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Caught between eras, Warriors should prioritize present

Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and James Wiseman with Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - January 25: James Wiseman #33, Draymond Green #23 and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors look on during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 25, 2021 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Warriors outscored opponents by 9.9 points per 100 possessions when playing with neither James Wiseman nor Kelly Oubre last season.

For perspective, the Jazz led the NBA with a +9.0 net rating. The eventual-champion Bucks had a +5.8 net rating.

There’s a potential sleeping giant in Golden State.

With all the right breaks, the Warriors could win another championship while Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson remain in their primes. But it’s not 2015 anymore. They need more help.

Just the second team with a winning record and two lottery picks, Golden State had a rare opportunity this summer. But the Warriors used those picks to keep their window open longer rather than crack it open wider now.

Golden State went 39-33 last season, lost in the play-in tournament and got the No. 14 pick. The Warriors also had the No. 7 pick from the Timberwolves from the D’Angelo Russell trade.

For what it’s worth, the Warriors used the picks well in a vacuum. No. 7 pick Jonathan Kuminga was in my 5-6 tier, and No. 14 pick Moses Moody was in my 7-10 tier.

But few rookies are ready to contribute positively to a winner. See Wiseman, last year’s No. 2 pick.

It’s so hard to build even a possible championship contender. Already at that point, Golden State would have ideally done more to maximize its title odds.

Curry is still a superstar. Green remains one of the NBA’s best defenders and a savant passer for his position. Thompson is closer to returning.

Of course, all three are past their peaks.

Curry remains closest. He might – mighteven live up to the four-year, $215 million contract extension the Warriors just gave him. Of course, that’s beside the point. Curry was entitled to this extension for his incredible contributions to the organization.

Green’s shooting regression is a real problem. Thompson might be a shell of himself after back-to-back major injuries.

But this trio led Golden State to a dominant title run in 2015. Excise the ill-fitting players from the rotation and catch all the right breaks, and the Warriors could win another championship in 2022.

Golden State’s minimum-salary signings could help.

Otto Porter fits extremely well as a low-usage 3-and-D forward. Though expectations got too high after he signed a max contract, Porter should contribute… if he stays healthy. Injuries have been a major problem for the 28-year-old.

Andre Iguodala is the anthesis of Oubre (who left for the Hornets). It’s worth wondering how much the 37-year-old Iguodala has left in the tank. But in his second stint with the Warriors, he has an expert understanding of their offense and defense.

Nemanja Bjelica brings a helpful element as a stretch big.

But so much of Golden State’s plan comes down to Wiseman, Kuminga and Moody.

The other team with a winning record and two lottery picks: The 2018 Clippers, who missed the playoffs with a 42-40 record and had an extra lottery pick from the Blake Griffin trade with the Pistons. L.A. exited the draft with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson. A year later, the Clippers dealt Gilgeous-Alexander (and a boatload of picks) to the Thunder to land Paul George and secure Kawhi Leonard in free agency. Though they’ve yet to capitalize on their championship upside, the Clippers surely don’t regret their chosen direction.

Draft picks – like new cars driven off the lot – generally lose substantial value once used. But the effect should be minimized with Kuminga, who’s especially young and raw. If he’s unready to help the Warriors, other teams shouldn’t overreact.

Even Wiseman’s upside is still widely appreciated after his brief college career. He could fit better with Golden State’s stars next season as his defensive awareness improves.

Moody was also younger than most other lottery picks. His 3-and-D style could even allow him to contribute early in a limited role.

So, this could still work out for the Warriors. They could make a win-now trade before it’s too late. Or they might even get the best of both worlds with their young players helping now and later.

But Golden State also just got a lesson in how quickly young players can go from prized to stale.

Eric Paschall received MVP chants. He made the 2020 All-Rookie first team.

The Warriors just traded him to the Jazz for a top-42-protected 2026 Grizzlies second-rounder

It’s difficult to evaluate the moves Golden State didn’t make. Maybe no reasonable trade for a veteran was available. Perhaps, the Warriors have good reason to believe they’ll have more ability to upgrade for the short-term before the trade deadline.

Though it’s disappointing this team didn’t find a way to further boost its 2022 championship odds, Golden State drafted well and found good value with its minimum-contract offers. Those are moderate positives for now.

Offseason grade: B-