The 2019-20 season was a lost one for the Golden State Warriors, but the Dubs can return to contention in 2021 should they get some wins in the offseason.
With four stalwarts locked in, Golden State's choices for auxiliary pieces are critical, and the team is faced with two such decisions: re-signing Dragan Bender and potentially trading draft capital for Aaron Gordon.
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green provide as excellent a foundation for a roster as any. Kevon Looney is a stabilizing big man. Marquese Chriss and Damion Lee are improved veterans. Rookies Jordan Poole, Alen Smailagic and, especially, Eric Paschall all ooze potential.
But the team's rotation players could use some spark and general manager Bob Myers will need to count on the draft lottery and budget signings to make that happen.
Myers' Dilemma: James Wiseman or...Aaron Gordon?
At the moment, the Warriors have a 14 percent chance at earning the top pick in this year's draft with similar rates for No. 2 through No. 4 and, at worst, a 47.9 percent chance to get the fifth pick overall. That gives them some highly coveted chips to gamble on a top prospect with or cash out for a proven player.
One such player could be Aaron Gordon, who is a chief candidate as the Orlando Magic have struggled to capitalize on his potential while "the Warriors like him a lot," according to NBC Sports' Monte Poole.
The 24-year-old is 6'8” with a versatile skill set and staggering mobility, making him an intriguing fit for Golden State's fast-paced offense and active defense. As Chriss proved in what was a career renaissance of a season, the Bay Area's system can easily maximize a player's speed and bounce.
But Andrew Bogut's impact is not forgotten in Golden State, making a prospect like the 7'1" James Wiseman incredibly intriguing. The 19-year-old's potential is through the roof as a gigantic, mobile big with calm confidence on both ends of the floor.
Should the Warriors have the chance to select Wiseman, they may keep their pick. But if he's off the board, they may elect to prioritize an immediate contributor like Gordon.
Banking on the Bender Reclamation Project
Dragan Bender's situation is strikingly similar to Chriss'. He began his career with high upside on the Phoenix Suns, looked to be on the way out of the league and then posted career-high scoring and rebounding averages when given a shot by Golden State in 2019-20.
But while Chriss has played 59 games for the Dubs, Bender has only played nine. Still, NBA writer Keith Smith noted "both sides remain interested” in another year for the 7'0" unicorn to rock the blue and yellow:
Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA
I wouldn't be surprised if the Golden State Warriors bring back Dragan Bender on a deal that has some guaranteed money for 2020-21. Both sides remain interested, if Bender can't catch on with a playoff team first. BC Bender was a 10 Day vs being waived he is playoff eligible.
This makes a lot of sense. Steve Kerr's offense adores one-through-five spacing and the Warriors are built on organizational toughness. Bender, who has had his career derailed by an inability to match the NBA's grit, boasts the skills to excel in the modern league but has just now shown glimpses to match its intensity.
Players like Green, Curry and Thompson all exude the energy needed to outplay your frame, making Golden State an excellent environment for a 22-year-old to learn and grow into his own.
Should Bender be willing to take on a team-friendly deal, this could be a major opportunity to quickly develop as a player in a system built for his shooting touch.