At the time of this writing, the 2019 NBA playoffs are underway, and the Oakland’s 2018 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors are very much in the mix for another championship (as of this writing, the Warriors beat the Portland Trail-Blazers 114-111 to go up 2-0 in the NBA Western Conference Finals).
At the same time, The 2019 NBA Draft Lottery presented a brief distraction from Golden State Warriors NBA Playoffs action. NBA Mock Drafts determining who will pick what player is always interesting, but this year it seemed particularly important given the presence of potential once-in-a-generation star Zion Williamson from Duke in the incoming rookie class.
We now know the results. The New Orleans Pelicans won the coveted top pick, with the Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, and Cleveland Cavaliers following, in that order. Most of the conversations now will revolve around which players these teams will be selecting and why. (Not to mention the possibility that Zion Williamson may return to Duke for his senior year, thereby avoiding playing for the Pelicans.)
But we’re looking at it from a San Francisco / Oakland Bay Area perspective, and instead asking the only question that really matters: Did this 2019 NBA Draft Lottery present any threats to the Warriors future?
The New Orleans Pelicans Will Improve One Way Or Another
Naturally, the narrative following The 2019 NBA Lottery is that New Orleans hit the jackpot. The Pelicans’ 2020 championship odds were immediately slashed following the announcement that they’d been awarded the top pick, providing the most exact measure, at this point, of just how much more threatening a team might become.
Now, reports have since surfaced that franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis, who spent much of the 2018-19 season openly desiring a trade, still wants out of New Orleans. But this won’t affect whether or not the Pelicans improve – just when they maximize their potential.
Reports that Williamson may not come to New Orleans aside for the moment, if the Pelicans enter next season with a “big three” of Jrue Holiday, Zion Williamson, and Anthony Davis, it could be one of the most dangerous teams in the West. If Davis is traded for young players and draft picks, the team will be more in “up-and-coming” territory. And if they improbably decide to trade Davis and the number one pick, all bets are off – but for what it’s worth, those are valuable enough assets to build an instant contender.
Update: According to Zion’s Stepdad, he’s excited to play for the Pelicans: “We’re excited,” Lee Anderson told the “Off the Bench” radio show on 104.5 ESPN Baton Rouge on Thursday. “We’re excited about that.” That means the Zion Williamson threat is real for the Warriors.
The Los Angeles Lakers Have A Chance To Matter
Right now, the Los Angeles Lakers are the most dysfunctional franchise in the NBA. It’s hard not to win with LeBron James, but thanks to poor management around him and a rare James injury, the Lakers pulled it off. In the process the Lakers managed to alienate their entire young core (by pretty much openly threatening to trade them all for Davis), and at the end of the season Lakers President Magic Johnson abruptly left the organization.
Uncertain management, an undoubtedly frustrated James, and said alienated young core are what’s left of the L.A. Lakers. However, now the Lakers also have the number four overall pick to add to that mix, as well as significant cap space. Between those assets, LA has an opportunity to reload in a hurry, one way or another.
For instance, it’s perfectly feasible for the team to trade its high pick and promising young talent for Davis and still have room to sign Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker; LA could also break up its trade assets in exchange for high-end role players and sign a Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris. Suffice it to say there are options – and many more than there were before the lottery.
The Los Angeles Clippers Should Be Monitored
We already knew this heading into the draft lottery, but now that the stage is set for trades to start happening, the Los Angeles Clippers should be watched closely. LA’s “other team” was almost shockingly competitive this season, and was even feisty in the first round of the playoffs, as Warriors fans will recall all too well. At the same time though, it’s a virtual certainty that this roster will change quite a bit before next season.
The L.A. Clippers are known to be targeting some major free agents (most notably Kawhi Leonard), but also have the assets to trade for a star player or two – possibly even Davis, if the Lakers and Knicks get the ball rolling but the Pelicans ultimately prefer the Clippers’ assets.
Memphis Grizzlies’ Mike Conley Is A Wildcard
One of the most interesting results of the draft lottery is that all of a sudden the Memphis Grizzlies have undeniable incentive to trade veteran point guard Mike Conley. The Grizzlies landed the second overall pick – far higher than was expected – and thus may be able to land a star. If they don’t trade the pick, it’s expected they’ll take one of two players. Ja Morant, a point guard out of Murray State, would be a direct replacement for Conley; RJ Barrett, a scoring small forward from Duke, would be a potential franchise player, and would still nudge the organization toward trading Conley in order to rebuild around Barrett’s timeline (as well as that of promising rookie Jaren Jackson Jr.).
One way or another, it looks like Mike Conley could be moved this summer. And if he goes to a team in the West – perhaps the Lakers, Mavericks, or Jazz (who are known to covet him) – he could turn that team into a contender.
All in all, Warriors fans should still be more concerned with internal matters. Free agency decisions by Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson will matter more to the team’s future than any of the above. But the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery did shake things up a bit, and could produce some fresh challenges in 2019-20.