Warriors

Steve Kerr changes stance, welcomes high school NBA draft prospects

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AP

Steve Kerr changes stance, welcomes high school NBA draft prospects

SAN FRANCISCO -- After looking at the draft as a desirable formality over the last five years, the Warriors this season have an entirely different point of view.

It matters. It really, really matters -- and not simply because they’re bound for the 2020 lottery.

Though coach Steve Kerr is prohibited from discussing specific players that might be eligible, he made it clear Thursday that he approves of prospects being eligible right out of high school.

“Yeah, I’d be in favor,” he said Thursday. “I’ve changed my mind on that. A few years ago, about seven or eight years ago, I actually wrote a column suggesting that they make the rule two years, staying in college because I felt like players needed more seasoning.

“But the G League can provide that now.”

The NBA’s stance on this subject, like that of Kerr, has evolved in recent years. With the current fortified structure of the G League -- nearly every team has an affiliate, much like Major League Baseball -- it’s all but assured that the February proposal urging the league to lower the draft age from 19 to 18 is coming. It could be in place as soon as 2022.

"There are a bunch of issues that need to be worked through between us and the players association, so it's something we're in active discussions about," commissioner Adam Silver said in May. "It's a few years away, I think."

Many of those players projected as a lottery pick next June are not enrolled in a college. Potential overall No. 1 pick James Wiseman, who briefly attended and played at Memphis, dropped out this week. The center plans to sign with an agent and prepare for the June draft.

LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton also projected lottery picks, opted to bypass college and play pro ball in Australia. It’s not completely new, as Brandon Jennings took this approach more than a decade ago.

[RELATED: Wiseman, potential Warriors draft target, leaves Memphis]

Executives and players who considered the D League, the G League’s precursor, unworthy now tend to see it as a place where talent can be cultivated and prepared for the NBA:

“What the (NBA) has done, what each franchise has done, building their respective G League affiliates, is really impressive,” Kerr said. “The whole league understands our responsibility in trying to help these young players develop, on and off the floor. We’re getting better with it.

“So, I would like to see players have the option if they wanted to come straight out of high school because we can at least offer them a better path of development.”

NBA mock draft: Warriors linked to Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman

NBA mock draft: Warriors linked to Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman

After five straight trips to the NBA Finals, and three titles, the Warriors are headed for the lottery in the 2020 NBA Draft, and likely a top-five pick. 

Golden State currently has the worst record in the NBA at 12-43, and things aren't about to get easier. The Warriors have the third-hardest schedule in the league coming out of the All-Star break. While this likely won't help their win total, it could increase their chances of choosing at the top of this June's draft. 

The Warriors currently are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks for the worst record in the NBA. So, if they do keep their pick and land at the top of the draft, who might the Dubs have their eyes on?

Here's a roundup of prospects projected to be taken by the Warriors, with two players standing out. 

James Wiseman, C, Memphis

ESPN's Jonathan Givony has the Warriors selecting Wiseman with the No. 2 pick in the draft. Wiseman, 18, left Memphis in December after three games as a freshman. 

The talented center had missed seven games of a 12-game suspension stemming from an NCAA investigation when he announced his plan to leave the program. He later signed with Excel Sports, ending his college eligibility. 

Wiseman, 7-foot-1 and 240 pounds, averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in his short college career. He certainly fits a positional need for the Warriors as an athletic center who can run the floor when full engaged. 

Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia

Edwards is the consensus top pick right now in what is considered a weak, top-heavy draft. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman, NBADraftNet and Sports Illustrated's Jeremy Woo already sent Edwards to the Warriors in their latest mock draft. 

Here's what Wasserman and Woo had to say about the top prospect. 

Wasserman: "Team fit could ultimately play a key role in Edwards' development, and he'd benefit greatly from going to Golden State, where his shot selection would naturally tighten and the positive culture would be good for his growth." 

Woo: "You draft him hoping he’s moldable, and Edwards brings so much to the table in terms of strength and coordination that it could be worth it."

