The Golden State Warriors have been enjoying their post-NBA Finals celebration over the past week, but the front office is already back in action as they gear up for this year’s NBA Draft on Thursday, June 23rd.
While the Warriors have traded a lot of draft picks under their current regime, they currently have their first-round pick, second-round pick, and the Raptors second-round pick in this year’s draft (acquired from the 76ers in the Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III trade back in February of 2020).
Armed with the 28th, 51st, and 57th overall selections, the Warriors are not incredibly well situated to add premium talent to their roster. However, they should have some added flexibility. With that said, given the team’s large payroll and subsequent luxury tax bill, reports have suggested the team is trying to trade out of the first round as a cost-saving measure.
Whether they stick at 28 or move down in the draft, here are 10 players who could be top targets on the Warriors’ draft board:
The Mock Draft favorite: Jake LaRavia (Wake Forest)
If you scour the internet for NBA mock drafts, it will not take long to find a mock projecting the Warriors to select Wake Forest forward Jake LaRavia with the 28th overall pick. It’s easy to see why. LaRavia spent the first two years of his college career at Indiana State before transferring to Wake Forest this year. LaRavia has been a contributor in each of those years while taking significant steps forward as well.
LaRavia has been an incredibly efficient scorer at all three levels, shooting 55.8% from two (61.6% this season), 37.1% from three, and 74.3% from the free-throw line over his collegiate career. At 6’9’’, he also has a surprisingly versatile game for someone his size. He averaged 6.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game this year. While not an exceptional athlete, LaRavia has the potential to defend players at the 2, 3, and 4 with his size and length.
The fit in Golden State is obvious, but I am skeptical LaRavia will last until the final five picks in the first round. One of the standouts from this year’s combine, LaRavia feels like a player who a contender will reach for in the 18-24 range.
Versatile wings: Dalen Terry (Arizona), Wendell Moore Jr. (Duke)
The Warriors may have added two wings in the lottery last season, but there’s no reason to believe they would not jump at the chance to add another talented wing this year. Both Dalen Terry and Wendell Moore Jr. will probably be off the board by the time the Warriors are on the clock, but either would be an exciting fit in Golden State.
Terry is a mediocre shooter (.477/.350/.680 in two college seasons), but stands out in almost every aspect of the game. Terry is an athletic 6’7’’ wing that excels defensively, particularly on the primer, and showed good passing ability for someone with his skillset. It’s very easy to see him slotting into an Andre Iguodala-type bench role down the line.
Moore took on a bigger role in each of his three seasons at Duke, improving in almost every statistical category each year. As a junior, he shot 54.4% from two, 41.3% from three, 80.5% from the free-throw line while averaging 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Moore is a more impressive shooter than Terry but draft experts are skeptical that he’s as good a shooter as his numbers suggest. A less exceptional athlete as well, Moore has less room for error defensively.
Experienced point guard: Andrew Nembhard (Gonzaga)
The Warriors should be prepared to lean on Jordan Poole even more next season as the team’s primary ballhandler behind Steph Curry, but the Dubs would love to have another stable ballhandler outside of Curry, Poole, and Draymond Green. Ideally, one that is a capable shooting threat but is more pass-first inclined.
Andrew Nembhard may lack upside, but he has been one of the most consistent players in college basketball over the past four years, serving as an effective starting point guard for Florida from 2018-2020 and Gonzaga over the past two seasons. He has all the tools to be a fantastic backup NBA point guard, although questions about his athleticism could hold him back. Nembhard averaged 10.0 points, 5.3 assists, and just 2.0 turnovers per game over his college career and took a big step forward as a shooter this season, setting a career high in three-point (38.3%) and free-throw (87.3%) percentage. He could be an immediate contributor and give the Warriors a potential initiator outside of Curry, Poole, and Green.
Developmental point guard: JD Davison (Alabama), Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee)
JD Davison (9th-ranked recruit in the 2021 high school class) and Kennedy Chandler (6th-ranked recruit in the 2021 high school class) were five-star recruits who underwhelmed in their lone collegiate seasons. Davison and Chandler could be intriguing options if the Warriors are interested in a guard with some high-end potential at the points in the draft when they are slated to pick.
Chandler had some moments as a microwave scorer, but as an undersized combo guard, (he measured 6’0.5’’ in shoes and 172.2 pounds at the combine), executives are likely concerned. With Jordan Poole already in Golden State, drafting Chandler would be more of a value play than anything else.
Davison, on the other hand, has the potential to complement Curry and Poole in a unique way. While Davison is similarly undersized (measured 6’2.5” in shoes and 191.8 pounds at the combine), he has an excellent motor, is one of the most impressive athletes in the class, and has a 6’6.5’’ wingspan.
Davison struggled to score in college, averaging just 8.5 points per game and shot just 30.1% from three, but he is a far better passer than Chandler and played with an intensity that helped him make a surprisingly strong rebounding and defensive impact despite his size.
