Warriors

R.J. Hampton, LaMelo Ball making case to be Warriors' draft selection

R.J. Hampton, LaMelo Ball making case to be Warriors' draft selection

The Warriors are going to have a very high draft pick. That much seems obvious. What's less obvious is which prospects they might be zeroing in on as the missing piece of Golden State's next championship pursuit.

Some prospects like Memphis' James Wiseman, Georgia's Anthony Edwards and North Carolina's Cole Anthony are all stateside -- Golden State doesn't have to send scouts very far to get a glimpse of any of them.

Two other highly-rated prospects, however, require a far greater trek to evaluate them in person, as 18-year-olds LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton currently play in the NBL, Australia's top basketball league. Both players elected to go overseas for their final year of basketball before entering the NBA draft, rather than enroll in a collegiate program or join the G League.

Liam Santamaria is a writer and broadcaster for the NBL, and whereas the Warriors likely haven't had a ton of opportunities to see Ball and Hampton firsthand, Santamaria has had no such issues. So far, he has been blown away by what he has seen from the two young prospects.

"I've been not just impressed with the way they've played and the improvement that they've shown in their game over the course of the season thus far in Australia," Santamaria told NBC Sports Bay Area, "but also just how they've handled themselves on the court with their teammates, in the heat of battle in a professional situation like this."

The two phenoms currently find themselves in quite different scenarios. Ball, playing for the Illawarra Hawks, has far less talent around him than Hampton does on the New Zealand Breakers, where he plays alongside the likes of former NBA players, McDonald's All-Americans and foreign league MVPs. Consequently, Ball fittingly has the rock in his hands more often than Hampton does, which helps explains why Ball's stats are so comparatively eye-popping.

"While he hasn't been putting up the same kind of stat sheet-stuffing performances as LaMelo, I think he's actually been equally as impressive," Santamaria said of Hampton.

Both Ball and Hampton project as guards at the NBA level, but they're different kinds of players.

Ball has a knack for highlight-reel plays, but still needs to round out his game.

"He's obviously a phenomenally talented playmaker, and his feel for the game is incredible," Santamaria described Ball. "And we knew that coming in, but his game still is for the most part pretty raw."

Specifically, Ball's shooting mechanics and defense remain works in progress.

"When he arrived here in Australia and started playing, it looked like he'd never really been taught much of anything about how to defend," Santamaria recalled. "The fundamentals of 1-on-1 containment defense, but also fundamental concepts of playing defense off the ball, five guys defending as one ... just team defensive concepts. And that for me is the area that I think has probably undergone the most rapid improvement because he was almost nonexistent as a defender when he first stepped on Australian shores. Now you can see him taking some big strides in that regard. He's much more engaged at that end of the floor."

Hampton, on the other hand, is more refined at this stage of his young career and has what Santamaria described as better fundamentals than Ball currently possesses. 

"R.J. looks to me like he's a sure-fire certain thing, in terms of panning out to be a really productive pro," Santamaria summarized. "He has a great combination of size, length, athleticism, explosive quickness and basketball IQ."

As Ball and Hampton go through the draft process, they inevitably will be compared to other NBA stars, past and present. Santamaria has already begun that process.

"There's an element of Jason Kidd, for me," he said of Ball's comparison. "Where he just looks like he's got that thing on a string and makes those passes and plays look so easy." 

Santamaria added that Ball particularly reminds him of Kidd when handling the ball in the open court. Ironically, his comparison for Hampton involved another guard who has proven to be exceptional in the open court.

"He doesn't have the kind of strength and the kind of muscular frame yet that [Russell] Westbrook has, but when he gets that ball in the backcourt and starts pounding it, his head's on a swivel offensively and he's super quick attacking, putting heat on the rim," Santamaria said of Hampton. "In those situations, I see elements of Westbrook in his game. If he can become a little stronger and bounce off physicality like Westbrook does, I think that comparison might become more obvious over time."

As such, if the Warriors choose to draft another guard -- which seems unlikely, considering the presence of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, not to mention D'Angelo Russell -- it would appear they have a couple of fantastic prospects to choose from. If they come anywhere close to living up to Santamaria's lofty comparisons, they almost assuredly will have been worth the high draft selection.

[RELATED: Top NBA draft prospect LaMelo Ball is a big fan of Steph]

So, if push comes to shove, which one should the Warriors choose?

In formulating his answer, Santamaria mentioned yet another NBA MVP.

"Well, Bob Myers -- it depends if he's ready to swing for the fences, because LaMelo Ball is that swing-for-the-fences pick," he said. "Somebody's going to be brave enough to do it. I'm certainly not going to say he's going to be an NBA MVP at any point, but Giannis Antetokounmpo was a swing-for-the-fences pick a few years ago that a lot of teams decided they didn't want to or didn't have the courage to take. The Bucks did, and they have reaped the rewards. I think LaMelo Ball is going to fall into that category a little bit as well.

