Warriors 2021 NBA Draft primer: Wings? Upside vs “win now”?

Also more profiles: Kispert, Keon, Kai, Sharife

Draft Primer by Dulow & Gabe

The 2021 NBA Draft will be a huge moment for the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors hold picks 7 and 14 in the first round with pick 7 conveyed from the Minnesota Timberwolves and 14 as their own pick, largely as a result of missing the 2021 playoffs.

[LIVE! We plan to go Live from Barclays Center and then also separately with special guests like Eric Guilleminault of NBADraft.net, Klay’s trainer Charlie Torres, Wiggs’ trainer Reid Ouse and possibly more! https://youtube.com/LetsGoWarriors]

As currently constructed these two Warriors picks will likely be, at the earliest, around the ninth and tenth men off the bench. It is a great luxury to have a solid roster while also adding two Lottery picks. The roster has some clear holes ranging from wing depth to more primary ball-handlers to lack of size at the center position.

While the Warriors are unlikely to address the center position with draft picks, they will certainly look for wing depth as well as additional ball-handlers. The primary weakness on the roster last year was the inability to score despite having the league’s leading scorer on the team. The Warriors may look to add a player who can create his own offense to add to Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole.

Additionally, general manager Bob Myers has been on the phone fielding offers, and it is a distinct possibility that one or both of the picks are traded for veteran help as the Warriors have an aging core and want to win within the next two years, and veterans translate to winning more so than youngsters. As for now, he says they are going ahead and making the two picks (unless things change).

The players:

The consensus is that the elite tier of prospects in Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs, and Evan Mobley will be off the board with the top four picks. From all reporting so far, it seems like Scottie Barnes has solidified himself as the 5th pick with interest from the Orlando Magic, out of Warriors range.

Myers is left with an intriguing group of prospects in that next tier, namely: Josh Giddey, James Bouknight, Franz Wagner, Moses Moody, and Jonathan Kuminga [click the links for our scouting reports & interviews with the prospects]. The OKC Thunder select sixth and if you believe the reporting, they seem to be leaning towards Bouknight.

Giddey and Kuminga are upside plays. Bouknight, Moody, and Wagner are safer and more ready to play minutes in an NBA rotation. Giddey projects as a jumbo point guard who can play multiple positions with high IQ but poor shooting. Bouknight is a microwave scorer with questionable shooting and defense. Moody and Wagner project as 3&D wings that have a good feel for the game but not ultra-high upside or star potential.

Kuminga has star potential as a combo forward, but is still finding his way with shooting and passing, probably a couple of years away from being ready to contribute. The question remains, do they swing for upside if someone like Kuminga is available, or do they place more value on a player who can help next year?

At pick 14 the Warriors will simply take the best player available and some of the likely candidates include Corey Kispert, Davion Mitchell, Trey Murphy, Chris Duarte, Keon Johnson, Kai Jones, and Ziaire Williams.

What are the experts saying?

From this Mock Draft Comparison at Hoops Distillery, the Warriors have been most often linked to Bouknight (3x), with Kuminga and Giddey tied at second-most (2x each) for the 7th pick. For #14, every mock has us taking either Duarte or Mitchell. This morning, Wagner appeared as the 7th pick on three mock boards.

Dulow’s Prediction: If the Warriors keep the picks I predict they will select Giddey at 7 and Duarte at 14.

Gabe’s Prediction: They take Kuminga at 7 and Duarte at 14; therefore getting two wings, one who is a project with big upside and the other who can theoretically play now. I can see the Kuminga choice being a tough one for Kerr but they will have a hard time passing on his upside and trade value.

Poor Man’s Commish’s Prediction: Idk if it’s a prediction, but I sat through Zoom calls with Steve Kerr all season long where he continually touted the need for 3&D wings in the midst of lacking them (Kelly Oubre was struggling and injured for a good chunk), so I want the Warriors to pick wings. I don’t have the space here to go on my usually diatribe so I’ll save it for the livestreams tonight, but wings are hard to come by and they get very expensive as time goes by. They’re kinda like wheels on a race car.

And let’s not forget Klay is coming back. So while I do realize a “bucket-getter” is needed and the second unit struggled to, well, get buckets, I just don’t think it’s a higher priority than a wing. And all you really need to ask a wing to do is not make dumb fouls, run the break, not fall in love with the three, and finish the break. That’s a drastically lower hurdle to jump than any other position.