Elite Rim-Protecting Center: Walker Kessler (Auburn), Christian Koloko (Arizona)
This will be framed as an indictment of James Wiseman, and perhaps the Warriors will save targeting a big man until Round 2 for that very reason. Still, the Dubs big man rotation was undermanned this season without Wiseman. It could be due for some serious reinforcements with Juan Toscano-Anderson, Otto Porter Jr., Nemanja Bjelica and Kevon Looney all entering free agency.
Walker Kessler is easily the most imposing rim protector in the class, averaging 4.6 blocks in just 25.6 minutes per game as a sophomore this year at Auburn. Kessler is a true seven-footer who measured at 7’1’’-256 with a 7’4’’ wingspan at the combine. It’s hard to envision him becoming more than a 15-minute per-game player in the NBA because he lacks the athleticism to be a great rim runner and shooting touch (career 57.7% free-throw percentage), but if the Warriors want to add a player that could make an immediate impact, Kessler could be an interesting target.
Christian Koloko was not as imposing defensively as Kessler, but he has a more well-rounded game that might give him a higher ceiling. Koloko was not a starter at Arizona until this year, but he was one of the most impactful players in the Pac-12 as a junior. Koloko has some space to add weight to his 7’0’’-221 frame, but he’s an above-average athlete with a 7’5.25’’ wingspan. Koloko has come a long way since his freshman year, improving his touch around the rim and going from a 35% free-throw percentage as a freshman to 73.5% this year. Still, Koloko can get pushed around a bit more than you’d expect for someone his size, and might be unable to make more of an impact than JaVale McGee.
My favorite target: Jaylin Williams (Arkansas)
There’s a part of me that would love to see the Warriors get a big rim protector or well-rounded pass-first point guard at the end of the first round. However, I don’t expect the Warriors to have any point guards with much upside available to them at this point in the draft. While I do like Kessler and Koloko quite a bit, I could see Golden State wanting to avoid drafting a player set for a similar role as James Wiseman, which leads me to Arkansas forward/center Jaylin Williams.
Williams will need to bulk up at the next level, measuring in at 6’10’’ (with shoes) and 236 pounds at the combine, but the Warriors are in a position to be patient with him as his body develops. Unlike Kessler and Koloko, Williams has a chance to be a more dynamic Kevon Looney (Williams measured as 3⁄4 of an inch taller and 14.6 pounds heavier than Looney did at his combine). While Looney may be re-signing with Golden State soon, it would make sense for the Dubs to begin preparing for life without Loon.
Williams earns consistent praise for a rare passing ability among college big men. Williams showed good court vision as an outlet passer, at the three-point line, high post, and even with his back to the basket on the low block. The Warriors have always valued having a big man who could find open cutters and shooters (e.g. Looney and Andrew Bogut), Williams has demonstrated the basketball IQ to do exactly that.
Defensively, Williams is not a dominant shot-blocker, but has the length (7’1’’ wingspan) to affect shots around the basket. His defensive acumen shows up in unique ways as well. He consistently lures guards into bad passes that helped him average 1.3 steals per game this season. He also was unparalleled in his ability to take charges, drawing a record-setting 54 charges in 37 games.
Williams is willing to shoot from beyond the arc, but the results leave room for concern (25.5% from three over his college career). His form, though, looks relatively smooth and given his decent free-throw percentage for a big man (73.1%) he might be able to be a viable stretch threat down the line. Although that’s likely only in high-end outcome scenarios.
Williams is far from the athlete that Koloko is. I’m bullish on Williams’ length and IQ to help him eventually be a switchable defender in the way Looney is today, but that’s undeniably the biggest question surrounding his draft stock. He was far from a dominant offensive or defensive force in college and there’s definitely a possibility that he’s unable to translate to the next level, but Williams has high-end intangibles, consistently improved in college, and was one of the youngest members of his high school class. Projected to be available by most big boards and mock drafts until the middle of the second round, Williams could be a surprising pick the Warriors reach for at the end of the first (a la Jordan Poole), or could still be their selection after working a trade down.
My favorite late-draft sleeper: Matteo Spagnolo (Italy)
I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Warriors add some cash with the 51st and 57th picks in the draft to move up in the second round or just trade out of the round entirely, but if they stand pat, it will likely be an uphill battle for any player they draft to make the roster. Perhaps they could go the route they did with Nico Mannion in 2020, when they targetted someone with a verbal agreement they would sign a two-way contract, but a draft-and-stash would also make a lot of sense.
Matteo Spagnolo is draft-eligible this year but has two years remaining on his current contract with Real Madrid. A 19-year-old point guard from, Spagnolo has an intriguing collection of skills as a 6’5’’ point guard who has flashed impressive shooting touch this season. Spagnolo is not a standout athlete, which could limit his potential if his shooting does not continue to improve, but he has the potential to be a quality NBA point guard down the line.