OAKLAND — The 2019 offseason will be one unlike any the Warriors have seen in the last half of a decade.
Tasked with retaining a pair of players who will likely be unavailable for most, if not all, of the regular season, Golden State also has to fill a roster under the weight of severe luxury taxes, which could potentially reach the $375 million dollar range.
One of the routes that could have saved them from increasing such an outrageous tab was the NBA Draft, which took place on Thursday night in New York. Despite that feeling of urgency, the Warriors opted to picked a trio of players who may time some time to develop before being ready to play at the NBA level.
“It’s hard to find young players, we’ve said that before,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said after the draft. “We like these three and if they can help us this year, great. If not, hopefully they can help us next year.”
Golden State entered the evening with three pick to their name after acquiring the No. 41 overall pick from the Atlanta Hawks earlier that morning. Already armed with the 28th and 58th picks, the draft presented an opportunity to add young talent while not having to pay much for it.
Myers and the rest of the Warriors brass are starting at a massive luxury tax bill in the event that they re-sign Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, who both will be rehabbing from injuries suffered in the NBA Finals for most of the upcoming season, and both of whom are reportedly going to be offered five-year max contracts.
Because the Warriors have stated that retaining both players is at the top of their priority list, adding other, cheap players to the roster in their absence becomes that much more important.
“A minimum contract is 2% of your salary,” Myers said. “The salary cap is $100 million — and I’m being loose here — and you sign a player for $2 million then that’s 2% of your payroll.”
Considering this, the Warriors set out to find a player that they could add in a plug-and-play fashion with their first pick of the night — or so many thought.
They could have taken Bol Bol, the 7-foot-2 center out of Oregon — who averaged 21 points and 9.6 rebounds per game — but he weighed in at just 208 pounds at the NBA Draft Combine, after losing 30 pounds while recovering from the injury that shortened his freshman season. Instead, Golden State opted to pick Jordan Poole out of Michigan, a player who once called the campus of Draymond Green’s alma mater of Michigan State, “trash.”
“Draymond said he likes him,” Myers said with a laugh. “He asked me for Poole’s number and I guess maybe he texted him.”
While Poole may have the early approval of Green, despite the rivalry, his overall game will require some improvement before becoming the kind of player Golden State will need this coming season.
Offensively, Poole as all of the tools — driving, dribbling and shooting — to succeed. He also has big shot-making abilities, which was put on display during the Wolverines’ second-round matchup against Houston in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
But as a 6-foot-5 guard, Poole is missing the defensive skill set that the Warriors — especially assistant coach Ron Adams — requires to see on-court time during the regular season and into the playoffs.
The same developmental type of problems surface with Golden State’s second pick of the evening, Alen Smailagic, who played for the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s G-League affiliate.
“It’s rare to get that much opportunity to watch a guy play like we did with Alen,” Myers said. “But whoever you draft — whoever we draft — they have to get better.”
While Smailagic may not have problems defending like Poole does, the 18-year old’s issues come with the lack of experience.
After winning a gold medal in the under-18 FIBA Euro World Cup, despite not playing in any games, Smailagic crossed the Atlantic to come to the United States where he was drafted fourth overall in the G-League draft by the South Bay Lakers, only to be acquired by Santa Cruz shortly thereafter.
In one season with the SC Warriors, Smailagic averaged 9.1 points and four rebounds per game, helping lead them to a conference finals bid in the G-League playoffs.
“[He] played in the G-League. That’s a little bit more of a man’s league more than college,” Myers said. “The G-League probably approximates the NBA more than college does so maybe it evens out.”
Even with the one year of playing time in the United States under his belt, that may not be enough for the Warriors to confidently trot Smailagic onto an NBA floor, at least in the early stages of next season.
The one player who may in fact have that needed experience and was ironically drafted after both Poole and Smailagic — Eric Paschall out of Villanova, who the Warriors took with the No. 41 overall pick.
Paschall is the only player of the three selected by Golden State who played more than two years in college. In fact, Paschall is a rarity in that he played all four years of his eligibility.
After playing his freshman season at Fordham, Paschall transferred to Villanova where he averaged 11.4 points per game in three years and won a national championship against Poole’s Wolverines in 2018.
As a 6-foot-9 wing who can shoot the 3-ball at a 34% clip and snag six rebounds a game, Paschall looks to be as ready as any of the Warriors other two draft picks to make an impact immediately as the Warriors will surely need in the next four months.
As for now, Myers and the Warriors seem pleased with their selections but it will take time to see how each will translate into contributions for their team and for them, that seems to be okay. Rather than helping keep the five-year dynasty afloat for a year, these three look to be the pieces that can help Golden State transition into a sustainable, consistent winner in the long-term.
“For the most part, Alen is the only one we’ve seen in any semblance of an NBA game,” Myers said. “The NBA game is much different than college. I can’t tell you which one of the three will command the most minutes … But it doesn’t have to be right away, it just has to be at some point.”