SAN FRANCISCO – Within three years of entering the NBA, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green earned championship jewelry. They were on the floor together at times in the 2013 playoffs and again during the 2015 NBA Finals.
That’s what can happen when a team crushes the NBA draft. It rarely happens, but the Warriors pulled it off in 2012.
Drafting in the years since has varied wildly, from Jordan Poole (2019) showing flashes of brilliance to Jacob Evans III (2018) being an abject miss. Only Kevon Looney (2015), whose pre-draft physical made him a draft-day gamble, has made himself invaluable. So far.
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Which brings us to the 2023 NBA Draft on Thursday. The Warriors hold the 19th overall pick. They are, according to multiple league sources, listening to offers not only regarding the draft but also potential trades that might or might not involve the draft.
They have four basic options: 1) Make a trade to move up; 2) Select at 19 and keep the player; 3) Select at 19 and trade the player; 4) Select at 19 and trade the player, along with someone on the current roster.
With Golden State’s front office phones open to discussing transactions, this is a possibility. Several reports indicate the team is willing to put Jonathan Kuminga on the market to move into the top half of the lottery. The Thompson twins, Amen and Ausar, are expected to go among the top seven picks. Such a deal likely would include the No. 19 pick also going out.
Golden State Warriors
“First and foremost, you got to distinguish between acquiring talent and building a team,” general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. said this week. “For us, the team thing is huge. How do these players work, interact together?
“Beyond that, as far as individual skill sets, place a premium on being able to play both ways, defend your position, and on the offensive end to be able to bring something to the table. (There’s a) high premium on shooting in this day and age with the way the league is going.”
The sense is that this option is unlikely but can’t be ruled out.
If the Warriors keep the pick and draft for themselves, the logical choice would be to identify and select someone with a relatively extended background beyond high school. Moses Moody turned 21 three weeks ago, trimming the roster’s under-21 squad to three: Patrick Baldwin Jr., Ryan Rollins and Kuminga.
Among those in the draft with at least two years of college experience is guard Jordan Hawkins of UConn and forward Kris Murray of Iowa, the twin brother of Sacramento’s Keegan Murray. Hawkins, 21, spent two seasons with the Huskies and was the top player on the national championship team. Murray, 22, spent three seasons with the Hawkeyes. As a four-year collegian, UCLA forward Jaime Jaquez, known for his high hoops IQ, also fits the profile.
“Our main focus is on drafting a really good basketball player,” Dunleavy said. “. . . it’s pretty hard not to draft a young guy, the difference between 19 and 23 years of age, sure. You can debate that. Our focus is to be drafting players that are actually good at basketball.”
This option is less than ideal for a team in win-now mode. But it can if the Warriors nail the pick, as the Kings did with Keegan Murray and the Nuggets with Christian Braun.
The Warriors can’t trade the pick outright because of a move made four years ago, packaging their 2024 first-round pick (top-four protected) with Andre Iguodala in a trade with Memphis. The NBA’s “Stepien Rule,” named for former Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien, forbids teams from being without a first-round pick in consecutive drafts.
What the Warriors can do is use the No. 19 pick to draft a player another team likes and then trade that player. Losing director of player development Jama Mahlalela last week – he returned to the Raptors after two seasons with Golden State – could make this option more appealing.
This specific option is unlikely because, as is, it would require some serious sorcery to obtain a veteran of significant value.
The drafted player can be packaged with someone currently on the roster. Golden State’s ears are open regarding most players not named Stephen Curry. Jordan Poole and Kuminga are most frequently mentioned in potential trade packages.
And, yes, the Warriors are exploring all possibilities to improve their chances of winning – even if it means sacrificing someone who might evolve into an outstanding player.
“We love our roster,” Dunleavy said. “As far as untouchables and who we'd like to trade, all that, don't care to get too much into specifics other than to say frankly we get a lot of calls. People value guys on our roster. I think we're in good shape in that respect.”
If the Warriors have their way, this is the option they’ll pursue strongest. It makes the most sense, given the franchise’s commitment to the core trio of Klay Thompson, Curry and Green.
One of the lessons learned last season is that there is, and should be, an extremely high value placed on versatile vets that come ready to make an impact. Such players are not found in the draft but can be acquired though the draft.
The draft is hit and miss – and more miss than hit. The Warriors are better off using it as an indirect tool to get better.