As the Golden State Warriors dynasty came to fruition over the past five years, a particularly fortuitous — or, for every other team, a particularly frustrating — trend became apparent: Even when the Warriors lose, they win. It started with Stephen Curry’s right ankle that seemed to roll over every time he moved. At the time, it looked like terrible luck, a despondent franchise watching the career of its next great hope potentially end before it had a chance to really begin.
Instead, it wound up affording the Warriors the opportunity to sign Curry for the bargain-bin price of $44 million over four years, which never would’ve been possible without the injury-prone label hanging over him. With an MVP-caliber superstar on a role-player contract, the Warriors were able to afford a guy by the name of Kevin Durant — who, incidentally, said he never would’ve chosen the Warriors as a free agent had they defeated the Cavs in the 2016 Finals.
Again, even when the Warriors lost, they won.
It happened again on Thursday night when Golden State won the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft lottery by virtue of losing more games than any team in the league this past season. Durant defected for Brooklyn. Curry broke his hand. Klay Thompson blew his ACL. These are terrible things, and yet all it really meant was the Warriors got to get a bunch of rest in the middle of a pandemic and come out the other side with just the fifth top-two pick in franchise history as compensation for their “suffering.”
Now, what they do with that pick becomes the dilemma, and again it’s an enviable “problem” to have: Keep it or trade it? Multiple league sources who spoke with CBS Sports believe the Warriors will turn over every stone in trying to cook up a trade for a player ready to help them compete for titles in the near term, as they rightfully believe they still have a championship core in place with Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green ready to come back healthy and motivated.
That doesn’t mean such a player will be available, or that this year’s pick in what is considered a weak draft will carry the league-wide value that a typical No. 2 overall pick would. Even if the Warriors do identify an available player who fits their wish list, and even if the team that currently owns the rights to that player wants to deal for a top-two pick, the only player the Warriors have, outside of their big three, who makes enough money to make the finances of such a deal work is Andrew Wiggins, and he isn’t exactly a premium asset. Most teams, in fact, view him as a negative one.
There are fine-print ways for the Warriors to get creative with their $17 million trade exception. Perhaps a third or even fourth team could become involved to better satisfy all parties. But a lot has to come together for the Warriors to deal this pick. And that’s not even accounting for the possibility that trading the pick might be a mistake.
Yes, this is considered a weak draft class from a depth standpoint, and no, there isn’t a can’t-miss prospect like a LeBron James or Anthony Davis at the top. Most people believe the top three guys are, in no particular order, Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball, and one league scout who spoke with CBS Sports said he believes each of those guys could fail in the NBA as easily as they could succeed. But the Warriors don’t plan on drafting this high again for a long time, and if they want to extend their run beyond the Curry-Thompson-Green era, this might be their best chance to secure their next foundational player.
Think about the Spurs. They won a title in 1999 with Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Then they drafted Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and won three more. Then as Duncan aged, they drafted Kawhi Leonard and won another one. The Spurs recently missed the playoffs for the first time in 22 seasons, a span during which they won five championships, and that kind of run only happens if you continue to refill the talent tank.
It’s not an easy choice. There are a lot of factors in play, many completely out of the Warriors’ control. But you can bet they’re out there kicking tires. They said they didn’t intend to trade D’Angelo Russell, then they traded him. Now they’ve been saying they did not bring in Wiggins with the intention of shipping him right back out, but that’s exactly what they’ll do if the right opportunity presents itself. For GM Bob Myers, it really comes down to one question.
Do we prioritize the back end of one dynasty or the potential start of the next one?