After an injury-filled 2019-20 season, the Golden State Warriors went into the last offseason with a major asset in their pockets. The Dubs wound up with the second overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and knew they would be able to trade the selection or add a youngster to join their championship core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
General manager Bob Myers reportedly took calls about the pick, including from the only team slated to pick ahead of the Warriors at last year’s draft. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst says the Minnesota Timberwolves were trying to make a deal with Golden State that would have seen the Dubs acquire the No. 1 overall pick (h/t Drew Shiller of NBC Bay Area).
“To go back to draft night — the Wolves were very interested in trading out of this pick,” Windhorst said on the most recent episode of his Hoop Collective podcast. ”They were trying up until they were on the clock, from what I have been told, to get the Warriors interested in moving up.
“The Warriors have their draft pick this year depending on where it falls, and I think they wanted it back quite frankly. They were saber-rattling, according to the stories, that they were gonna take James Wiseman.
“The Warriors were really locked in on James Wiseman.”
The Timberwolves wound up taking Georgia guard Anthony Edwards No. 1 overall, and the Warriors got their guy in James Wiseman at No. 2. I caught up with Windhorst leading up to last year’s draft, and he told me Golden State was locked into taking Wiseman after a pre-draft workout with the big man in Miami.
“I think the people in the league think that if they hold the No. 2 pick, and if James Wiseman is there that they will take him. That’s what people in the league believe. I know that they they got some headlines because they became known that they were looking at Avdija, they were looking at him in Atlanta last week. But, before that they spent two days in Miami with Wiseman.”
Wiseman’s rookie year ended with a torn meniscus that will keep him out for the season. The 20-year-old played in 39 games and averaged 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 21.4 minutes. Although his stats look good for a rookie, the underlying numbers aren’t kind to Wiseman. Golden State’s net rating is 11.4 points better per 100 possessions with Wiseman on the bench. His 110.6 defensive rating is fourth-worst out of any Warrior who has played meaningful minutes, per NBA.com.
But Wiseman will improve with more experience. He only played in three college games before making the jump to the pros, and playing your first year in the league during a pandemic certainly didn’t help.
Myers wound up getting his guy without having to give up any future assets. Minnesota was likely trying to get back its 2021 top-three-protected pick that becomes unprotected in 2022. By keeping that asset, the Dubs will likely be able to add either one more youngster to the rotation or use the pick to try and make a move for another star-level player to join Curry, Thompson and Green.
Even if the Timberwolves went with Wiseman — which was unlikely given that they have Karl-Anthony Towns — the Warriors would have kept the pick and went another direction. Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball are having strong rookie campaigns, while Israeli forward Deni Avdija was also an intriguing option.
Myers was right to stay put at No. 2 and not give in to a desperate Minnesota squad. The Timberwolves currently have the third-best odds to win the 2021 NBA Draft Lottery but could worsen their chances for the No. 1 pick.
Minnesota has won five of its last eight games and has been climbing up the standings since returning to full health.