Taking a Look at the Warriors’ 2020 Draft Picks

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Karthik Iyer

The day is November 18, 2020. The Warriors, after a league-worst 15-50 season, are slated to pick #2 overall in the draft later that day. They will have their selection of the best young talent available. They’ll get all their stars back that they lost due to injury. Steph Curry will return fully healthy after breaking his hand five games into last season. And Klay Thompson will be back from his ACL … wait, he tore the other one??

As soon as the news of Klay’s devastating injury broke to the media, the focus of the night shifted from the draft to the Warriors’ future. Was this another rebuilding season for the Dubs? Could they even afford another 2019, given that Steph was turning 32 and Draymond 30? Was the dynasty officially dead? Well, that question really hasn’t been answered as of yet.

First and foremost, the question of Klay’s return isn’t worth considering in the short term. The Warriors are stuck with the pieces that they currently have, save minor transactions at the bottom of the roster. It’s true that the Warriors have been one of the most snake-bitten teams in terms of injuries, starting with that 2019 Finals run, and the amount of talent this team has been drained of over the past two seasons is nearly unparalleled. However, they have some intriguing pieces upon which they can build. By focusing on what they do have and maximizing the abilities of those pieces, they can build chemistry and lay the groundwork for success. That process started with the 2020 draft.

November 18 wasn’t just a day of doom and gloom. As they say, when one door closes, another opens, and the Warriors selected James Wiseman with the second pick of the NBA draft. Despite his recent injury, Wiseman has been everything that the Warriors could have hoped for. Wiseman only played 3 games in college due to an NCAA violation over his recruitment, so his experience is more comparable to that of a high school senior than someone who played in college. Even so, Wiseman has shown a great deal of aptitude and promise that even the Warriors could not have expected. He is committed on both ends of the floor, putting effort on offense and defense.

On offense, he has proven himself to be more than the rim-runner he was projected to be. He has a beautiful touch on his outside shot, which makes him an exciting prospect for a two-man game with Steph. His ability to keep defenses honest from three-point land stretches the floor and gives less gifted scorers like Draymond Green space to add to their game. He flashes moments of brilliance where he makes Giannis-like runs down the court, euro stepping around three defenders and emphatically dunking the ball. Of course, he is excellent around the rim, where his seven foot two height and Inspector Gadget arms allow him to tower over opponents. On defense, that length allows him to be a dominant rim protector, and him reaching his potential would skyrocket him into the realm of Chamberlain and Thurmond among all-time great Warriors’ centers.

He is somewhat comfortable protecting the paint and switching onto smaller wings near the three-point line, something that will be fine tuned by the Warriors’ coaching staff. Of course, when a teenager is expected to play starting minutes, there will be bumps along the road. On offense, the main concerns with Wiseman center around his small hands. Not being able to firmly palm the ball with one hand significantly reduces his dunking radius, which puts more pressure on Steph and the team’s other ball-handlers to be accurate with their passes. On defense, Wiseman truly shows how green he is as a prospect. He fouls like the X-button is stuck on his controller, racking up multiple calls in the span of one or two minutes. He can be caught ball watching, failing to execute a switch, or not recognizing a scoring threat in front of him. Wiseman is lanky, which means veterans with more base strength can bully him off of the paint to get rebounds. Still, the Warriors should be proud of the investment that they have made. James Wiseman could terrorize the league for years to come. 

As for the other two rookies the Warriors drafted, they look more like developmental projects rather than plug-and-play starters. Nico Mannion was a projected lottery pick last year, but after a year in Sean Miller’s dreadful system at Arizona, he slipped into the second round. Mannion has good instincts as a passer, is a passable shooter, and is a willing defender. That’s more than you could ask for in a second-round pick, and he will get more playing time to showcase his talents in the G-League. He has a high chance of filling the backup point guard role, a spot on the roster that has missed high level talent ever since Shaun Livingston retired. The Warriors also drafted Justinian Jessup out of Boise State, and he has been tearing up the Australian league (NBL) this season. The 6 foot 7 southpaw sharpshooter looks like an excellent find for the organization, and he could become a valuable depth piece for next year’s iteration.

The Warriors did a masterful job in this year’s draft. The centerpiece of all is without a doubt James Wiseman. He has a chance to become the Warriors’ most impactful pick since Klay Thompson, and if he reaches his 99th percentile outcome, he could rival Stephen Curry himself. He has all the tools to become the best center in the NBA within the next half decade, and if there is one organization that can help him maximize his potential, it is Golden State. Mannion and Jessup have the ability to be valuable contributors, and could make up the backbone of the next great Warriors bench. Golden State is going to have to rely on the draft more than ever to bring in high-impact talent, and the 2020 class is a great step in that direction.