Bob Myers and the Warriors' front office are navigating this season with one eye on the playoffs and one eye locked on the future.
The minute Klay Thompson tore his Achilles in November the Warriors' expectations shifted, with the 2021-22 season now seen as the date for their true return. That, of course, has to do both with Thompson's expected return and the potential for the Warriors to add another elite prospect if the lottery balls bounce their way and give them the Minnesota Timberwolves' first-round pick in a loaded 2021 NBA Draft.
NBA execs have been salivating at the amount of talent atop the class, with Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga leading the way. Both Green and Kuminga elected to play for the G League Ignite this year and teams have been watching their play in the G League bubble in Orlando intently.
Green has been compared to younger versions of Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. Many believe Green will go in the top three, after Cunningham and Mobley, but Kuminga's impressive play in the bubble could see him rise up draft boards and set up a draft scenario that would have the Warriors partying if all the chips fall into place.
The Warriors own the rights to the Timberwolves' pick if it lands outside the top three. The pick becomes unprotected in 2022 if it doesn't convert this year. Minnesota is in a nosedive and appears headed for the worst record in the NBA. But with the flattened lottery odds, the Warriors still will have a chance to see the pick land just outside the top three. The Cleveland Cavaliers finished last season with the third-worst record in the NBA but fell to No. 5 in the draft with the Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls leapfrogging them. So, even if the Timberwolves finish with the worst record in the NBA, it's not inconceivable that they could slide to four, with some cruel ping-pong ball luck, and had that pick to the Warriors.
Of course, if the Warriors can luck their way into a top-five pick, they won't be displeased with whichever top prospect falls to them. But I tend to think Green has the highest upside in the class and the Warriors' system would be the perfect place for him to develop into the star many believe he's destined to become.
Through nine G League games so far, Green is averaging 16.8 points and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 37.0 percent from 3-point range. Green is an absolute nightmare for teams to contain in transition, with his explosiveness allowing him to turn defense into offense in the blink of an eye.
While Green's ball-handling and decision-making still are a work in progress, his shot-making ability and superior scoring instincts have been on full display in the bubble. While Green was always seen as a good spot-up shooter, the improvement he's made in shooting off the dribble has allowed him to be even more of a weapon in the pick-and-roll.
Combine the improved shooting off the bounce with a terrifying transition game and ability to catch-and-shoot and you get an elite talent who can play a role right away while working toward a ceiling that many draft experts and NBA executives believe is the highest in the class.
So, why would Green even be an option for the Warriors should they find a bag of magic beans and get the Timberwolves' pick?
As mentioned, it's a loaded class. Cunningham is the projected No. 1 pick but Mobley is right on his heels. Suggs has been impressive during his freshman season at Gonzaga, as well. But it's Kuminga and his showing alongside Green on the G League Ignite that could bump Green out of the top three.
At 6-foot-8, 210 pounds, Kuminga has arguably the best physical gifts in the class and has the speed, quickness, long arms and frame to be a dominant physical force at the NBA level.
Kuminga had an impressive start to the G League bubble, averaging 22 points and seven rebounds in the first three games. ESPN's Jonathan Givony noted that this was the time period when the most NBA execs were at the G League bubble and that Kuminga's showing during the first few games "ponder Kuminga's candidacy for the No. 1 pick."
Kuminga's physical attributes combined with his shot-creating ability will make him a hotly-desired prospect. Given the focus on wings who can defend multiple positions and create their own shot in today's NBA, it's easy to see why Kuminga, who is physically ready to play in the NBA, would start to rise up boards. He still has to improve on his passing ability and jump shot have to be improved, and, according to Givony, teams want to see how he progresses during the remainder of the bubble, but there's reason to believe Kuminga's rise will continue given his natural gifts.
Now, back to Green. Would the Warriors love a crack at Kuminga or Suggs? No doubt. But I think given Green's ceiling, ability to knock down open shots, move off-ball and terrorize defenses in transition, the Warriors would be the best place for him to become the Jalen Green many expect.
Playing alongside Steph Curry, Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green would, of course, put Jalen Green into a comfortable role as a spot-up shooter and transition wrecking ball while he learns to refine the other parts of his game. There wouldn't be too much initial pressure placed on him and he would be allowed to develop at his speed.
The thought of a fully healthy Warriors team trotting out Curry, Thompson, Wiggins, Draymond Green (or Wiseman) and Jalen Green would be a tantalizing prospect for Kerr.
The Warriors are trying to walk a tight rope of maximizing Curry's prime while also plotting for life after Steph. Having Green fall into their lap would be the best way to ensure they walk that line successfully. He would fill a clear need for the Warriors right now, giving them athleticism and shooting on the wing while also bringing superstar upside to the table.
If the current trajectory of the draft board continues, Green could be within the Warriors' grasp. All they'd need, of course, is a little lottery luck.