And we learned last year how difficult the 5 is to play for Kerr (or the 2, if you consider Poole’s progression). That’s why I would’ve preferred Kai Jones as a 4-5 who can take the JaVale McGee role at the same time as potentially a 3&D, and is also someone who can maybe guard Giannis Antetokounmpo two to three years from now in the NBA Finals. But Kuminga is a must-grab talent and Jones will be gone by 14.

Aside from raw talent and All-Star potential, such as my take that if Bouknight has a higher ceiling than his comp of CJ McCollum then you pick Bouknight (aside from Kuminga), you should draft wings. Therefore, I am pleasantly surprised that it appears Kuminga will drop from being a Top Five prospect for more than one month to, now, as far down as 7th. I’m also not sure Wagner fits the modern prototype of a 3&D wing, but I wouldn’t be too upset if he’s the pick.

At the end of the day, we have to root for this team. The 2021 Draft has a bevy of talented players who can contribute to the Warriors — and it’s still a Draft and keep in mind, rookies rarely contribute all that much in Year One anyways. We are Let’s Go Warriors, so we’re going “ride-or-die” with whomever the picks are after tonight!

As for the 14th pick, as I’ve alluded, pick a wing! (Trey Murphy, because it looks like Jones will be off the board by then.)

[Below are some additional Draft profiles by Dulow Twist and, in some instances, Gabe Johnson.]

COREY KISPERT

Q&A from Draft Combine:

(Kispert also worked out for the Warriors but was not made available to media afterwards.)

Strengths:

Best shooter in this draft and in the last few drafts. Elite three-point shooter (95th percentile spot up shooter) with a lightning quick release and unlimited range. In addition to the lethal shooting, he is an elite off ball cutter who stays in motion, never letting defenders have a break. Knows how to use his gravity and the defenders fear of going over screens. He has improved attacking closeouts and shows strength to get to the rim. Underrated athlete with a 36 inch vertical. Also ranked in the 97th percentile scoring in transition. 

He knows the game and plays with a high IQ. Experienced as a role and star player on a good team over the last 4 years. 

Plays hard and smart on defense and is a solid team defender. Should be able to hold his own in terms of knowing rotations, where he should be helping. Maturity should ease transition to the pro game.

Weaknesses:

At 6’7” he has the size to be a wing guard or forward but is not overly long. Has a basic handle and only average passing skills. Cannot be a primary or secondary ball handler. 

Kispert is not a physical marvel and will never be an elite one-on-one defender due to only being a solid athlete. Average defender is his ceiling and will never be able to guard point guards. Should be stout enough to guard wing players. 

Warriors Fit:

Would give the Warriors second unit a pure sniper who would punish any defender who attempted to cheat off him. He would give spacing for players like James Wiseman and Jordan Poole, making them more dangerous. He would be an upgrade to Damion Lee/Mulder as a second team guard/wing. He would shoot off screens and pin downs. He would set screens, keep the ball moving and make good choices. Kispert should be able to provide 15 -20 solid minutes immediately. He would make a solid addition at pick 14. Bottom line, he is being overlooked due to being a 4 year player but he projects to be an NBA player for a decade in the vein of a more athletic Joe Harris or lesser version of Klay Thompson.

KAI JONES

Q&As after Warriors workouts:

Strengths:

Tall and long. Really good athlete at 6’11”. Lethal scorer around the rim with good touch. Has solid hands, doesn't bobble many passes. Has nice form on his jumper and shot 38% from 3 as a sophomore. Has the size and skill to be a modern big. Has pick and pop potential as well as the length and explosion to be a vertical rim threat. 

Defensively he can block shots and close out very quickly due to his athleticism. He has experience as an important role player. Should be able to hold his own against perimeter-oriented teams right away. 

Weaknesses:

Thin and weak, will get rag-dolled by physical NBA centers and power forwards. Easy to envision bigs like Andre Drummond, Jonas Valaciunas, Nikola Jokic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo putting him in the basket repeatedly. He won't add much as a ball-handler and passer but does show flashes. Do not expect crisp passing to cutters and identifying helped off teammates at this stage. 

Was a back-up in college. 

Warriors Fit:

This is an upside play. A top shelf athlete who has vastly improved over the last two years. His rim running and shot blocking would immediately provide utility for a shaky Warriors big rotation. While he is somewhat of a duplication of Wiseman, he would be a nice insurance policy for the Warriors injury prone bigs. He could play the JaVale McGee or Marquese Chriss role on both ends while his skill set and body develop. 

