One reason Bob Myers isn’t saying who the Warriors will select with their first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft is that he doesn’t yet know the draft order. Another is that he wouldn’t tell even if he did. A third reason is because the Warriors may not draft at all.
The thought of trading the pick is as intriguing an option as it was 10 weeks ago, when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic brought the NBA season to an abrupt halt.
“Yeah, we’re going to consider all that,” the Warriors president of basketball operations told NBC Sports Bay Area over the phone, before pausing for a moment.
“Now, I don’t know if the headline is going to be that we’re trading our pick. So, be clear that I said ‘consider.’”
As well they should. Myers concedes that this draft, like most drafts the past 40 years, has no identifiable “transformational” player. No Anthony Davis (2012). Definitely no LeBron James (2003). There’s not even a Zion Williamson (2019).
Regardless whether the Warriors land the No. 1 overall pick, or the lottery shoves them down as far as No. 5 -- the furthest they can drop if they have the league’s worst record -- there is not enough talent variance to register disappointment. Front offices have as many as five or six different players atop their boards.
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Without the usual two full months for evaluations, workouts and interviews, the 2020 draft comes with an unprecedented degree of risk. Drafting at the top is far more perilous than putting the pick in a trade that sends back someone with an NBA résumé. Or even moving back.
“So much of whether a guy makes it or not is, ‘Who is he?’ What type of mindset does he have?'" Myers said. “Everybody has been watching ‘The Last Dance,’ and I’m sure there was belief Michael Jordan would be a really good player. But if everybody knew he had that edge, he’s not going third in the draft. He’s going first.
“Even with (No. 1 pick Hakeem) Olajuwon, as great as he was, if people saw the talent of Jordan and knew this guy would kill to win, do everything in his power to win, at all costs, that draft would have been different.”
The current Golden State front office, most of which has been intact for nearly a decade, never has been a part of the top five. To get a feel for the action at the top, Myers is reaching out to others, such as former Warriors executive Travis Schlenk, now the GM of the Atlanta Hawks.
“He said there's a lot of activity, that it depends on the traffic and how open you are to doing something,” Myers said. “The higher you are, the more optionality you have to make moves.
“The thing about trading or not is you want to make the best decision possible. The best position might be to draft, or it might be a trade. You don't know until you see what you can do and what offers you have.”
If a team drafting after the Warriors is in love with a prospect but gets antsy about his availability, Myers can expect calls. And he will listen. To all of them.
A recent example is 2017, when the Philadelphia 76ers were slotted at No. 3 and targeted Markelle Fultz. They swapped picks with the Boston Celtics, who held the No. 1 overall pick. Boston dropped to third, taking Jayson Tatum, but also received a protected future first-round pick from Philly. Three seasons later, it appears the Celtics robbed the 76ers.
Normally, the rarified air at the top of the lottery -- and the notion they can rejoin the league’s elite in 2020-21 -- would be seductive for the Warriors. But this draft is considered inferior to the 2021 draft, when they probably will return to the lottery with the pick received from the Minnesota Timberwolves in the D’Angelo Russell-for-Andrew Wiggins swap.
“It’s rare to have a team that might be able to contend and also have a top-five pick,” Myers said. “That’s where you could fall into taking the best player available. You don’t want to pass on a guy that you feel can usher in the next 10 years of the franchise.”
It cannot be said with conviction that such a guy is in this draft. So, yes, the Warriors should be open to trading the pick. Very open. Even if it’s No. 1 overall. Especially, given the potential harm to the payroll, if it’s No. 1 overall.