Should the Golden State Warriors Buy Their Way Into the 2013 Draft?


May 16, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Nerlens Noel is interviewed during the NBA Draft combine at Harrison Street Athletics Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors do not own the rights to any picks in the 2013 NBA Draft. For once, that probably isn’t a bad thing.

Until recently, my faith in Golden State’s draft management wavered somewhere between “drinking milk two days after the ‘best by’ date,” and “Anthony Randolph,” with “Anthony Randolph,” representing some semblance of optimism. This is the same team that promised big things out of Marco Belinelli, Todd Fuller, Mike Dunleavy and (famously) Adonal Foyle, so pardon me for not thinking Ekpe Udoh would move mountains.

Like most things that cut off their relationship with Don Nelson, the Warriors prospects have improved over the last four years. Golden State has done quite well in the draft over that time frame, picking up three of their five starters with first round picks. Stephen Curry (selected seventh overall in 2009) has blossomed into a bonafide superstar, Klay Thompson (selected 11th in 2011) is widely regarded as one of the finest shooters in the league and Harrison Barnes (selected seventh in 2012) will enter the 2013 season with more upside than almost any other member of his draft class. It’s an impressive haul, especially when you couple it with above average performances from the role players taken in the second round during that same period (Charles Jenkins, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green)

April 17, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Golden State Warriors small forward Richard Jefferson (44) dribbles around Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard Sasha Pavlovic (3) in the second half at the Rose Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

All six of the above players made meaningful contributions to Golden State’s 2013 playoff run in one way or another, which leads me to wonder whether it would be worth it for management to roll the dice by purchasing or acquiring the rights to a pick in the upcoming draft. After all, the Warriors’ new management doesn’t seem to have a problem finding talent in unlikely places, and given the option of having a high-upside player under a rookie contract or Richard Jefferson’s molasses legs come off the bench, they should opt for the former.

That’s probably wishful thinking. Jefferson’s $11 million contract isn’t going anywhere. Neither is Andris Biedrins’ $9 million monstrosity. And even if they could move them, it probably wouldn’t be worth it to trade David Lee or Andrew Bogut, given their production, albeit on opposite ends of the floor.

Some have speculated that the Warriors may try to buy their way into the 2013 draft through trade or cash considerations, something the San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami reported last week. But given Golden State’s heavier salary burden next year (assuming they bring back Jarrett Jack and/or Carl Landry, unlikely), spending cash for a late first-round or second-round pick doesn’t seem worth it.

They could also trade their way to a pick, but that would require giving up Curry, Thompson, Barnes or at the very least Draymond Green. Given that quartet’s relative youth and lack of a ‘sure thing’ athlete in this year’s draft class, the logic behind such a move would be murky at best.

Golden State’s best bet would be to stand pat and move into next year with a healthier, more polished core that has already led them to the playoffs. As deals become available over the course (and they will as Biedrins and Jefferson’s expiring contracts become assets), the Warriors will have better opportunities to make use of their trade chips.