[RELATED: Why Steph playing again this season still is so valuable]

Edwards, 18, is averaging 19.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game for a 12-13 Georgia team. At 6-5 and 225 pounds, he has a muscle-bound NBA body but is shooting just 40.6 percent from the field and 30.5 percent from deep. 

If the Warriors do have the top pick in the draft, they will have an interesting decision to make, to say the least.

Why Steph Curry returning to Warriors this season still is so valuable

Why Steph Curry returning to Warriors this season still is so valuable

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sometime early next month, after clearing the few remaining obstacles, Steph Curry is expected to return to his customary place in the Warriors’ starting lineup.

This is the plan. It’s what Curry wants and what the Warriors have stated -- despite groans of dissent from the more apprehensive cells of Dub Nation.

Moreover, this is as it should be.

There will be 15-to-20 games remaining after Curry is cleared to return. There is no point in spending March and April trying to sprint back into the playoff race, which is half the rationale uttered by those who don’t want Curry on the court until next October.

While there are no immediate stakes, there are significant long-term ramifications.

The final few weeks of the season become intriguing if Curry is active, and they are particularly meaningful if he is starting alongside two relative strangers. He has never played with Andrew Wiggins, the Warriors' new starting small forward, and only has played 31 minutes, scattered over three games, with Marquese Chriss, the starting center.

“It’s important for Steph and Andrew to get to know each other and to play together,” coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday night after practice at Chase Center. “It’s important for Steph to play without all of the guys we’ve lost who are not going to be back next year: Kevin (Durant) and Andre (Iguodala) and Shaun (Livingston). Steph in many ways has depended on those guys as sort of a giant security blanket.

“For a guy who is so skilled and talented, this has still been a team effort over the years. And he’s been blessed with some of the smartest players and most talented players in the league.”

Curry, though, was and still is the hub of this offense. As KD often said, “Steph is the system.” Which is why his late-season availability is more crucial than that of Klay Thompson, who plays off Curry in a 3-and-D role that he has mastered. Klay’s game need not change. Steph’s game, as the point guard, requires a grasp of the strengths and weakness of all of his teammates.

To sit a healthy Curry over the final weeks would only make him antsy. Worse, it would be detrimental to the first few weeks next season, when losses once again will matter. Why risk a 7-7 start while “figuring it out,” when roster chemistry and court geometry can be addressed in the low-risk conditions of March and April?

Put another way, doesn’t a head start make sense?

“I do know that this last part of the season is an important stretch for us to springboard into next year,” Kerr said. “With the trade for Andrew and all the young guys we’re trying to develop and Steph’s return, these are important games. They allow us to get to know each other and play together and maybe fiddle with some lineups, fiddle with some schemes and get a look at them over the summer before we get back to camp.”

If every current Warrior were healthy and the team was chasing a playoff seed, the starting lineup would feature Curry and Thompson at guard, Draymond Green and Wiggins at forward and Chriss at center.

The remainder of the rotation would be culled from guards Ky Bowman, Damion Lee and Jordan Poole; forward Eric Paschall; and, assuming he’s able to play 15ish minutes per game, center Kevon Looney.

This foundation is not dramatically different from what the Warriors will have when they open training camp in about seven months. They’ll have added a lottery pick and a free agent, maybe a tweak here or there, but Curry, Thompson, Wiggins and Green comprise the new core four.

The next Curry update is nine days away. Assuming there no setbacks, he’ll be scrimmaging around that time and able to play in early March.

Let him.

The current Warriors are best served by playing together as soon as possible. It’s good for the players and the coaching staff. But only if Curry is part of the action will the evaluation be as thorough as it should be.

[RELATED: Light years 2.0: Lacob says Dubs 're-imagining the dynasty']

Cue the cringing amongst those worried about the Warriors jeopardizing their lottery positioning and visualizing the nightmare scenario where Steph is injured in a game with the Warriors entered with a 15-53 record.

Even then, such games won’t be “meaningless.” To the contrary, it’s absolutely significant insofar as it provides information that can be useful ahead of the draft and free agency.