, a fifth grader, was chosen in the second round but is still on the squad.
No one was a constant in the lineup.
Neither Day 1 nor Day 50 saw someone ready to contribute.
The three most recent drafts were written with the long term in mind. The Warriors’ decision to overhaul their player-development team and place a huge emphasis on young players with underdeveloped talents and little to no college experience made that much very evident.
Wiseman was viewed as a talented 7-footer with strong athleticism and a soft shooting touch who would need at least two or three full seasons to make an impact when Golden State selected him with the No. 2 overall choice in 2020. To the continued dismay of CEO Joe Lacob, J-Wise played in 60 NBA games before receiving a trip to Detroit.
They continue to see in Kuminga what they did when they chose him two years ago: a fantastic athlete with significant “upside.” He is still learning the nuances needed to succeed in the NBA. On the highlight scale, he is highly regarded. His on-ball defense has the potential to be excellent. His shot comes out gradually, but it’s getting better. JK rarely appears to be in a separate city from the other players on the court.
The Warriors have enough faith in Moody to think he can be saved. He is neither an excellent athlete nor very smooth. He is aware of where he should be and what he should be doing, though. He won’t be an All-Star, but he will make a good rotation player.
Kuminga and Moody are not far behind 2022 draft pick Baldwin. There is a good likelihood he will receive significant playing time. His height and shooting prowess are absolutely necessary. Door is wide open.
It’s obvious that Golden State’s executive management looked at the team’s seasoned core—Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, all well into their 30s—after missing the playoffs in successive seasons and set out to create a squad that might contend in 2027.
Then the seasoned core bounced back and captured a fourth championship. Every coach and player on the squad appreciated the pleasant surprise.
A few months ago, when I asked Bob Myers, the departing general manager and president of basketball operations, if that was a “look-what-we-found” championship, he laughed.
“I don’t know that I’d put it that way,” he replied. “We believed we stood a chance. We believed we could succeed. But we weren’t fully aware of what we had.
The Warriors are now fully aware of their situation. Curry still possesses All-Star caliber ability. Thompson had the most 3-pointers made in the NBA. Green is still an utterly imposing presence on defense and is still able to muster the necessary motivation to step up his performance when the stakes rise.
As a result, it becomes clear why they traded a bit of the future (Wiseman) for a piece of the present (GP2). And this is why children primarily sit and gaze.
Because they owe the Memphis Grizzlies for their 2024 pick (top-four protected), which can only be traded after selection, the Warriors are free to use the move to maximize the remaining years of the core. That is a choice.
However, their present plan suggests that if they choose a player for their roster, it would be someone with three to four years of collegiate experience. They are also accessible.
The projects on the roster are sufficient as is.