Ahead of the Dubs first showdown with the Hornets, it’s fair to wonder if they made the right draft decision.
The Golden State Warriors are about to face the Charlotte Hornets for the first time this season, which means they’re about to get their first glimpse of the rookie who has the world buzzing: 19-year old point guard LaMelo Ball.
The Dubs won’t be bringing their rookie to the party, as James Wiseman — taken one slot ahead of Ball in the 2020 NBA Draft — will be missing his 11th straight game after spraining his wrist. So we won’t get to do the rookie judgement in earnest.
But people will still be asking the question: should the Warriors have taken Ball with the No. 2 pick in the draft?
Ball may have already upgraded from “star in the making” to just “star.” Still 18 months away from being able to order the numerous drinks that Charlotte’s finest establishments will surely name after him, the 6’6” playmaking wizard is averaging 14.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game, and shooting 35.4% from beyond the arc.
The book on Ball was always that he had the most star potential of any player in the draft. It was just a matter of how quickly he could actualize it, and how much value he could provide along the way.
It seems the answer to those questions is “quickly” and “a lot,” respectively.
The Warriors, however, entered the draft openly in search of a player who could help them maximize on their current title window. It wasn’t until the morning of the draft that Klay Thompson was diagnosed as having a torn Achilles, and even with that knowledge the Dubs brass had every intention of creating a championship team for the 2021-22 season.
So you could see why they preferred a hyper-athletic, 7’1” rim-running center to a point guard with an (at the time) broken jumper and an allergic reaction to playing defense. After all, the Warriors already have the greatest point guard in NBA history (debate a wall, Lakers fans) suiting up for them.
The reasoning makes a world of sense. But picking fit over talent is how the Memphis Grizzlies ended up with Hasheem Thabeet when Steph Curry and James Harden were on the board.
That’s not to compare Wiseman to Thabeet. The Warriors young center has already shown moments of brilliance, and you’ll be late to next week’s dentist appointment if you stop to listen to the Warriors coaches and players talk about Wiseman. We’re still early in the season, and while Ball looks like a future MVP candidate now, things could look a lot different in a year, two, five, or ten.
But as the Warriors have been forced to play small ball in Wiseman and Kevon Looney’s absences, it’s a reminder of how dangerous they can be when putting as many ball-handlers, playmakers, and shooters on the court as possible. It’s hard not to dream a little bit about Draymond Green pushing the rock up the court while Ball and Curry streak up the sides, or Ball pushing in transition next year with Curry and Thompson filling the wings.
The mind wanders, but then again, the next time Wiseman jams home a lob from two feet above the rim, the mind will probably feel right back at home.