Warriors

Dubs Better Off Holding Minnesota’s Pick?

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Usually, NBA trade-deadline talk among fans and media concerns what contending teams might do to strengthen their chances of winning a title. Last season, however, it was the two-worst Western Conference teams that combined to strike a sizable trade before the market slammed shut.

Minnesota finally got their man in D’Angelo Russell, sending Andrew Wiggins and his hefty contract to the Golden State Warriors along with a protected first-round and second-round pick. A year later, the consequences of that deal are starting to play out in front of us.

For the Timberwolves, things have not gone to plan. The hope of pairing Russell with his friend Karl-Anthony Towns to propel the franchise back into playoff contention has not materialized. Instead, the team has the worst record in the NBA and has lost their last nine games.

Not all of this is the team’s fault. Russell and Towns have rarely been on the court at the same time since the two linked up, playing in just five games together due to injuries. The duo Minnesota had placed so much of their future hopes on simply have not had any time to develop their partnership.

The Warriors are the clear winners of the deal so far. Wiggins has slotted into Steve Kerr‘s system nicely, contributing a solid 17.0 points per game and playing the best defense of his career. The big prize of the deal, however, was that protected first-round pick.

WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?

This is where things get interesting. Should the pick fall into the top three, it would be returned to its original owner and the Warriors would instead get an unprotected first-round selection in 2022. If the Timberwolves land outside the top three, however, Golden State would keep the pick in this year’s draft.

The possibilities and potential options are vast. The Warriors could trade the pick and try to get Stephen Curry more help, or they could keep it and hope it falls in a good spot whether that be this year or next. While the former might be a more tempting option in the short-term, a more long-term view should be taken by the front office.

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It looks very likely that Minnesota will finish with one of the three worst records this season. Russell remains sidelined after undergoing knee surgery, and Malik Beasley recently received a 12-game suspension for pleading guilty to a charge of threatening violence during the offseason. For new head coach Chris Finch, finishing anywhere near the playoffs is an incredibly tall order.

Even if the Timberwolves do finish as one of the three-worst teams, there is still a fair chance they will end up outside of the top three on draft night. Tankathon currently predicts Minnesota has a 12% chance of getting the fourth pick and a 47.9% chance of selecting fifth, while the Ringer has calculated a 53% chance of Golden State getting a top-five pick out of the deal, this year or next.

How much the Warriors benefit from the pick is down to both luck and the improvement (or lack of) Minnesota makes. But given how many exciting prospects there are entering the draft this year and next, Golden State could set up its long-term future by holding onto the pick.

The 2021 draft is mouth-watering. Prospects like Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga and Jalen Suggs have fans across the NBA excited as they envisage these potential future stars sporting their team’s cap on draft night. All of these guys have high ceilings and look ready to step in and have an impact right away.

Cunningham and Mobley will likely go top three, but that still leaves one of Green, Kuminga and Suggs that the Warriors could potentially take with the fourth or fifth pick should it fall to them. Green, a complete scorer with incredible speed and athleticism, would be the best of the bunch, but Kuminga and Suggs would be excellent additions to a team that still feels like it can compete for a title.

WHAT IF IT MOVES TO 2022?

Should Minnesota end up with another top-three pick, however, it is not a disaster for the Warriors. It is fair to assume the Wolves would improve next season with another top pick to go with Anthony Edwards and a (hopefully) healthy Russell and Towns. But there are no guarantees.

The Timberwolves have shown few signs of encouragement this year and are clearly still some way off challenging for a postseason spot. It takes a long time to improve in the NBA and there’s a good chance Golden State could still end up with at least a top-ten pick next year.

The real prize would be to draft Green, Kuminga or Suggs this year, along with Klay Thompson‘s return, but with the 2022 draft class also looking strong at this early stage, there is a very real possibility Steve Kerr will have another prospect for the future to work with going forward.

Of course, keeping the pick comes with risk and might backfire. Minnesota could land a top-three pick this year which could fire them up the standings next season and leave Golden State with a far-from-desirable selection.

But trading the pick also comes with the danger of missing out on a player that could help the franchise be successful for many years to come. James Wiseman‘s removal from the starting five this year has demonstrated the challenge of developing a potential star while still trying to win. Wiseman has shown plenty of signs that he can indeed reach his lofty potential, though.

FOCUS ON THE FUTURE

The thought of pairing another young talent with Wiseman on the roster is an incredibly exciting one. With Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green in their 30s, this legendary Warriors team is in its final years and it would be understandable for the front office to want to give up some of the team’s future to try and have more short-term success while those guys are still around.

That temptation would only increase if Bradley Beal suddenly becomes available. He is probably the only player that could take the team to the next level that is likely to enter the market, so the decision as to whether to enter discussions is a difficult one.

Ultimately, though, Golden State should not waste the incredible opportunity it has been given. The team already has a big part of its future in Wiseman and has a high chance of getting a secondary young talent to pair with him either this or next year.

Combining experienced, championship winning veterans with potential future stars can help the franchise be successful for years to come, even after Curry, Thompson and Green are past the peak of their powers. Clinging onto the past is never the way to go and pairing experience with youth could even be a recipe for success in the short-term.

Follow us on Twitter @DubsLead for the latest Warriors news and insight. 

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