"If Myers and the organization have the courage to swing that bat, then he could very well be a home run."

The Warriors have long been expected to pursue Antetokounmpo if and when he hits free agency. There's no one quite like the Greek Freak, but perhaps Golden State ends up with its own version of him.

Why James Wiseman is, is not a perfect fit for Warriors in NBA Draft

Why James Wiseman is, is not a perfect fit for Warriors in NBA Draft

It's been a long time since the Warriors have had to worry about pick at the top of the NBA Draft.

But, barring a miraculous turnaround, that's exactly what Bob Myers and his staff find themselves thinking about midway through January.

The Warriors enter the weekend with the worst record in the NBA and appear set to land one of the top overall picks in the draft on June 25.

Assuming the Warriors land one of the top three picks in the draft, there are three names that have been tied to Golden State: Center James Wiseman and wings Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball.

NBC Sports college basketball writer Rob Dauster explained to NBC Sports Bay Area this week why he believes Wiseman should be the pick for the Warriors.

"I think in an ideal world, if you can get a top-three pick, and you end up getting James Wiseman, that's the perfect fit for this Golden State team," Dauster said. "You look at the players they've run through at the [center position], whether it's Kevon Looney, whether it's Damian Jones, anybody that they've brought in, they are looking for that guy that can be that athletic center, that can be switchable defensively, that's gonna be able to block some shots, that can rebound the ball, that can run in transition and James Wiseman is the guy that makes the most sense to me.

"He's 7-foot, he's got a 7-foot-6 wingspan, he's got all the tools to be a really good defender at the NBA level and I think he has a developing offensive skill set that should allow him to space the floor a little bit.

Dauster did add a bit of caution with Wiseman. The 18-year-old began his college career at Memphis, but was ruled ineligible on Nov. 14. In the summer of 2017, Memphis coach Penny Hardaway paid $11.500 to help Wiseman's family move from Nashville, Tenn. to Memphis.

A little over a month later, Wiseman decided to leave Memphis and declared for the NBA Draft. He ended up playing in just three games for the Tigers.

"Now, the thing about Wiseman is that there are always questions about his competitiveness and whether or not he loves basketball," Dauster said. "Of all the red flags you see come along with big guys that kind of loff their way through high school and loff their way through college a little bit, and it hasn't been helped by the fact that he basically quit on his Memphis team earlier this month. There are red flags involved with him, but if you have a guy with competitiveness issues, I think the absolutely perfect fit for him would be to put him in a locker room with guys like Draymond Green and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. You're not going to be able to loff when you have those guys to answer to after every single practice and after every game.

The other issue Dauster brought up is the Warriors' window to compete for an NBA championship. Assuming Curry and Thompson are healthy to begin the 2020-21 season, most experts feel the Warriors will return to the top of the Western Conference standings. But Wiseman might not be ready to compete at that level, according to Dauster.

"Now, the problem there is, Wiseman to me, is probably two or three years from really becoming the guy that you want him to be when you're drafting him and I don't know if you have a two or three year window with this crop of players," Dauster said. "How long is Steph Curry going to be at his peak? How long is Klay Thompson going to be at his peak? Have those guys already crossed that threshold and now on the downside of their careers? So the big question to me is, if you want to use this pick on James Wiseman, are you doing it knowing that you have a year or two before he becomes the guy that can impact the game the way you want him to impact a game?"

[RELATED: Players Warriors could take at No. 2]

The Warriors will have a big decision on their hands come June. Of course, they could package the draft pick with D'Angelo Russell and bring in an All-Star caliber NBA player.

The options for the Warriors are unlimited. Wiseman will surely garner consideration from the Warriors. But they must do their homework and make sure he's the right fit.

Quakes' Tommy Thompson challenges Steph Curry after making tunnel shot

Quakes' Tommy Thompson challenges Steph Curry after making tunnel shot

During the Warriors' final years at Oracle Arena, Steph Curry capped off his pregame routine with a tunnel shot.

It became a must-see event for anyone attending a Warriors game.

But due to the different layout of Chase Center in San Francisco, Curry had to adjust his tunnel shot. Now the shot has a higher degree of difficulty. He almost made the shot before the regular-season opener against the Clippers.

Curry hasn't been able to try the trick shot for a few months because of his broken left hand, but when he returns, he has some work to do.

This week, San Jose Earthquakes defender Tommy Thompson joined the Harlem Globetrotters for an event at Chase Center and made Curry's trick shot ... with a twist.

After kicking in the tunnel shot, Thompson challenged Curry.

"Can you make that, though?" Thompson said.

Curry has yet to respond to Thompson on Twitter or Instagram, but we're sure he'll have a response once he returns to game action.

[RELATED: Neymar starstruck by Steph]

Curry is a wizard when it comes to trick shots, but even this might be tough for him to replicate.

Good luck, Steph.