Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NBA. Each week we ask questions of the most plugged-in Golden State Warriors fans and fans across the country. This week we ask a draft question: Should the Warriors trade the No. 28 pick this year?
The Warriors have the 28th selection in Thursday’s NBA Draft, a position that has yielded mixed results for them over the years. They found emerging star Jordan Poole there in 2019, and a year before, they found Jacob Evans III, who never panned out at the NBA level but was a solid regular for the Santa Cruz Warriors last year, plus important salary ballast in the Andrew Wiggins trade. Before that? Les Jepsen, part of the tragic Mitch Richmond-Billy Owens after playing 21 career games for the Dubs.
Who can you get at No. 28? Besides Poole, there was another NBA champion picked 28th, LeBron James favorite, two-time ring winner, and current Jeunesse Laïque de Bourg-en-Bresse point guard Norris Cole. Wayne Ellington has had a journeyman career, but he’s stayed in the league for 13 seasons after going 28th in 2009, not bad! And in the 2000’s, the San Antonio Spurs had remarkable success with the No. 28 pick. Check out this group:
2001: Tony Parker, who won four titles, made five All-Star Games, and achieved what Steph Curry’s critics used to say was the most career-defining accomplishment of all, a Finals MVP award.
2003: Leandro Barbosa, the “Brazilian Blur,” who was championship for the first time as a coach, after winning a chip with the Warriors in 2015. The Spurs actually traded Barbosa to Phoenix on draft night to clear money for an unsuccessful pursuit of Jason Kidd, but they got back the pick that became future NBA champion David Lee (picked at No. 30).
2004: Beno Udrih, who won two titles in San Antonio backing up Tony Parker, had a 13-year NBA career, and also won titles in Israel, Lithuania, and his native Slovenia.
2005: Ian Mahinmi, who also played for 13 NBA seasons and won a title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.
2007: Tiago Splitter, who came over to the Spurs at age 25 and became the first Brazilian to win an NBA title in 2014, beating Barbosa for a year.
What’s the lesson? The No. 28 pick dog turn into a useful valuable player, as long as you have patience, Sam Presti, and the Spurs’ cadre international scouts. And other than this Spurs run, the No. 28 pick hasn’t yielded a lot of talent, aside from competent-if-oafish center Greg Ostertag in 1995 and three-time All-Star Dan “Dr. Rounds” Roundfield, who made five All-Defensive teams after going No. 28 in 1975.
Which brings us to the Golden State Warriors, who might not want to risk a guaranteed contract on a draft lottery ticket that even in a best-case scenario might not pay out for two years – Poole looked like a bust until almost two years after the draft – when Steph Curry is 36. The draft is a great way to stock the cupboard, but they already have a cupboard bursting with young, raw talent in James Wiseman (21), Moses Moody (20 years and 3 weeks old), and Jonathan Kuminga (19). Throw in the just-turned-23 Poole, and the still-young Kevon Looney (26) and Andrew Wiggins (27), and you can see how the Warriors aren’t exactly desperate to inject youth into the squad.
But of course, much of the trade talk comes down to money, specifically the luxury tax, which the Warriors are way, way into. Because they’re over the tax line, and it’ll be their third year doing so after ducking under in 2019-20, they have to face repeater penalties. That means every dollar they spend over the tax line costs them at least $4.75 in luxury tax. And when the No. 28 pick gets a guaranteed 2.2 million, and a guaranteed 2.3 million in 2023-24, the Warriors may weigh that cost versus the veteran minimum (about $1.7 million for cap and tax purposes) or the rookie minimum (about a million). That’s a difference of somewhere between $2.5-6 million, and when they’re about to give raises to Gary Payton II and Kevon Looney (and, fingers crossed, Otto Porter Jr.), that’s where the free-spending Warriors might tighten up.
Are there players with potential to help right away? Maybe! The draft is a crapshoot, but every mock I’ve seen has had at least one intriguing player fall to the Warriors. They can also “draft and stash,” picking a player who agrees to stay in a foreign basketball league, which retains the Warriors’ rights but keeps him off their cap. That’s like flipping the pick for a future pick, only in this case fans can watch grainy highlights of the player’s games against Olympiakos and Fenerbahçe SK on YouTube and dream about their potential from him.
So should the Warriors trade the pick, either for future draft assets (most likely) or for a vet who can help right away (and doesn’t cost much)? They’ve earned the trust of the fanbase, but if they pass on the next Brazilian Blur, you know we’ll be hearing about it in the comments for years.