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Warriors should downplay age concerns in 2021 NBA Draft

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In the weeks leading up to the NBA draft on Thursday, the Warriors did extensive evaluation of Oregon guard Chris Duarte and concluded they like him a lot – even if at age 24, he is almost four years older than projected starting center James Wiseman.

The Warriors also like Texas forward-center Kai Jones, a very intriguing project that turned 20 earlier this year.

So, assuming the Warriors are unable to trade one or both first-round picks – No. 7 and No. 14 – should they lean toward players with deep resumés or those with thin histories that are projected to have long and bright futures?

Should age even be a factor?

“It's a factor,” general manager Bob Myers said Monday. “We could draft a 22-year-old, we could draft a 23-year-old, and I could preface what I say with that and not have a problem doing it.”

As Myers’ statement implies, some among the Golden State brain trust are firm believers in “if he can play, age shouldn’t matter.” Which is as it should be.

Yet “advanced” age, as in 22 or older, is considered a liability in today’s NBA. Of the 20 players named to the last four All-Rookie first teams, 12 were under 21. Three were 23 or older.

Shooting guard Moses Moody, a projected lottery pick, turned 19 in May. Josh Giddey, the Australian small forward projected to be taken in the lottery, won’t be 19 until October. Shooting guard Jalen Green, who turned 19 in February, is a consensus top-three selection in the draft.

They’ll all be gone before Duarte, before 22-year-old Corey Kispert and probably even before Davion Mitchell, whose stock takes a hit because he’ll turn 23 this summer. All three are considered capable of contributing immediately.

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The Warriors will be guided by their analysis, past and present. And the past explains why youth is considered an asset.

This season's rookie of the year LaMelo Ball was 19, as was second-place finisher Anthony Edwards.  The average age of the three previous winners – Ja Morant, Luka Dončić, Ben Simmons – was 20. The only “old” rookie to win the award since 2014 is Malcolm Brogdon, who was 24.

“It's not so much age being a negative as if – you look at 2015 on, and the players that were taken in the lottery that were older struggled a little bit, right?” Myers said. “That's where the evidence is. That doesn't mean that these players in this draft will.

“It's not so much old is bad. But the evidence would support maybe going younger sometimes.”

For every Eric Paschall and Jordan Clarkson, both of whom were named All-Rookie first team after their 22nd birthdays, there is a Jayson Tatum or a Devin Booker, both of whom earned the honor as 19-year-olds.

The Warriors are in the challenging position of trying to add immediate contributors to an experienced championship core – Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson – while also trying to ensure they aren’t forced into a full rebuild three or four years from now.

Which is why the wisest move they can make, at No. 7 or No. 14, or both, is to draft the best overall talent, regardless of age.

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