2024 NBA Draft

Looking back at long road traveled by Warriors' 2024 first-round pick

NBC Universal, Inc.

The NBA draft every year quickly goes from projecting hope for a handful of franchises to others wondering “what if” soon thereafter. Teams take plenty of different paths to reach the top of the draft, find themselves further in the lottery or at the end of the first round. 

For the Warriors’ original 2024 first-round pick, it wasn’t so much the road less traveled but one that has spanned the country. Starting on the West Coast, the pick then made a four-year stop in the South, took a quick look at the East Coast and finally landed in the Pacific Northwest, to the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 14 overall after Sunday’s NBA draft lottery

The selection was top-four protected, meaning the Warriors would have retained their pick if it were to land among the top four. The pick had a 0.7-percent chance of going back to the Warriors instead of being conveyed to the Blazers. 

Let’s start with the summer of 2019 to map out the long road taken by the No. 14 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, originally owned by Golden State. 

Within a half hour of the Warriors completing a sign-and-trade between them and the Nets to acquire D’Angelo Russell with Kevin Durant choosing Brooklyn in free agency, then-general manager Bob Myers sent Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a salary dump. The Warriors’ 2024 first-round pick (top-four protected) also was part of the trade, and would have become a No. 1 protected 2025 first-round pick and then an unprotected 2026 first-round pick if it didn't convey to Portland this year or next.

That completed the pick’s first move, prior to buying moving boxes years later. It got settled into a Memphis lifestyle and probably became a late-night regular at Blues City Cafe the next four years. 

Until a plane ticket was purchased and Memphis BBQ was swapped for clam chowder, lobster rolls and a pint of Guinness – for a little more than three months. 

The Grizzlies finally used the Warriors’ original pick to help them acquire 2021-22 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart from the Boston Celtics this past June, as part of a three-team deal that saw the Celtics add Kristaps Porzingis from the Washington Wizards, a 7-foot-2 former heralded prospect who helped unleash the best of Boston this season. The pick settled in Beantown for all of 100 days before a country-wide flight from Boston to Portland. 

Four days after Damian Lillard’s offseason of trade drama landed him on the Milwaukee Bucks as part of a three-team deal that also sent Jrue Holiday from the Bucks to Lillard’s previous team in Portland, the Celtics then used the Warriors’ 2024 first-round pick to help them land Holiday from the Blazers. 

So to recap, the Warriors’ 2024 first-round pick helped the Grizzlies get Smart, as well as the Celtics bringing both Porzingis and Holiday aboard. But it also played a role in the Warriors giving Andrew Wiggins a new home. 

Though the plan probably always was to eventually flip Russell instead of building a three-guard trio of him, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Myers wasn’t going to lose Durant for nothing. Russell signed a four-year, $117 million contract upon the Warriors’ sign-and-trade, making Iguodala’s salary dump a must. The Warriors then traded Russell after he played only 33 games for them to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Wiggins and a draft pick that turned into Jonathan Kuminga in 2021.

Whatever Wiggins’ future with the Warriors holds next, he’ll always have his championship ring, a piece of hardware his teammates, coaches and fans know he deserves a major thank you for. 

After years of taking a route that went this way and that, the pick officially is in Portland five-and-a-half weeks ahead of the draft. It already contributed to one championship in the Bay Area, and maybe Boston will reap the rewards this time around. 

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