NBA draft lottery begins pivotal Golden State Warriors offseason

The most pivotal offseason of Bob Myers’ tenure as general manager will begin Thursday, when the Warriors will learn where they will pick in October’s NBA draft.

Over the last year, the Warriors withstood an NBA Finals loss, Kevin Durant’s departure, Klay Thompson’s torn ACL and Stephen Curry’s broken left hand, all contributing to a season in which they posted a league-worst 15-50 record, securing the best odds in Thursday’s draft lottery, which will air on ESPN at 5:30 p.m.

The Warriors will have a 14% chance to land the No. 1 pick, a 40.1% chance at a top-three pick and are the only team guaranteed a top-five pick.

For Myers and his front office staff, the pick is a rare opportunity to add a young talent who can immediately contribute to a team that hopes to vault back into contention, but could also become the future face of the franchise.

Despite the stakes, Myers isn’t as nervous for this pick as he was ahead of his first draft as the Warriors’ general manager eight years ago, when he had three picks in the top 35.

“That was overwhelming, just to have that many picks in the draft and the very first time sitting in the chair,” Myers said Monday. “I don’t feel that way (now). I’m more excited about this opportunity than anything.”

Those picks became Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green, all of whom played for the Warriors’ first championship under Myers in 2015 that started Golden State’s recent dynasty.

With Curry (32), Green (30) and Thompson (30) all on the other side of 30 years old, the Warriors believe that championship window is open for another three or four seasons.

Those three foundational players will return next season to a team that underwent an infusion of youth, as contributors like Andrew Wiggins, Eric Paschall and Marquese Chriss are each 25 or younger.

A second-round pick last June, Paschall emerged as a top performer for the Warriors in a down year, averaging 14 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Wiggins, the former No. 1 pick acquired in a February trade that sent D’Angelo Russell and others to Minnesota, will look to resuscitate his career next to Golden State’s All-Stars. Chriss turned a training camp invite to a multi-year deal after emerging as the starting center.

October’s pick will hope to crack Golden State’s rotation, but could face competition from experienced players acquired with a trade exception and in free agency. This top-five pick will face more barriers to playing time than many of his draft classmates, so Myers’ goal is to draft someone who can help right away, but won’t be limited to selecting a certain position of need.

“I don’t think you want to necessarily think too short term and sacrifice big upside,” Myers said. “If you see the guy has a lower ceiling and can help you for the next few years but not as much after that, you want to avoid that.”

Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, former Memphis center James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball of the National Basketball League’s Illawarra Hawks are considered this draft’s top prospects by most. All, at least theoretically, provide an immediate NBA skill (Edwards’ finishing ability, Ball’s passing and Wiseman’s rim protection) and franchise player-caliber upside, though not with significant flaws.

Others such as Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton, Dayton’s Obi Toppin and Auburn’s Isaac Okoro would likely play meaningful minutes right away, but may not have All-Star potential.

Since the NBA went on hiatus in mid-March, the Warriors have worked best they could to evaluate prospects despite limited information. While the Warriors’ scouting department has attended games of the top 15 to 20 players, they have not been able to interview them in person or host any for workouts at the team’s San Francisco facility.

While Myers places a priority on the use of analytics and film, he puts just as high a value in face-to-face meetings. Unfortunately for Myers, he may have to select a player who he has yet to meet in person.

“Which makes you a little uncomfortable, to be honest,” Myers said.

That fact only exacerbates the pressure associated with a top pick. The upcoming draft is often compared to the 2013 class, which did not have an immediately-apparent star. In that draft, reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was selected at No. 15 and two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert went No. 27 overall. With the No. 1 pick, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since 2017.

Bennett has become the poster child of a draft pick gone wrong. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns took Alex Len at No. 5 and have toiled near the bottom of the league for a decade.

“If you get the No. 1 pick wrong, people don’t forget that,” Myers said. “If you get the No. 5 pick wrong, people are more likely to move on. But you don’t do the job out of fear. Somebody in my position, you just have to do what you think is right. And I think anybody would want (the No. 1) pick.”

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