Warriors

Uncertainty around top of draft shows Warriors' tough task

Warriors

Having a chance to earn the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft normally would fill a franchise with jubilation, giving them hope that if the ping pong balls go their way then the NBA's newest star will suit up for them and lead them out of lottery hell.

But the Warriors are not your typical lottery team. Nor is the 2020 NBA Draft your typical class.

Injuries and roster reshaping forced the Warriors to take a pause year on their dynasty that ruled over the NBA for the last half-decade. They reworked the roster, gave Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green time to rest and landed at 15-50, giving them the best odds to land the No. 1 overall pick along with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers.

In most years that might be seen as a stroke of luck. There would be at least one player at the draft who would have separated themselves at the top player in the class. Even in lesser classes, there have been a handful of prospects seen as "top-tier players," making the decision easier for those that have to turn in the card.

But that is not the case in the 2020 draft. There is no superstar at the top, and there isn't even consensus around who the top handful of players in the class are.

Yes, Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman normally are placed at the top of all mock drafts and big boards. But none of them are locks at the top, as scouts and front office executives appear to have issues with all of their games.

 

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman reported Thursday that scouts both love and hate Edwards, with one saying the Georgia guard has the "lowest basketball IQ for any potential No. 1 overall pick I can remember." One executive told Wasserman that Edwards is a "top-three mystery."

Ball is a talented shot-creator but his broken shot and poor defense have teams throwing up the stop sign. Wiseman, who was projected to be the No. 1 pick when the college basketball season began, but with only three games of tape to watch, some scouts have him now going in the low lottery.

There a ton of intriguing late-lottery picks who could jump into the top 10 or even top five.

Wasserman reported Thursday that many see Florida State's Patrick Williams as a fast riser who could even end up being the best player in the draft when all is said and done. Williams, 19, is the youngest player in the draft and showed flashes of his tremendous upside at Florida state. In a class with so many question marks and not many sure things, the 6-foot08, 225-pound forward will entice some teams who are willing to draft him early and be patient with his development.

There has been a lot of talk about Iowa State guard Tyreese Haliburton and Villanova's Saddiq Bey gaining steam, as both have games that should translate immediately to the NBA. Isaac Okoro and Onyeka Okongwu have been placed in the tier below the "top three," but Wasserman has had scouts compare Okoro to Michael-Kidd Gilchrist and while Okongwu has raw talent, he will be a project.

Israel forward Deni Avdija's versatility and offensive game have scouts telling Wasserman that he is solidifying his top-five status. While his ceiling is unclear, he might be one of the safest picks in the draft.

I lay all this out to show why Steve Kerr and Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers are feeling the pressure with the lottery taking place Thursday. The Warriors were given both a gift and a curse.

They are guaranteed a top-five pick in a draft that is loaded with uncertainty. There is no Zion Williamson or Anthony Davis. No clear Jayson Tatum or Luka Doncic. There seems to be a lot of potential Anthony Bennetts with the chance to land a Giannis Antetokounmpo-type steal if you get lucky. It's the 2013 draft on steroids.

The Warriors are ready to win now. They need to either be sure their draft pick can both help maximize the final remaining years of Curry, Thompson and Green's prime and take the franchise torch from Curry when it's time. The uncertainty and lack of superstar power at the top of the draft are what makes trading down such an enticing possibility for the Warriors.

 

With players like Bey, Halliburton, Williams and Killian Hayes expected to go later in the lottery, the Warriors might be able to extract a heavy price from a team who is infatuated with Edwards, Ball or Wiseman and wishes to move up.

What the Warriors can't do with this gift is whiff. Myers' draft track record hasn't been stellar, but he's been picking at the back end of the draft where it's admittedly tougher to find players who can contribute right away to title contenders.

RELATED: History of No. 1 pick shows Warriors must be careful

Now Myers must make amends for those misses and find exactly what the Warriors need in a draft littered with question marks.

The Warriors will truly know where they stand Thursday night when the ping pong balls are drawn. Then, the tough work truly begins.