After years of futility, the Golden State Warriors might finally have assembled a roster good enough to have a lengthy run of NBA relevance. The corps of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee and Andrew Bogut could make the Warriors a playoff team next season. However, if Golden State has any dream of making a deep playoff run, it will need to pick up an upgrade at the small forward position.
With the seventh pick in the NBA draft, the Warriors will have a chance to find a small forward upgrade, whether they use the pick or trade it for an established NBA wing. Here are some scenarios the Warriors could explore this offseason to help fill their need at small forward.
Barnes never really figured out how to dominate the college game. Sure, he averaged 17 points per game in his sophomore season at UNC, but his unimpressive field-goal percentage (44 percent) is a cause for concern.
What’s more concerning is his pedestrian playmaking ability. He almost never took his man off the dribble to rim, constantly taking tough, contested jump shots in the half-court offense. And he was never a shut-down defender at North Carolina, but he may be able to develop this area with his outstanding size and athleticism.
Much to my surprise, the Cavaliers reportedly love Barnes, which means he may not even make it to the Warriors at No. 7. However, if the Warriors draft him, he would become an upgrade if he refined his off-the-dribble skills to complement his solid shooting range.
Kidd-Gilchrist would be the best fit of any prospect in the draft. He has the size, strength, athleticism and instincts to guard the best small forwards in the NBA. He’s also a fantastic slasher, particularly in transition where he’s nearly unstoppable.
Kidd-Gilchrist has terrible shooting mechanics, and it showed at Kentucky where he often missed open jumpers. Still, the Warriors have enough perimeter shooting with Thompson and Curry that they would be able to hide Kidd-Gilchrist’s porous outside shooting better than most teams.
Kidd-Gilchrist will likely be drafted in the top four picks. Unfortunately for Warriors fans, I don’t see why any team in the top four would accept my proposed trade for him. The Bobcats, Wizards and Cavaliers are looking for star potential, not journeymen like Wright. Golden State’s best hope is for one of these teams to hate Kidd-Gilchrist’s potential and overvalue Wright or fall in love with a prospect that should be available with No. 7 pick.
If I were making the draft decision for one of these teams, I would not pass on Kidd-Gilchrist, who should be able to fix his shooting mechanics and become an excellent NBA player.
Jones is the only other small forward prospect who is worthy of the seventh pick (Terrence Jones will play power forward in the NBA—this an argument for another time). Perry played power forward at Baylor, so it’s hard to project how he’d fit as a small forward in the NBA. On one hand, Jones has great shooting form and enough size and athleticism to become a fantastic defender in the NBA. On the other hand, Jones only made 30 percent of his threes last year and he hasn’t shown much ability to handle the ball on the perimeter.
Jones will likely be available at No. 7. He’s the true definition of the word "project." Early in his NBA career, he’ll wow fans with his blocks and ferocious dunks. However, he isn’t big enough to be a major threat inside and he’s not a good enough ball handler to be an impact small forward.
If the Warriors want a player who can help them now, I’d pass.
And if this report is true, they should pass.
This would be the dream scenario for the Warriors.
Iguodala is a solid playmaker and facilitator, which would take a lot of pressure off Curry. Iggy would also be the shut-down defender the Warriors have needed for years. His tremendous defense would allow the Warriors to put Thompson on the opposing team’s weaker wing player.
Iguodala’s lack of scoring aggressiveness on offense is viewed as a negative by most, but on the Warriors it could turn out to be a positive. Curry and Thompson are prolific scorers who don’t need another gunner to play alongside. Iggy’s drive-and-kick mentality could make the Warriors offense an efficient machine.
The 76ers would be getting ripped off in this deal, but if this report is true, they may consider it. The 76ers could use a prolific shooter like Dorell Wright, and they could find a replacement for the aging Elton Brand with the No. 7 pick.
Gay wouldn’t be a perfect fit, but he’d clearly represent an upgrade over Wright. Gay has averaged at least 18.9 points per game and shot at least 45.3 percent from the floor in his last five seasons. He can blow by slower forwards and take smaller forwards into the post and score.
Gay is also a sound perimeter defender, although with his incredible size and athleticism, some believe he could give more on defense. Whereas Iguodala consistently averages more than five assists per game, Gay has never topped 2.8 assists per game in his career.
Combine his lack of vision with Thompson’s gunner’s mentality and the Warriors could have a problem with ball movement on offense.
Memphis owner Michael Heisley said the Grizzlies are not shopping Rudy, contrary to several reports that flooded the Internet in the last couple of weeks. Gay is owed $53.6 million over the three years left on his deal. He’s overpaid and Memphis needs a guy who can stretch the floor like Wright. The trade seems like a pretty good deal for both sides, but unless Heisley is bluffing it’s unlikely to happen.
Trading up for Kidd-Gilchrist or landing Iguodala for the seventh pick, Thompson and Jefferson would be the ideal moves for the Warriors this offseason. However, they both seem very unlikely to happen. After Kidd-Gilchrist, I don’t think any small forward prospect can drastically help the Warriors next year.
So what will the Warriors do?
I suspect they’ll take Barnes if he’s available. If not, I’m guessing they will look to improve the depth of their frontcourt by drafting Terrence Jones or Jared Sullinger and start Wright, who has one more year left on his deal. No matter what, the Warriors should ink restricted free agent Brandon Rush to a long-term deal. Rush showed a lot of improvement last year and if he could add a bit more consistency to his game, he could be Golden State’s starting small forward for years to come.