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Warriors' Draft Moves, Durant Trade Rumor Show Dynasty's Only on Pause

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 21, 2019

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 30:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors smiles during Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 30, 2019 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors aren't scrambling for answers or wallowing in despair following the brutal end to their season. Though the path ahead is difficult, the Dubs appear ready to walk it.

As you'd expect from an organization that built an ultra-potent roster with enough flexibility to win a championship and then add Kevin Durant, the Warriors are pursuing all options, adding talent of different stripes and getting creative.

       

Making the Most of Durant

The first example of their plucky resourcefulness came with a report from ESPN's Brian Windhorst, who explained on ESPN's Get Up:

"One of the things that is being discussed right now is that the Golden State Warriors would offer Kevin Durant a five-year contract, $57 million extra than he could get with signing elsewhere, let him rehab and then work with him to be traded. Potentially to New York, potentially to somewhere else. It would be their way to sort of take care of him monetarily after what he just went through and also protect the franchise and get some assets."

There are layers upon layers of hypotheticals and contingencies in such a move, as the timing of a future Durant trade would impact the Warriors' options. According to cap expert Albert Nahmad, much would depend on whether the Warriors executed a sign-and-trade during the 2019-20 season or afterward:

Albert Nahmad @AlbertNahmad

Warriors pursuing a “delayed sign-and-trade” for Kevin Durant (signs for 5/$221M, is traded sometime after he becomes eligible on 1/15) would be tricky if trade happens in-season. Receiving team would likely need to salary-match (send out $30M+), GSW can’t exceed 15 players, etc.

That the Warriors are even considering paying Durant $221 million with the intent of trading him suggests they wouldn't let a superstar void created by his departure remain unfilled. A sign-and-trade like this is one of the only ways for Golden State to add significant salary from the outside. If it's going to lose Durant, it seems the franchise is uninterested in the savings his departure would produce.

The Warriors were going to be in tax hell whether they lost KD for nothing or slid another $30 million player into his spot on the roster. If they keep Klay Thompson on a new five-year, $191 million deal, they'll be in the tax anyway. What's another few hundred million when you're going to be printing money in the new Chase Center?

Who knows whether we'll see the Dubs pull off a move as rare as the high-profile sign-and-trade. The takeaway should be that they're not just willing to take the L if Durant intends to leave. They're leveraging their advantages (that fifth year and extra cash) to extract value however they can.

Golden State isn't going to lose a superstar and take a major step back without a fight. In an effort to stay highly competitive, it seems driven to add talent however possible. There's no resignation in a potential move like this one.

More like defiance.

       

Restocking the Cupboard

Thursday's draft offered further proof of the Warriors' resilient spirit.

They snagged Michigan guard Jordan Poole with their own pick at No. 28, adding a shooter with a feathery touch who, if you scrutinize his film, has fledgling skills as a primary ball-handler.

Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater

Two areas Jordan Poole appears to be able to help the Warriors: Secondary playmaking and spot up shooting, very necessary attributes with Klay Thompson out. Here's a quick cut up. https://t.co/KUOOlh70Gh

Golden State spent a season converting last year's No. 28 pick, Jacob Evans, from a wing into a point guard. Considering the dearth of pass-shoot-dribble threats that made the Warriors so vulnerable as their rotation thinned in the playoffs, it's not unreasonable to imagine they have designs on using Poole, a 37 percent shooter from deep in college, as a dual-threat guard on second units.

Poole could step in and address the Warriors' shortage of long-range shooting immediately, so he'll provide short-term help. But if he develops into more of a complete backcourt player (look at his handle and instincts; it's possible!), his long-term value as a pressure-release valve for Stephen Curry makes him even more intriguing.

In a deal that cost them more cash and second-rounders in 2021 and 2023, the Warriors then traded for Alen Smailagic, who the New Orleans Pelicans nominally drafted at No. 39. Golden State cleverly stashed the 18-year-old Serbian power forward on its G-League affiliate and tried to hide him from the rest of the NBA until he was draft-eligible. Smailagic is a project, but he's got major defensive potential, and his play in Santa Cruz included flashes of a feathery touch from the outside, a startling off-the-dribble game for a 6'10" big man and even some keen passing chops.

DraftExpressContent @DXContent

6-10, 215 lbs 18-year-old Alen Smailagic averaged 8.9 PPG + 4 RPG in 49 GP with the @GLeagueWarriors but showed enough promise on both ends of the court that the @Warriors moved up + selected him with the 39th pick in the 2019 #NBADraft https://t.co/2mIco0HF4j

Maybe he'll develop into a starting-caliber NBA big, and maybe he won't. But his presence in Santa Cruz—where he'll likely spend most of next year, as well—and the way the Warriors manipulated the G-League rules that prevented other teams from calling him up were masterful exploitations of a loophole.

One rival scout told the San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau: "It's really next-level thinking on their part, to be honest."

Even in the midst of trying to prolong a series of title runs, the Warriors were still playing all the angles.

Finally, at No. 41, the Dubs drafted Villanova forward Eric Paschall. See if the following profile sounds familiar: Paschall is an undersized but highly competitive and multi-skilled college star who had huge success but lacks the typically sexy tools that attract NBA teams at draft time.

Give up? Fine, we'll just let Paschall himself break the suspense for you:

DraftExpressContent @DXContent

‘Coaches have called me mini Draymond. I know I look up to him. He’s a great, great player…’ ~ #Villanova forward prospect Eric Paschall, who stands 6-7 and 254 pounds with a 6’11.75” wingspan at 22-years-old, has just been selected by the #GoldenState #Warriors with pick 41. https://t.co/PR1NZD82kw

Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Golden State paid $1.3 million and sent a 2024 second-rounder to the Atlanta Hawks for the selection that landed them Paschall. If he's three-quarters the player Draymond Green is, that'll be a steal.

Rookies are rarely helpful. But scan all three picks Golden State made, and you can see the short- and long-term plays.

Poole fills a need now and could be a difference-maker down the line. Smailagic is a walking testament to a no-stone-unturned approach; his sky-high ceiling is almost secondary. Paschall is a Draymond understudy, perhaps a player who eventually fills the Durant void as a starter (he's a much better shooter than Green) or allows Golden State to run some of the same Green-centric actions on the second unit.

       

Not Going Quietly

Although changes are ahead for the Warriors, the picks and the potential Durant sign-and-trade are the first signs there'll be no departure from the franchise's recent history of brilliant drafting (see: Curry, Thompson and Green) and opportunistic transacting.

More importantly, they show the Dubs aren't in the business of bowing out.

The Warriors were never just going to give in after Durant and Thompson suffered unfortunate injuries that jeopardized their dynasty. Even if it felt in the moment like all hope was lost, and even if, after some time had passed, the rough financial realities of the future set in, it's not as if Golden State was just going to fade into obscurity.

The Warriors towered over the league for a half-decade, which made it easy to forget that they built the monolith. They didn't just appear out of nowhere and dominate. They fashioned themselves, piece by piece, into what they became.

And they don't have to build the whole thing again—not with Curry around, and likely Thompson and Green, for the foreseeable future. All they have to do is spruce it up a little.

Thursday was a good start.

     

Stats courtesy of Basketball ReferenceNBA.com and Cleaning the Glass unless otherwise indicated. Salary information courtesy of Basketball Reference and Spotrac.

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