NBA Draft 2020: Building a big board for the Golden State Warriors

LaMelo Ball, (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
LaMelo Ball, (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images) /

The Golden State Warriors have options with the No. 2 pick.

In all likelihood, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft will be traded somewhere else. With a healthy Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson back on the court this season, the Golden State Warriors are looking to reignite the dynastic fires that ravaged the league countryside for half a decade.

An unprepared rookie from a weaker draft class is the incendiary equivalent of a Bang Snaps Popper compared to the methane approach of packaging the pick (and possibly Andrew Wiggins?) for legitimate wing help.

Even so, trades don’t always materialize, and in such a truncated offseason, there’s always the possibility the Warriors wind up keeping and using the pick instead. The 2020 class is low on franchise-altering talent, but there are several good prospects who could become valuable, reliable role players on competitive teams.

If, by some chance, Golden State is unable to trade its No. 2 pick for immediate help, here are five players who should be at the top of their Big Board.

Who should the Golden State Warriors target in this year’s NBA Draft?

1. LaMelo Ball, guard, Illawara Hawks, Big Board Rank: 1

Most draft pundits see LaMelo Ball as this year’s consensus top prospect, but if the Minnesota Timberwolves go in a different direction or trade the pick, there’s a chance the best passer and playmaker in the draft slips past No. 1. If that’s the case, the Warriors should seriously consider taking the 19-year-old who put up a 17-8-7 stat line in the NBL — even with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson already in the backcourt.

While Ball’s long-range shot is still a work in progress, you can never have too much playmaking or ball-handling. At 6-foot-7, Ball can create with nifty dimes most of the guards in this draft class can only dream about. Ball would free up the Splash Brothers off the ball more, which would be deadly for opposing defenses considering the range, shooting ability and elite basketball I.Q. at work here.

His defense on the ball is still worrisome, but he has the size and instincts to make up for it in time, especially playing alongside great defenders like Thompson and Draymond Green. If Ball doesn’t go first overall, Golden State has to strongly consider bolstering its I.Q. and playmaking with the best overall prospect in the draft.

2. James Wiseman, center, Memphis, Big Board Rank: 14

If Ball goes first or the Warriors aren’t crazy about his fit in a star-studded backcourt, James Wiseman seems to be the de facto pick at No. 2. The 19-year-old Memphis product posted 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game on 76.9 percent shooting for the Tigers, so raw production isn’t the problem. The problem is how heavily the emphasis is placed on the “raw” part.

At this stage, Wiseman is little more than a two-way rim-runner with considerable upside. On a Warriors team looking to re-establish itself as a dynasty right away this season, he’d play his role as a dangerous roller off screens and shot-blocker on the other end. But his awareness as a passer and decision-maker leave a lot to be desired, as does his discipline on the defensive end.

Even so, his 7-foot-1 frame, 7-foot-6 wingspan, high motor and efficiency at the rim could make him a perfect long-term fit in the Warriors’ system, especially if they can teach him to stop biting on pump fakes and read the floor better. The room for growth is immense; it just depends on whether you focus more on the distance to reaching his ceiling or how high up that ceiling is.

3. Anthony Edwards, guard, Georgia, Big Board Rank: 4

If Wiseman goes first or the Dubs aren’t completely sold on him at No. 2, another possibility is Anthony Edwards, one of the more volatile prospects in the class. At Georgia, Edwards displayed brilliance as a shot-maker while also struggling with his overall efficiency, shooting 40.2 percent from the floor and 29.4 percent from 3-point range.

He’s a bulldozer driving the lane and has no problem creating his own shot off the dribble, but he underwhelms as a playmaker and is unfocused far too often on the defensive end. The Warriors would help clean up some of that, and next to smart playmakers like Curry and Green, his off-ball cutting and ability to attack mismatches would shine through.

In the right system, Edwards has a better chance of reaching his potential as a high-level NBA scorer. But the question remains whether that’s the best fit for the Warriors at No. 2 if they keep this pick, given their need for 3-and-D wings and complementary playmaking.

4. Onyeka Okongwu, center, USC, Big Board Rank: 3

If the Warriors keep their gaze fixed on long-term upgrades for Kevon Looney, it’ll come down to Wiseman and Onyeka Okongwu. And in all honesty, Okungwu might wind up being the better fit as a versatile defender and excellent finisher with superior touch.

Averaging 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game on 61.6 percent shooting, the 19-year-old Trojan displayed more than a few flashes of dominance on both end. He’s a smart and hard-working player who does a little bit of everything, which makes him a natural fit on a team ready to contend like Golden State.

He’ll have to get stronger since he’s slightly undersized at 6-foot-9, but if he can do so, and if his perimeter shot develops to match his interior touch, he could very easily wind up being the best big man to come out of this draft class.

5. Deni Avdija, wing, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Big Board Rank: 8

As we’ve repeatedly emphasized, smart playmaking and crisp decision-making are staples of the Golden State Warriors. As a 6-foot-9 wing with the skills of a guard, Deni Avdija could be a natural fit in the Bay, even if the second overall pick might be a bit of a reach for him.

If the Warriors trade down a few spots, however, Avdija will shoot to the top of their draft board. While he won’t be the next Luka Doncic, Danilo Gallinari and Nicolas Batum have been common comparisons as intelligent playmaking wings from overseas.

Between his ability to read the game, his knack for finishing and his ball-handling, Avdija really just needs to shore up his efficiency with his shot. His stroke isn’t bad, but he didn’t shoot the ball well from 3-point range or the free-throw line in the Israeli Basketball Premier League. If he can’t shoot, his lack of lateral quickness and length on the defensive end will become doubly damning, which would be a problem for a Dubs squad that’s already rolling out one non-shooting, subpar defensive wing like Andrew Wiggins.

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