For the first time in three seasons, the Warriors are headed to the NBA playoffs. Golden State closed out its regular season Sunday with a 128-107 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, and now will face the Denver Nuggets in the first round.
While all eyes will be on the postseason from now until June, the 2022 NBA Draft is right around the corner and the Warriors should have a great opportunity to add some talent in the back end of the first round. With Sundays' win over the Pelicans, the Warriors finished the season at 53-29, tied for the third-best record in the NBA with the Miami Heat. The Warriors will get either the No. 27 or No. 28 pick in the first round. The tiebreaker between the Warriors and Heat will be determined on April 18 in a draw by the NBA.
The 2022-23 roster will see the core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green return. Jordan Poole is expected to get a contract extension while Andrew Wiggins enters the final year of his contract. Meanwhile, Golden State should expect to get even more production out of Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, and the Warriors hope James Wiseman enters camp fully healthy after missing all of this season while recovering from meniscus surgery.
The Warriors will have a few needs at the back end of the first round but also have the luxury of taking the best available player should a prospect fall into their lap.
Let's look at five or more prospects the Warriors could target with their first-round pick:
Christian Braun, G/F, Kansas
The 6-foot-6 Braun made a major leap during his junior season with the Jayhawks. He is one of the most versatile wings in this draft, playing up to four positions for Kansas while switching well on defense and serving as the Jayhawks' main facilitator.
Braun is a tenacious rebounder for a guard and solid defender who is able to hold his own one-on-one and does tremendous work off the ball, fighting over screens and getting in the passing lanes. Braun also is a good rim protector for a wing, averaging 0.8 blocks per game his past season.
Offensively, Braun averaged 14.2 points per game while shooting 49.8 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from long distance. While NBA scouts might have some questions about his consistency on the offensive end, Braun made several big shots down the stretch in Kansas' Final Four win over Villanova.
Braun is a versatile wing who can guard multiple positions, help facilitate on offense, and has upside to become a better than streaky shooter.
Walker Kessler, C, Auburn
Golden State Warriors
I don't know if you've heard, but the Warriors could have used an extra big man this year. That could still be the case next season with Kevon Looney entering free agency and Wiseman having not played a game since April 2021.
Auburn's Walker Kessler could be an option for the Warriors late in the first round.
At 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, Kessler was an elite rim protector for the Tigers, averaging 4.6 blocks per game this season.
The Naismith Defensive Player of the Year has a high basketball IQ, vacuums up rebounds, and has the agility to get stops if out on the perimeter.
He finished the season in the top five in:
- Blocks (first, 155)
- Blocks per game (tied-first, 4.6)
- Block rate (first, 19.1 percent)
- Defensive plus/minus (first, 8.0)
- Defensive rating (third, 83.0)
On the offensive end, Kessler can finish with both hands and has solid ball-handling and play-making abilities. If he can develop his shooting, he could develop into one of the best all-around big men in the NBA.
Nikola Jovic, F, Serbia
No, not that Nikola. But Jovic has a chance to become a really good NBA player.
The 18-year-old Serbian is a 6-foot-10 forward with a 7-foot wingspan who can shoot, dribble and pass. Jovic is a good shot creator out of the pick-and-roll and has the shooting stroke to be a legitimate floor-spacing four at the NBA level, who can take advantage of smaller defenders and serve as a secondary or tertiary creator on offense.
Jovic, however, needs to get better at finishing around the rim and punishing smaller defenders on switches. On defense, Jovic is a work in progress who doesn't have the size or bulk to bang down low with NBA bigs.
He has a ton of potential but is still raw as a prospect.
But the offensive talent is tantalizing.
Patrick Baldwin Jr., F, Wisconsin-Milwaukee
From former No. 1 recruit and projected top-10 lottery pick to fringe first-rounder, Patrick Baldwin Jr.'s decision to play for his father at UWM didn't pay off.
Baldwin had a miserable season as he missed time due to COVID and an ankle injury and struggled against the Horizon League competition when he was on the floor.
But if healthy, Baldwin could be worth a gamble late in the first round. At 6-foot-10 with an almost unblockable release, he's a smooth shooter who is comfortable getting his shot in almost any circumstance. While the results weren't there during his lone season in college, Baldwin was a good shooter in high school, so there's reason to believe the percentages will tick up in the NBA.
Scouts are going to question the number of tough shots he takes and his poor defensive fundamentals.
Baldwin could benefit from an organization with a good culture that will ask him to just be a 3-and-D wing who plays a role and isn't the primary option. The Warriors could bet on his talent and ask him to earn his minutes, banking on their system to get the best out of him.
Pick a Blue Devil
Duke made it all the way to the Final Four on the back of five likely first-round draft picks. While Paolo Banchero and A.J. Griffin are expected to go in the top six, three other Blue Devils could be an option for the Warriors depending on how the first round shakes out.
Center Mark Williams is a 7-footer with a 7-foot-7 wingspan who is a great rim protector and rebounder. He's a good cutter and has the hands to catch the ball in traffic and the athleticism to elevate and finish. His offensive post game still needs some work but he could fit in nicely as a rim protector and lob threat for the Warriors.
Then, there's Wendell Moore Jr., a playmaking wing who is good at operating out of the pick-and-roll, has good handles, and is a decent spot-up shooter. Moore needs to work on his pull-up game and tone down the turnovers in the NBA.
Last but not least is Trevor Keels, a two-way combo guard who can be a tenacious on-ball defender and has all the skills to be a successful two-way win in the NBA. Keels is a solid playmaker out of the pick-and-roll and a streaky shooter from 3-point range. He lacks ideal length and his decision-making can be erratic, but he's a guard who can shoot, dribble, pass and defend, and you can never have enough of those in the NBA.