SAN FRANCISCO – With three picks in the NBA draft Thursday night, the Warriors selected three players, none older than 20, with profiles ranging from low to barely visible, which is perfectly in line with their desired goal.
Though they would love to see those picks -- forward Patrick Baldwin Jr. in the first round, guard Ryan Rollins and forward Gui Santos in the second round -- develop into impact players in a few years, the Warriors remain focused on the immediate.
Which is as it should be. There is no earthly way this proud franchise would consider defending its championship with a roster that includes five players not yet 21.
With free agency one week away, the “now” remains top of mind. The first and final priority for the Warriors, from CEO Joe Lacob to general manager Bob Myers to coach Steve Kerr, is to arrange the most complete reunion financially rational.
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole are under contract. So are the three youngsters, James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. All eight, ideally, will be in Golden State’s 2022-23 rotation.
“We think that Moody and Kuminga hopefully can be rotation guys for us,” Myers said shortly after the conclusion of the draft. “Even though they are young, they’ve proven they can play in this league. We hope Wiseman can be another one of those guys.
“We’ve got eight playable players. We’re hoping to add two or three, at least, in free agency. And now you’re talking about what we think can be a rotation of 11.”
The two or three targeted in free agency are obvious: Kevon Looney, Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. All are UFAs. GP2 and OPJ are coming off minimum deals and are in line to receive exponential raises. Looney is coming off a three-year contract worth $14.5 million and could be seeking to nearly double that.
If the Warriors are able to retain two of the three, it’s a huge win. If they somehow bring all three back without breaking the bank, it’s borderline miraculous. The order priority, based on insinuations, is Looney, GP2 and OPJ. That’s probably influenced by the belief that Porter is most likely to command a deal out of their range.
“We certainly want all those guys,” Myers said. “We’ve made that clear to them. We’ve made that clear to the world. They know how much they mean to us. I think they enjoyed it here; they all were successful in different ways. So, we’re going to try our best to bring (Looney) back. Bring all those guys back.
“Thankfully, this ownership group supports that.”
The Warriors front office and Kerr took their seats before the draft board thinking as much about what they hope to accomplish in free agency next week as what they might be able to do in the draft Thursday.
There was never a thought that any of their three draft picks would be expected to contribute as rookies.
“Last year, when we drafted the young guys, we thought we could fill out the roster with some veterans-minimum type players,” Myers said. “And we were able to do that. This year, we’re hoping to bring back some of our own veteran players, in addition to some other players that are going to be more experienced.”
The rookies likely will spend most of their time with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors; Santos might continue to play in Brazil. With Kerr trying to find minutes for second-year lottery picks Kuminga and Moody, as well as semi-rookie Wiseman, there simply is no room next season for teenagers.
The Warriors built themselves into a powerhouse mostly by way of the draft. Maybe the rookies can contribute significantly in a few years. Not now, though, for it’s pedal-to-the-medal in the hope of having a team capable of repeating.