The NBA’s draft lottery system is designed to create equity among teams. The worse a franchise performs in the regular season, the better their odds of securing a high draft pick. For the most part, the teams that get high lottery picks have been mired in mediocrity for many seasons. This year saw a notable exception, however, when the Golden State Warriors netted the No. 2 pick.
While it’s true that the Warriors posted the second-worst record in the NBA, the franchise’s dismal performance was a bit of an anomaly. Let’s look at how the Warriors ended up with the No. 2 draft pick and what they may do with it.
The Warriors have an off year
The Warriors suffered a significant setback in their championship aspirations last summer when star Kevin Durant left the team in free agency to join the Brooklyn Nets. Yet the Warriors still had plenty of top-level talent, particularly in the sharp-shooting duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Thompson, however, ended up missing the entire season due to the ACL tear he suffered in last year’s playoffs. Then in late October, Curry broke a bone in his hand while driving to the rim. That injury required surgery and kept Curry out for most of the season. Without that star pairing, the Warriors had no chance — and no incentive — to try and make a competitive run in the West.
Instead, the team took a rebuilding approach, using the opportunity to develop and evaluate their younger players, essentially tanking their season. Yet unlike most tanking teams, next season should see the Warriors get both of their superstars back on the court. At that point, they’ll be ready to make another deep playoff run.
The Golden State Warriors could trade the second pick
The Warriors find themselves in a unique and enviable situation, getting the No. 2 pick just a single season after having made the NBA Finals. Unlike teams engaged in a genuine rebuilding process, the Warriors probably won’t end up keeping the pick for themselves. Instead, most pundits expect to see them trade the valuable pick for a win-now player who can help them make another Finals run next season.
In particular, the Warriors will likely be shopping for a two-way wing player — someone who can knock down shots and provide a steady defense. Golden State is particularly weak in that area after having lost Durant, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston in the last year. The Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon and the Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal are two of the high-profile names floating around as trade targets.
The Warriors have an alternate route
The Warriors may not be in as perfect a position as it appears at first glance, however. For one thing, they are already in a tricky position with regards to the salary cap. Adding a top-dollar wing player could easily push them over into the luxury tax — a situation that the team’s owners may not feel so great about.
Another complicating factor is that this year’s draft is not viewed as an especially strong one, which hurts the value of the Warrior’s pick. They may need to attach other assets to any deal. Alternately, the Warriors may choose to either keep the pick for themselves, or trade a little further down in the draft.
If the Warriors choose to keep the pick, most analysts assume they will take shooting guard Anthony Edwards — that is, if the Minnesota Timberwolves don’t beat them to the punch with the No. 1 pick. If so, the Warriors will have to decide between prospects like LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman, and Tyrese Haliburton.
If they find themselves targeting a player they don’t think other teams will be very high on, the Warriors may choose to trade down in the draft. A move like that might allow the Warriors to move next season’s trade exception along with the No. 2 pick. That would open up the kind of salary space necessary to acquire a player who can make an immediate difference.