For the first time since selecting Harrison Barnes in 2012, the Golden State Warriors own one of the first 29 picks in the NBA Draft.
One might imagine that the Warriors’ pick — No. 28 overall — is more or less irrelevant. They’ve won three titles in four years with arguably the greatest collection of talent at the top of the roster in the history of basketball.
That’s not the case, but there’s no need to waste words convincing you otherwise, because the Warriors have said it aloud. After a strange roller-coaster of a championship season, the franchise has a stated desire to draft a player that can contribute right away, ideally a wing who can provide enough defense to play in the postseason.
Let’s take a look at some of the most intriguing options:
You may recognize the redheaded scoring machine from the NCAA championship game. DiVincenzo’s tourney heroics could send him up the board and out of the Warriors’ reach, but some mock drafts have him falling to the end of the first round.
He’s a streaky shooter, but good enough to hit better than 40 percent of his 3-pointers last year at Villanova. He displayed phenomenal athleticism at the combine, finishing tops in both standing and maximum vertical leap, with top-10 times in the lane agility drill and three-quarter sprint.
The so-called “Big Ragu” may not be the best defender — at 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-6 wingspan, he probably never will be — but he’s tenacious and spent last season as a leader for the national champions. His shooting ability, motor and pedigree make him a natural fit in Oakland.
The Warriors had the slender 6-foot-6 wing from Tulane in for a workout, and he charmed the crowd by expressing a passion for defense, citing Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green as potential role models. Offensively he’s raw, but improving — to the point where he shot 38.5 percent from three this season, with an effective field goal percentage of 61.
Frazier’s defense is pro-ready. His insane length (7-foot-1 1/2 wingspan) and rabid intensity make him capable of defending three or four positions, and his highlight reel shows a smart, aggressive player whose long arms spend a lot of time in passing lanes.
He will need to become a better shooter and ball-handler to reach his potential, but Frazier fits the Warriors’ want ad in terms of being ready to contribute to a good NBA team today and playing with notable hunger and intensity.
Alkins was banged up during his sophomore season, but his athleticism stands out and his toughness is unquestioned. He doesn’t have the scoring ability of DiVincenzo or the defensive talents of Frazier, but he’s extremely well-rounded.
A 6-foot-9 wingspan makes him a viable defender against bigger NBA wings despite being just 6-foot-4. His strength, athleticism and tenacity should take care of the rest. He won’t be able to physically impose his will the same way offensively, so his shooting and ball handling must improve, but his stroke is decent and he’ll still bully smaller guards around the rim.
It’s also worth noting that Alkins led his high school team to three city titles and two New York State championships before arriving at Arizona. Who knows where he’d be if he had played a fully healthy college career. He could end up being a steal.
Evans may be the most pro-ready player available, with a high IQ, a solid jumper and good finishing ability in the lane. He is another aggressive defender, who competes as a rebounder and shows a high level of understanding and communication.
The downside is in development potential — an average athlete by NBA standards, Evans isn’t expected to ever be a true scorer at the next level. That lack of standout physical traits has also led to some questions about how well his defense will translate.
He may have the lowest ceiling of these prospects, but that may not be the end of the world for a team as top-heavy as the Warriors. Draymond and Klay were both knocked as “average athletes” coming out of college, and that has sure worked out.
Gary Trent, Jr.
The Warriors have had some decent success with guards sired by former NBA players, and while Gary, Sr., was no Dell Curry or Mychal Thompson (he may not even have been Pam McGee), Gary, Jr., just might shoot like Steph or Klay. He participated in a pre-draft workout with the Warriors on Wednesday.
He’s just 19 years old, but drained 40.2 percent of his 3-pointers (averaging 6.5 per night) and shot 88 percent from the free throw line in his year at Duke; the question is whether he does anything else. He has the size to be a versatile defender, but may not have the athleticism and has not shown the necessary interest.
If the Warriors are determined to have an NBA three-point shooter for the 2018-19 season, Trent could be it — but other qualities likely limit his ultimate value.
The Trade Scenario: Troy Brown, Jr.
The Warriors don’t have much in the way of assets to move up in the draft, and they may struggle to find partners willing to be taken advantage of by Bob Myers. If they can find a way to jump eight or ten spots, though, they may be able to grab a prospect that fits their needs perfectly.
Brown is a long (6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan), versatile and smart wing. He has the ball-handling ability and basketball IQ to initiate offense and the strength and size to score. His jump shot is ugly and he can’t shoot the three yet, but he’s also not even 19. He should be able to defend and dribble enough to contribute now, but has the raw talent to develop into so much more.
It will be tough for the Warriors to get to him — some mocks have him as high as the late teens — but if they could pull it off, they wouldn’t regret it.
Buying a Pick: Both Myers and assistant general manager Larry Harris said that, as they had in the past, the Warriors are in the market for buying a second-round pick. In the past, those picks have turned into Jordan Bell and Patrick McCaw, both at No. 38. Given Golden State’s limited ability to add youth through free agency, that could be a path they take.
“If we don’t get the position we want, we’ll try to shore that up in free agency, [and] we’ve been able to buy second-round picks,” Myers said. “Joe [Lacob] has allowed us that opportunity, so we’ve been pretty aggressive in that vein of trying to grab extra picks. That’s something we would certainly look at, and he’s said. It’s a good chance for us to stay as young as we can. … Getting young players, good quality players in free agency is pretty hard to do.”
Best of the Rest
Bruce Brown: Injury ruined his sophomore season, and his shot needs improvement, but his freshman year at Miami was impressive and his plus athleticism and energy projects him as a high level defender.
De’Anthony Melton: He didn’t play last year because of the FBI probe’s reach into USC, but he’s a big point guard who loves to pass and plays tremendous defense — an improved jumper could make him a valuable NBA player.
Grayson Allen: Distasteful as I may find Duke’s serial tripper, he fits — an athletic shooter who plays with Draymond-level intensity, with four years at the knee of the equally obnoxious (but obviously tremendous) Coach K.
Landry Shamet: Probably not a good enough athlete to defend for the W’s, but arguably the best shooter available with point guard skills, shooting guard size and a high motor.
Matt Kolsky is a sports media professional (or something like that) and lives with an aging Shih Tzu/Schnauser mix in Berkeley. You can hear him on the Bay Area sports radio station 95.7 the Game, usually on weekends. You can listen to his podcast, The Toy Department, on iTunes or wherever else fine podcasts are free. You can find him on Twitter @thekolsky to share your personal feelings about this article or any other topic, he will respond to most tweets that do not contain racial slurs.
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