It’s no secret that Golden State Warriors small forward Andrew Wiggins’ availability for home games at the start of the regular season is up in the air. While Warriors players will not be allowed to play in home games at Chase Center without proof of the COVID-19 vaccine, Wiggins has given no public signals he will receive the shot.
Golden State seems outwardly confident that Wiggins will be eligible to play in all 82 games by the start of the season. However, the organization is obviously concerned and should be preparing for the possibility that he will not play in half of the team’s schedule.
The Warriors might not have much roster flexibility at this point in the offseason, but the front office has maintained the taxpayer mid-level exception. While that could be a valuable tool on the buyout market later this season, it could also be an avenue to solidify their wing depth now. If that’s the case, here are some players that could be attainable on the trade market and fit into Golden State’s MLE:
Veterans: Danuel House, Jake Layman
In a thin wing market, Danuel House looks like the easiest attainable fit for the Warriors. A solid contributor in Houston over the past three seasons, House has averaged 9.7 PPG and 3.9 RPG on .431/.373/.759 shooting while splitting time between starting and coming off the bench.
House’s defensive metrics tanked last season, but he was a well-rounded defender when Houston was playing competitive basketball. Even if Wiggins can slot into the Warriors’ starting lineup for all 82 games this season, House could justifiably be the team’s first wing off the bench over Porter and Igoudala.
The Rockets are clearly rebuilding, and House is on the books for just under $4 million in the final year of his contract. Given how Rockets ownership has recently prioritized cutting costs, it could be an easy opportunity to save some money and add a draft pick.
Jake Layman is entering the final season of a three-year deal he signed with the Timberwolves in 2019. Unfortunately, a severe foot injury hampered a promising start to his tenure in Minnesota. The subsequent acquisitions of wings like Gary Harris, Anthony Edwards, and Jaden McDaniels have buried him on the depth chart. Back before his injury, though, Layman flashed the ability to be a solid secondary piece.
Layman’s injury history and spottier track record make him a less clear upgrade than House but should also make it easier to get a deal done if the Warriors are interested. Layman isn’t likely to play any significant role in Minnesota this season, and they might be open to including some protections on a Warriors 2nd round pick.
Underperforming Former Top-10 Picks: Josh Jackson, Cam Reddish
Maybe the Warriors have their eye on helping another former Suns lottery pick recoup some of their previous stock. Josh Jackson was the fourth overall pick back in 2017, but the San Diego-native is already on his third team in four professional seasons. Jackson signed a two-year deal with the Pistons last offseason and was a significant, albeit inefficient, contributor in Detroit.
Jackson has developed into a solid defender and averaged 18.0 points per 36 minutes over his career but has done so on .418/.298/.676 shooting. The Warriors have had success with former top prospects who’ve struggled with offensive efficiency by giving them a simpler role in their offense. While Jackson played more than 1,500 minutes last season in Detroit, the Pistons don’t have any picks in the upcoming draft. Amidst a rebuild, it would seem to fit their timeline to move Jackson for a second-round pick and Gary Payton Jr.
Hawks small forward Cam Reddish missed most of last season with an Achilles’ injury and was somewhat left behind by Atlanta’s breakout second half of the season. He returned in time for the Eastern Conference Finals and flashed an impressive offensive efficiency but will likely start the season deep in the rotation for the first time in his career.
Reddish’s athleticism and 3-and-D potential made him a consensus lottery pick in 2019, but the same offensive inconsistencies that have plagued many of the players on this list have defined his early career as well. Reddish’s career 80.7% free-throw percentage exemplifies his potential as a shooter, but it’s yet to translate in the regular season, where he’s shot 37.8% from the field and 30.9% from three.
Hawks GM Travis Schlenk might be searching for a first-round pick back for Reddish. Still, if Golden State believes in his potential, he has two years remaining on his rookie contract before they could keep him under team control for at least an additional year through restricted free agency. The Warriors believe they’ll be a playoff team this season and have already added a young core of the future in James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody. If they could turn this year’s first-round pick into a young player like Reddish, it might be worth considering.
Stagnant Young Players: Josh Okogie, Kevin Knox
Layman seems far more available, but the trio of Beasley, Edwards, and McDaniels has also left Josh Okogie, Minnesota’s first-round pick in the 2018 draft, on the outside of the starting lineup heading into the final year of his rookie contract.
Okogie has stood out as a perimeter defender despite playing on consistently below-average defenses in Minnesota. If he develops any consistent offensive game, he has the potential to be an extremely impactful role player. However, Okogie’s significant offensive limitations have remained fairly steady over the first three seasons of his career.
Okogie is a career 27.3% shooter from behind the arc and has no go-to offensive move. Even from two-point range, the Georgia Tech alum is a below-average career 49.5% shooter. Still, he turned 23 last month. Given the Warriors' focus on offensive-minded players this offseason (Nemanja Bjelica, Otto Porter, etc.), a young player with a strong defensive foundation could be an intriguing project.
As the Knicks returned to the postseason for the first time since 2013 last year, former eighth overall pick Kevin Knox has fallen out of the team’s rotation. A bigger small forward, who might be at his best as a small-ball four, Knox has a pair of other former lottery picks (RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin) ahead of him at each spot.
Knox is in the last year of his rookie deal and almost assuredly won’t receive the nearly $8 million qualifying offer he’ll be eligible for next offseason. The Knicks have shown an interest in accumulating second-round through minor deals and, if they’re ready to move on from Knox, could be willing to part with the small forward for a minimal return. If the Warriors are willing to bet on their system maximizing Knox by limiting his mid-range opportunities, it could be an intriguing buy-low option.
It all comes down to the Warriors evaluations. If Wiggins will be vaccinated by opening day, there’s little pressure to make a move before the season starts. On the other hand, if he holds out, teams will use Golden State’s potentially desperate situation against them the longer it drags on. Obviously, it’s difficult to find cheap and quality NBA wings, especially at this point in the calendar. However, if the Warriors are eyeing some improved depth, there are some intriguing names to keep an eye on.