Mike Dunleavy

Dunleavy stresses ‘internal development' as Warriors' path to improve

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SAN FRANCISCO – As the Warriors watched the Boston Celtics celebrate their championship from afar, general manager Mike Dunleavy and the rest of the front office are beginning their busiest week of the NBA offseason. 

The 2024 NBA Draft begins Wednesday, and the Warriors aren’t on the clock until Thursday afternoon at No. 52 overall. Free agency then starts Sunday at 3:30 p.m. PT, and who knows what Golden State, and the rest of the league, will look like by the end of the weekend.

Having to figure out Klay Thompson’s contract situation first, while owner Joe Lacob has stated his public hope of getting under the second apron and avoiding the luxury tax as a whole, the trade market appears to be the Warriors’ best path for quick improvements. Dunleavy, however, states those already in the building have to be a main priority – even after a season where the Warriors missed the NBA playoffs. 

“I’m of the belief internal development is [the best avenue to improve the team],” Dunleavy said. “I’m a big player development guy. I think our young players have a really big chance to grow and get better. … Even our guys who have been here for a while. I think that’s got to be the main thing, and then from there you look to see what else is out there.” 

Dunleavy specifically mentioned Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis as young players internally who can have bigger roles and help the Warriors in the present. Kuminga and Moody both were selected by the Warriors in the lottery of the 2021 draft, when Bob Myers still was Golden State’s GM. Dunleavy, a year ago in his first draft as GM, added Podziemski at No. 19 and Jackson-Davis at No. 57 overall. 

Both became integral Warriors pieces during their rookie seasons. Podziemski was selected to the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team, and Jackson-Davis was one voting point away from making the second team. 

Trading any of the four would be a “very, very tough” pill to swallow for the Warriors. 

Or so Dunleavy says.

“For sure. We really value those guys,” Dunleavy said. “We've drafted them; we've grown them. They have played really well. We are excited about them. A scenario to move them would take a lot. It's important for us to be good now and then be good also in the future. 

“But the main thing is, we think those guys can contribute and help our group now. If that was not the case, we would be more open to stuff, but it is. So we are excited for those guys' growth this year and I expect them to be with us.”

Kuminga is the Warriors’ greatest asset who holds the most trade value after a breakout third pro season where the 21-year-old averaged a career-best 16.1 points per game. Podziemski supplanted Thompson in the starting lineup, played 26.6 minutes per game as a rookie and was second on the team in rebounds per game (5.8) as a 6-foot-4 guard. The Santa Clara product also led the league in charges and shot 38.5 percent from deep. Jackson-Davis became the Warriors’ starting center for the final month of the 2023-24 NBA season, and would remain so right now under their current roster construction. 

Moody by far is the player whose path to playing time is murkiest. Dunleavy sees “A-plus effort” from Moody when given opportunities and expects playing time to change in the wing’s fourth season. 

“For us, the next step for Moses is more consistent minutes – finding those minutes for him,” Dunleavy said. “We believe he can be a pretty quality wing. His ability to shoot the ball, like I said, he plays hard, he defends. I think his activity has gotten better, his awareness, as all young players do. 

“I think there's a bright future, I think there's been a smaller sample size than we want. But that sample size has been good in terms of what he's able to do, but we are hoping for more.” 

Remember, Dunleavy did say he expected Jordan Poole to remain a Warrior for “four more years, at least” around this time last year when he first met with the media as the team’s new GM. Poole then was traded to the Washington Wizards four days later.

The next few days, the next week-plus, could be very telling as to which direction the Warriors are headed. At this moment, Dunleavy -- out loud -- is optimistic his group of veterans and youth can combine to create a recipe made for Warriors success. 

“I said I expected him [Poole] to be back, like I do all the guys we have under contract,” Dunleavy said. “I really do. There's nothing going on right now where I'm like, ‘Man, this may not happen’ or whatever.

“Things can always change: Draft goes on, picks become available, something changes. But on the whole, I feel pretty comfortable with the group that we've got.”

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