Warriors Sleeper Prospects to Target in 2021 NBA Draft

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 15, 2021

Warriors Sleeper Prospects to Target in 2021 NBA Draft

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The 2021 NBA draft presents a crossroads for the Golden State Warriors.

    Turn one direction, and they could package their picks (Nos. 7 and 14) for established talent to help Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson chase another championship. Turn the other, and Golden State can supplement its young core with a pair of lottery prospects in a deep draft class.

    If the Warriors choose the latter, the following three sleeper prospects should be on the radar.

James Bouknight, SG, UConn

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    James Bouknight is a bucket.

    Against both set defenses and those scrambling in transition, he can get wherever he wants and finish his attacks with points or free throws. He is explosive and acrobatic around the rim, so even when bigs are in place behind the first line of defenders, he can still keep the scoreboard spinning.

    The Warriors are desperate for more non-Curry shot-creators. Despite getting a career-high—and league-leading—32.0 points per game out of the two-time MVP, Golden State finished just 20th in offensive efficiency (110.5 points per 100 possessions) and flatlined when its floor general took a breather (101.8 without Curry).

    Bouknight could perk up those non-Curry minutes in the short term, and if Bouknight fine-tunes his vision over time, he could work his way into a starting gig as a score-first point guard.

Josh Giddey, PG/SG, Adelaide 36ers

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    While NBA-ready isn't often a trait attached to an 18-year-old prospect, Josh Giddey could be the exception.

    The 6'8" playmaker is the son of professional hoopers, and it shows. He gets his teammates involved, consistently makes the right reads at the right times and understands how to use angles and speed changes to keep defenders off balance.

    The Warriors need a reliable ball-mover behind Curry. They thought they had one in Brad Wanamaker, but he never really fit and was traded away at the deadline. They ultimately settled on Jordan Poole as the backup point guard, but while he impressed down the stretch, he's more of a natural scorer than table-setter.

    Giddey's size, decision-making and vision should help him lead a second unit, and since he stays within himself, he could also find spot minutes alongside the Warriors' stars.

Keon Johnson, SG/SF, Tennessee

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Keon Johnson lacks polish to the point it could take him out of consideration for the Warriors if they're dead-set on finding an immediate impact prospect.

    But that kind of thinking might be shortsighted.

    For one, he can contribute next season as a hyper-athletic finisher and defender. His record-setting hops speak for themselves, and the highlight dunks and blocks he'll provide are instant energizers. Not to mention, if the Warriors move Andrew Wiggins in a blockbuster deal, Johnson could step in and scratch that same itch for explosiveness.

    Down the road, the right amount of developmental work could help him become a dynamic go-to scorer. His physical tools will always be elite, and if he can support them with better skills—he didn't play organized basketball full-time until high school, per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor—Johnson has a chance to be a foundational piece of the franchise's next chapter.