Warriors mailbag: 2021 NBA Draft and free agency – Golden State of Mind

The 2021 NBA Draft and the start of free agency are both right around the corner. Which means that, even though the champagne is still drying in Milwaukee, it’s time to start heavily considering the next season of Golden State Warriors basketball.

Seems like a good time for a mailbag. Thanks to everyone for the questions.

Likely a free agent. Kent Bazemore took over starting 2-guard duties when Kelly Oubre Jr. was hurt this year, and kept them even when Oubre returned. If the Dubs re-sign Bazemore, I’d pencil him in as the opening day starter. And if they don’t re-sign Bazemore … well, they’ll have to sign someone to replace Bazemore, and that player likely gets the nod.

I have a hard time calling any offense truly innovative, because I think offensive systems inherently lag behind offensive players. Look, for instance, at the three-ball revolution: coaches didn’t wake up one day and realize that three is worth more than two, and then tell their players to start shooting more of them. Players who were great shooters — like Steph Curry — started showing off their unique skillsets, and then the offensive systems adjusted to maximize those skills.

As far as relatively recent offenses go, Mike D’Antoni and Don Nelson deserve mild praise for being willing to give their players the freedom to do what they do best.

I haven’t heard so much as a rumor since John Hollinger mentioned that Pascal Siakam was a name to look out for as the Warriors shopped their two lottery picks. Truthfully, a trade never felt likely. Toronto is retooling more than rebuilding, which means they’ll need a serious haul to get rid of their 27-year old All-Star.

A Warriors package likely would have been centered around Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, and picks No. 7 and 14. I don’t think either team would have been enthused with that.

I am firmly in favor of the Warriors finding a way to turn some of their draft picks into more NBA-ready players who can help the team compete for a title in the next two seasons. Trading down is a great way to do that, and it’s a good way to take advantage of an antiquated front office that might be willing to give up way too much to get the player they’re looking for. Remember, for instance when the Boston Celtics offered six draft picks — including four first-rounders — to move up from No. 16 to No. 9 because they were so high on Justise Winslow? If a team is so high on an available player that they’re willing to give the Warriors an obscene offer, well … that’s just smart business (smart business that, it’s worth noting, the Charlotte Hornets didn’t do, as they rebuffed the Celtics offer and instead drafted Frank Kaminsky).

Here’s the problem for the Warriors: if they want to acquire a veteran this way, it will require taking on salary. And in order to take on salary, the Warriors have to give up matching salary. And the only easily tradable contracts of any notable size are Wiseman and Kevon Looney.

So while trading No. 7 for, say, No. 10 and Steven Adams sounds like a great deal on paper, the reality is that it would be more like No. 7, Wiseman, Looney, and Eric Paschall for Adams.

I could see Wiggins playing a lot of small ball 4 next year. I could also see Klay Thompson playing a fair bit, depending on how the roster shakes out.

I think what we’re going to see a lot of next year is the Warriors playing the way they did with the Death Lineup, which is to say Draymond Green at the 5, and four other players who can mostly be interchanged and switched. More positionless than anything. But if Wiggins shoots as well this year as he did last, he’ll be integral to making small ball lineups work. And I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see the standard closing lineup be Steph Curry, Thompson, Wiggins, Dray, and a free agent wing.

As for the picks: higher offensive upside is something worth gambling on, especially with how poor the Dubs’ offense was this year. But it’s a tricky game for a team like Golden State. Do you bet on high ceiling to extend the dynasty, or high floor to increase the odds of maximizing the championship window for the next few years?

I’m glad I’m not making the decisions.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I would not hold out much hope for a Kelly Oubre Jr. sign-and-trade. There’s a reason that you rarely see sign and trades for non-max contract players. Most teams don’t have the cap space to sign a max contract, and need the sign-and-trade to facilitate it. A lot more teams can make room for a deal in the $15 million/year range, which means they don’t need to go through the Dubs and give up assets.

A trade exception is also pretty unlikely. If you’re getting a trade exception in a sign-and-trade, it’s usually because the team had the cap space to just sign the player outright. So in order to convince them to do a sign-and-trade, you have to sweeten the pot. That Hayward trade exception, for example? The Boston Celtics didn’t just send Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets and get the exception. They also sent Charlotte a pair of second-round picks in exchange for one protected second-round pick, to make it worth the Hornets while.

The Warriors could do that, but I don’t see them giving up assets unless they already have a plan for the traded player exception. And remember: they had an exception last year that they didn’t use.

I don’t spend enough time around the team to have good answers to this, but I will say that Klay Thompson is as funny as you would think.

I get the vibe that Juan Toscano-Anderson and Jordan Poole could both break out into song and your ears would be happy.

T.J. McConnell would be an excellent signing. Last year the Warriors opted for defense at the backup point guard position, and we all know how that turned out with Brad Wanamaker. The good news about McConnell is he’s every bit as good of a defender as Wanamaker, but is also a strong playmaker and efficient scorer, and could share the court with Steph Curry.

It’s clear that the Warriors can’t just rely on Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green to make plays when Curry is on the bench, so a player like McConnell would be a spectacular pickup.

The problem is that spectacular pickups are spectacular for a reason, and that reason is that they’re usually not very likely. McConnell is coming off a season where he averaged 8.6 points, 6.6 assists, and 1.9 steals per game … there’s a good chance the mid-level exception isn’t enough.

I think trading them on draft night is more likely than before, just for logistical purposes.

Ultimately, I would assume the Dubs are open to everything. I think they would prefer to make a trade, but it takes two to tango and they’re not going to trade just to trade. The right offer has to be there.

So I’d say it’s about a coin flip.

Unless Dejan Milojević marches up to Bob Myers sometime between now and Aug. 6, and says, “Bob, I promise you this Smiley kid is gonna be great, just let me work with him,” I’ll say the impact on Smailagić will be nonexistent because Smiley won’t be anywhere near the team.

As for James Wiseman … Milojević worked wonders with Nikola Jokić’s passing and footwork. If you’re in the camp that believes Wiseman could be a future star, you should be excited about the hiring.

Well, I’m stumped. A damn good question, and one I do not have an answer for.

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