The Golden State Warriors were an unusual team to be picking at the top of the NBA Draft. While their 2020 fortunes more than warranted a top selection, the eventual healthy returns of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson gave Golden State reason for optimism. They weren't a traditional rebuilder. The No. 2 overall pick was a chance to enhance what was already in place, not necessarily a building block for something new.
The 2020 NBA Draft wound up featuring a ton of players that could have helped Golden State immediately. LaMelo Ball, taken one pick after the Warriors, was a superstar from the moment he stepped on an NBA court. Tyrese Haliburton is heading in that direction. Even later picks like Saddiq Bey, Desmond Bane and Immanuel Quickley have been immediate contributors. That's not what the Warriors got at No. 2 overall. No, they took James Wiseman, a player that they acknowledged would take time.
"Big guys take longer to develop than guards -- it's just a fact," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Friday on 95.7 The Game's "Damon, Ratto & Kolsky" show (h/t Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area). "So 100 percent when we picked him, it was, 'This guy is really talented and he's a great kid.' However long it takes, he's gonna be well worth the pick."
The trouble is that even if he is worth the pick, if it takes long enough, it might not even matter. Curry is 33. Thompson is coming off of two consecutive missed seasons. There's no telling how much longer Golden State's championship window will remain open. Right now, Wiseman seems unlikely to help extend it. In his first NBA season, he averaged only 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. His defense was not NBA caliber, and he didn't improve much as the season progressed due in large part to an inconsistent role.
That has led many to speculate that Golden State would consider trading Wiseman this offseason for older talent. Kerr refused to dismiss the possibility, asking "How many people are truly untouchable in the NBA in terms of a trade? I don't know. LeBron [James], Steph and Giannis [Antetokounmpo]? Everybody's tradeable. You never know what's gonna happen." He added that he simply doesn't know whether or not Wiseman will be able to win while the rest of the Warriors are still able to.
"And I know we can further the conversation and say, 'What about the timeline with Steph [Curry and Draymond [Green] and Klay [Thompson] and what does that mean.' And those are valid questions.
"Can we get James up to speed quick enough to match the timeline with our three core guys? And that's a great question. And we don't know the answer. But when you go into a draft and you see someone who potentially is a generational talent, then that's a decision you have to make."
It is the great existential question facing the Warriors right now. Between their disappointing 2019-20 season and the Minnesota draft pick they snagged in the D'Angelo Russell trade, they have the pieces to try to build their next winner before their current roster fades into obscurity. The risk of doing so is that you'll end up with years worth of good teams and no great ones. Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green might not be enough to win another championship. Wiseman and the Minnesota pick alone likely won't be down the line. Eventually, the Warriors are going to have to pick a lane.
That the Warriors are willing to acknowledge that on the record is somewhat stunning. It's an acknowledgment that Wiseman's rookie season didn't go as planned. He'll miss the rest of the year with a torn meniscus, and there's no telling what kind of player he'll be with six months of rehab and development under his belt. The Warriors are aware of that uncertainty, and the biggest question of their offseason is whether or not they'll act on it.