NBA draft lottery delay keeps Golden State stuck in limbo
With the May 19th date scrapped, more uncertainty for the Warriors - and a fervent hope to avoid a forced return to the season
The Golden State Warriors need to find value in the draft. A team that returns Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson is almost guaranteed a playoff spot next season (whenever that is), but what the team does with their upcoming draft assets will play a major role in determining the amount of wriggle room the returning core will have.
Because of the recent draft order smoothing, Golden State is not promised the top draft pick despite being the worst team in the league (by a lot) last season. While extremely unfortunate on every conceivable level, the dramatic and abrupt end to the league’s season was almost a relief for the Warriors - who could wholeheartedly set their sights on the future. The only question was precisely where the team’s pick would fall within the top five selection; a question that was to be decided in the NBA’s draft lottery draw on May 19th.
As Marc Stein points out, this move seems to indicate that the NBA is seriously considering a resumption of the regular season - or at least looking to keep their options as wide open as possible.
If you froze the standings now, the lottery of the bottom 14 teams could easily proceed as some sort of virtual event. As the NFL recently demonstrated with their record-breaking streamed draft, not only is a remotely conducted draft feasible, it would draw a lot of interest as the fans and community are starving for any sort of fresh input.
What does this mean for Golden State?
The bottom line is that not much has changed for the Warriors.
They find themselves fervently hoping that the regular season is over so the team can lick their wounds and start fresh next season. They are the only team in the NBA that was mathematically entirely eliminated from the playoffs, so even if the season resumes or not, not much changes for the Warriors.
And as Anthony Slater wrote for the Athletic, the team will be extremely hesitant to expose their players and staff to risk, standings be damned.
Gather together a bunch of players, coaches and staffers, isolate them as well as possible, run them through a month-long, medically-monitored training camp and then set up the tricky travel logistics into and within a bubble sure to be full of tension and unknown. For what? To play five meaningless no-fan games and officially end a season that was over long ago? To save a few extra dollars? To make sure the Lakers and Bucks have sparring partners before the playoffs?
“You think we’d have Steph do all that?” asked one member of the organization. “Draymond? Klay?”
Those risks are not insignificant, and it’s not just about the basketball court. As with all the other concerns surrounding the Coronavirus, the real risk is how easily it can spread to sensitive population members.
Regardless of how the resumption of activities in the NBA occurs, the Warriors management team finds itself without resolution about their specific draft position. The difference between holding the #1 pick versus the fifth are vast.
Again from the Slater article, the teams need some sort of planning gap in order to function. That time between knowing your draft position and actually having to make a move is an extremely important time. Right now, the Warriors have almost too many potential futures to consider.
Here’s an artist rendering of Bob Myers, contemplating all zillion-and-a-half options that Golden State is considering at this point in time:
One executive estimated that front offices would need (or at least want) three weeks separating the lottery and draft, giving them enough time to absorb their exact placement, explore their options and gather last-minute intel on players presumed to fall in their range.
Given all these factors, it’s hard to imagine the June 25th draft date holding for the NBA. That’s not new, but the draft lottery getting formally delayed introduces more unknowns to a Warriors front office that will be facing some of the most challenging choices of their career - whenever that may be.
Like so much of the rest of the world right now, the NBA has been told to wait. We don’t know when exactly, but someday the world will reopen. At least now the Warriors know that’s not going to be May 19th.