Gabe’s take: 

Kai is definitely more of a long-term project, with a lot of his offense pretty theoretical at the moment. In a best-case scenario where things work out in his development, he could be a great fit next to Draymond Green in the frontcourt, with the ability to finish and stretch the defense, while being a switchable defender with rim protection. To me, he fits into the range of guys who would feel like too high a pick at 7, but may not be there at 14. I wouldn’t take such a risk at 7 unless the Warriors have moved Wiseman separately, since both would seem to be competing for minutes to develop into useful playoff players in a few years. If he fell to 14 though, I could see the Warriors taking a shot on a player who has a chance to be the ideal big in today’s NBA. For me, I would have to have a lot of faith that the shot is real to take that swing, otherwise an athletic rim running big is pretty replaceable these days. When compared to some other lottery ticket prospects the team has been working out, like Jalen Johnson for example, Kai profiles as having somewhat less bust potential, since a Javale-type floor is still a useful basketball player. While Jalen’s versatility and potential as a big creator can be intriguing, his floor as a big guard/wing who can’t shoot and is spotty on defense is worrisome. Couple that with rumors of character issues with Jalen, and I’d rather take a shot on someone like Kai.

KEON JOHNSON

Q&A after Warriors workout:

Basics:

  • Combine measurements: 6'4.75'' and 185lbs with a 6'7.25'' wingspan

  • College stats: 11.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.1 SPG

  • Shooting splits: 45 FGP, 27.1 3PP, 70.3 FTP

Strengths:

Elite athlete with top shelf explosion, body control, and speed. Posted a record 48-inch vertical at the NBA combine. Workout explosion and game tape match as he had several poster dunks and blocks this year at Tennessee. Plays strong and physical despite only being 185lbs. Johnson's handle is simplistic but his first step and explosion get him into the paint with ease. He has good rebounding instincts on both ends of the floor. He has potential to be an elite finisher in transition. Has an old school post game for a 6’4” guard/small forward. Also has a solid mid range shot. That mid range game provides hope that 3 point shot will eventually become consistent. If that shot hits around +38% he can be an all-star level scorer in time. The two way potential is clearly there.   

He shines on defense with his motor and physical tools. 6’8” wingspan allows him to guard 1-3 at the NBA level. He is advanced as an on ball defender and can fit in on an NBA court right away on that end. 

Weaknesses:

Jumper needs consistency, both in form and in going into the basket. He is not a primary or secondary ball handler. Much less effective in half court setting due to his lack of shooting. For a great athlete, he doesnt finish at the rim at a high clip. Super raw as a prospect which is both a weakness and a strength as he doesnt have noticeable bad habits. 

While physical and engaged on defense, his aggressiveness can lead to unnecessary fouls. As a young player, will have to learn team defensive concepts. 

Warriors Fit:

Keon would inject electric athleticism and highlight ability into a pedestrian second unit. He would easily be the best athlete on the team from day one. As a non shooter, defenders would sag off of him consistently. He and Jordan Poole would be dynamic but he needs to be set up and wouldn't be a bucket getter on his own. His hustle and energy would help him get cheap buckets and he will hold his own on defense right away. He is similar to Wiseman in terms of elite potential but no polished skillsets to lean on right now. Team would have to be careful and patient with his development. He needs to play to work on his jumper and handle and I don't know if Steve Kerr would give him that time over vets like Damion Lee or Kent Bazemore.

SHARIFE COOPER

Sharife Cooper, PG Auburn

Strengths:

Elite ball handler and passer. Very fast with the ball in his hands and has ambidextrous handle. Tends to finish with his right hand around the rim. Crafty finisher. Pure point guard with top shelf vision, can pass guys open. Gives solid effort on defense and generally is engaged. High IQ player from a basketball family and has sister in the WNBA.

Weaknesses:

Small (6’1 160 lbs) and will be challenged by NBA length on the perimeter and in the paint. His jumper has good form but is inconsistent at this point of his development. Defensively, stronger guards will go right thru him. 

Only a point guard, will provide no value at any other position.

Warriors Fit:

Would immediately be the best passer on the roster and second best ball handler. Would be the back-up point guard and inject dynamic speed into the second unit. His passing will unlock Wisemans vertical rim threat. Would also allow Poole to primarily focus on scoring. Will get abused on defense and hunted on defense by savvy NBA coaches.

/end