This is my NBA Draft preview for the Warriors.
The Warriors should make a trade on draft night Thursday. Call it a blockbuster trade.
And they might, according to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com. “I’m hearing the Warriors are exploring the possibility of trading UP. Target Unknown.” Howard-Cooper tweeted Wednesday. Then he followed up with the following tweet: “I would have thought the GSWs would try to trade out of the first to save money or use a 1st-rounder to get someone to take David Lee.”
I don’t think the Warriors will trade Lee on draft night. That’s not what I have in mind.
The Warriors have to trade Lee eventually — he would cost them more than $49 million in salary, luxury taxes and penalties if he still were on the team next season. But this report suggests the Warriors won’t trade him on draft night. It’s highly unlikely another team would trade the Warriors a high draft pick for the expensive Lee.
Maybe the Warriors will trade Lee later this offseason, once some team loses out during free agency and desperately needs a starting power forward. Waiting to trade Lee would make sense for the Warriors.
Let’s forget Lee for now. If the Warriors succeed in trading up Thursday night, whom will they trade?
They could trade center Marreese Speights and the No. 30 pick to move up a few spots to the late 20s.
But if the Warriors want to trade into the top-10 for a potential franchise player, someone who can be a core member of the team for the next seven or eight years along with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, there’s only one player the Warriors can trade.
He’s the most valuable asset on the team other than the three players I just mentioned. Barnes is 23, healthy, a fantastic athlete who plays small forward and power forward, a starter for a championship team and an excellent 3-point shooter. And he’s still improving.
But how important is he really to the Warriors? What does he give them that Green and Andre Iguodala don’t? Those two are far better than Barnes at defense and passing.
Shooting is the only thing at which Barnes is better, but Barnes is a passive offensive player. He almost never dominates even though he almost always draws the easiest matchup on offense. The other team’s two best wing defenders typically guard Curry and Thompson.
Barnes averaged only 10.1 points per game last season. He can’t get to the rim off the dribble, nor can he drive and create easy shots for his teammates. Maybe one day he’ll learn to do those things. Right now he’s a catch-and-shoot offensive player.
That’s not what the Warriors hoped they were getting when they drafted Barnes with the seventh pick in 2012. The seventh pick is for franchise players, not passive spot-up shooters. Barnes was supposed to be the Warriors’ third scorer, the guy who could take over a game offensively if Curry and Thompson were off that night.
The Warriors still covet that third scorer, according to reports. And they can get a good one if they trade Barnes. Trading him probably would land the Warriors a top-10 draft pick, considering Barnes was a top-10 pick just three years ago and his stock is rising.
If they trade Barnes for a pick near No. 10, one player they could draft is 18-year-old shooting guard Devin Booker. He made 41.1 percent of his 3-point shots last season as a freshman at the University of Kentucky, he’s 6’6” and draft experts compare him to Thompson.
What team wouldn’t want two Klay Thompsons?
If the Warriors exchange Barnes for Booker, Iguodala can replace Barnes in the starting lineup and Booker can be the sixth-man, the guard who carries the scoring load for the second-team.
The Warriors didn’t really have a guard like that last season. They had Leandro Barbosa, who was decent off the bench, but probably won’t return next season. He’s a free agent. Booker would be an upgrade.
What if some team drafts Booker early and the Warriors can’t get him? They still can get another good shooter around the 10th pick — Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky.
Kaminsky made 41.6 percent of his 3-point shots last season, and he’s 7-foot-1. He could be Andrew Bogut’s backup, the scoring center who complements the defensive center. In other words, what Marreese Speights was last season. Kaminsky would be better than Speights.
Or Kaminsky could start at power forward, Green could start at small forward and Iguodala could come off the bench. That would work, too.
Those are wonderful options. Trading Barnes would be a wonderful move.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.