The beauty of the annual NBA Draft Lottery is that it's ruthless and completely random, rarely producing the kind of results anyone could've predicted or fan bases spent pointless hours praying for.
Like how the Knicks, with the league's sixth-worst record, hilariously ended up with the 8th selection, and the Timberwolves, owner of the league's third-worst record, earned the coveted top selection in the upcoming draft.
That's good, fantastic for Minnesota and its beleaguered supporters who have seen the playoffs precisely once in the past 16 seasons. Hopefully, they popped a few bottles and celebrated over Zoom after the basketball gods saw fit to bless them with good fortunes while Knicks fans lamented yet another lottery L. But after Thursday's proceedings finally determined the order of the delayed 2020 NBA Draft and answered the important questions of who, what, where, and when, it simultaneously created a more intriguing one.
Precisely, how the hell can the Warriors hang onto the No. 2 pick?
They kind of can’t, really, and that’s why this year's draft doesn't start until the second pick when Golden State (as of now) will be on the clock. So if you’re a betting man, the smart money’s on the Warriors dealing the selection to the highest bidder and it doesn't take a genius to realize why that's the right move.
The Warriors, of course, find themselves in dramatically different straits than Minnesota, Charlotte (third), Chicago (fourth), or Cleveland (fifth). For sure not in rebuilding mode, and ready to welcome back the Splash Brothers after a 2019-2020 season lost to injury, the Warriors are primed to return as playoff contenders whenever the 2020-21 NBA season officially commences. And the last thing the organization needs is to draft a project at No. 2 that's two-to-three years away from making a serious impact on their pursuit of another NBA title that starts in earnest when the ball’s tipped in their next meaningful game.
Sure, James Wiseman out of Memphis would be a nice addition. And absolutely, Anthony Edwards out of Georgia or the ultra-hyped LaMelo Ball—whoever isn't taken by the Wolves at No. 1—project as future game-changers. But everyone knows the Warriors don't really need another point guard like Ball and all the other young guns available in the draft are more than likely a waste of roster space for an organization with a win-now mentality.
We all know the Warriors are (rightfully) dead set on capitalizing on the roughly three-to-four years remaining of prime basketball left between the core of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson (and Draymond Green if you want to include him). They've paid Curry a ton of money to be the face of the franchise. And they gave Thompson a massive extension last summer that’s not exactly looking all that great right now. They need to pair their historic sharpshooters with another established star—like they did when they convinced Kevin Durant to join the organization in the summer of 2016—if it’s really championship or bust around the Bay. Since we all know that's the case, wasting the second pick on rookie ain’t it, chief.
It’d be a shock if Golden State ended up picking Wiseman, Ball, or Edwards with the intention of developing them.
Making the No. 2 pick the centerpiece of a trade with a team desperate to start over and willing to part with an All-Star is how the Warriors get back to being the Warriors we all watched make five-straight NBA Finals. Would Washington, for instance, give up Bradley Beal for an extremely attractive Golden State package? Would the Sixers be willing to part with one of their franchise players—either Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid—for the right combo of the pick and a bunch of players including Green? And would—gasp!—the No. 2 pick help pry Giannis Antetokounmpo from Milwaukee if the Bucks fall short of the Finals again?
Those, of course, are completely speculative—I'm basically just throwing out names with no abandon—but the possibilities practically feel endless right now. The right combination of picks and players (again, Green being the prime suspect to be included in any deal) by the Warriors, one of the smartest and savviest front offices in basketball, could easily net them an All-NBA caliber player. Green’s absolutely enticing as a trade chip and there have been rumblings for years now that the organization wouldn’t hesitate to ship him out in the right deal. While he isn’t the most attractive asset, don’t forget Andrew Wiggins was traded to Golden State earlier this season (along with Minnesota's 2021 first-round pick that's top 3 protected) or the $17.2 million trade exception it holds from last year’s Andre Iguodala deal (expiring in October). While making a deal is always easier said than done, the Warriors hold a strong hand and their ability to go from 15-win scrubs to certified championship contenders in the snap of a finger should scare their Western Conference rivals. All it takes is the right move.
In the days and weeks to come, there will be a ton of reports about what the Warriors will do with the pick. With this year's free agent class nothing like last year’s, what Golden State decides to do with its selection easily is the top NBA off-season storyline. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski already said on Thursday's 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter that the Warriors would look to trade the pick if they ended up with the No. 1 selection and he hinted they more than likely would actively shop it as long as it was among the top few selections. That’s the prudent play, the obvious play, and it’d be a shock if Golden State ended up picking Wiseman, Ball, or Edwards with the intention of developing them.
So gear up for wild Warriors speculation over the next two months. Truthfully, the NBA is at its best when that’s the case—when rumors and innuendo are centered around one of the league’s top franchises and how they will affect its marquee players. Unlike the squads normally picking near the top of the draft, Golden State knows what it’s doing and that’s why you can bet big the No. 2 selection in the 2020 NBA Draft will never lace ‘em up alongside Steph and Klay.