It’s not accurate to say the Golden State Warriors have a full-fledged youth movement on their hands, but they have some bizarre cousin of it. While the Dubs three future Hall of Famers are well into the second half of their careers, and the average age of their six core players is above average, they have a good chance of starting the 2023-24 season with five players aged 21 or younger.
That could change: there could be a trade involving the four youngsters currently under contract — Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Patrick Baldwin Jr., and Ryan Rollins. And they might send off their upcoming first-round pick, or even use it on an “old” rookie.
But the point remains.
That many players that young is rare for an NBA team that is also intending on contending.
To wit: there were 44 players in the NBA last year aged 20 or younger. The Warriors had four of them, or 9.1%. If you remove two-way contracts and Josh Primo (for obvious reasons), only one team had as many players as young as the Warriors: the Houston Rockets, who were proudly not trying to win.
On the 16 playoff teams, there were 11 players age 20 or younger: one each for the Philadelphia 76ers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, and Denver Nuggets ... and four for the Warriors. For those curious, the seven non-Warriors on that list combined to play 88 minutes in the playoffs.
You get the point. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green may be nearing or even past the point where they can run for president, but the Warriors still have an astounding number of very young players, as presently constructed.
I’ll write more about Kuminga and Moody as the offseason goes on. I expect each to play large roles in 2023-24.
But today let’s talk about the two that have a harder path towards immediate rotation play: Baldwin and Rollins.
Both of these players have an uphill climb to make it into the rotation next year, but if you want reasons for it, here’s the case for each player.
Patrick Baldwin Jr.
The case for Baldwin is simple: he has the tools, and he’s a wildly intriguing player. He has the offensive game of a small forward and the shooting stroke of a two-guard — he shot 38.1% from deep as a rookie. Yet after his post-draft growth spurt, he seems to be standing a cool 6’10”.
Baldwin isn’t a super athlete, but he is extremely smooth ... and very long. We know that Steve Kerr wants young players to prove their game in practice before using them extensively in games, but Baldwin’s ability to shoot over the defense at a high clip might make him a prime candidate to be fast-tracked. Golden State’s offense does so much better when they can space the floor.
He also looked very comfortable in the system in his limited minutes as a rookie. He made good reads, and, while often being a little too three-ball reliant, showed a great ability to cut.
I feel pretty comfortable asserting that he could be a valuable player to the Warriors offense by opening night.
The bigger question is defense, where he has a long way to improve. His size and shooting means the Warriors can put him in most lineups, and pick and choose their defensive assignment for him. But he’ll have to take a leap on that end of the court if he wants to play.
After missing Summer League last year, Baldwin should be in Vegas this season, with a chance to show off some improvements. If he can carry them — and hopefully an additional 15-20 pounds of muscle — into training camp, watch out.
Rollins has a difficult path to the rotation, and it will probably require showing a lot in practice and G League games and forcing his way into the fold in the second half of the season.
Rollins only played 62 minutes this year before being shut down due to injury, and is still recovering from foot surgery. That surgery may keep him from playing in Summer League, which would be a further setback.
He has tools that could be interesting for the Warriors, primarily his speed and jump shot. Golden State will want to utilize those tools with Donte DiVincenzo almost surely gone, and that will only double in importance if Jordan Poole is traded.
But there’s one interesting thing working in Rollins’ favor: he’s a few months older than Kuminga and Baldwin, and only a month younger than Moody. In terms of NBA experience, he’s the baby of the group ... but he’s also nearly the oldest.
Age is a pretty important part of player development, and Rollins has a head start there.
Still, it will take a serious offseason and training camp for him to reach a point where he’s regularly contributing ... but don’t be surprised if the Warriors give him some small bursts of minutes early in the year to get a super-shooting lineup on the court.
Will the Warriors 2022 picks be part of the rotation this year?
Patrick Baldwin Jr. only
Ryan Rollins only