The Warriors’ first order of business should be trying to move up in the draft, and the early rumbles suggest the possibility is certainly there.
This is the part where you dream of Cade Cunningham.
As much as the Warriors have stood firm on their desire to keep James Wiseman, if he gets them to the top of the draft, he will have provided his greatest value to the franchise. They should be willing to give up Wiseman, both lottery picks and even PR guru Raymond Ridder if it means getting Cunningham.
It would be hard to find a more perfect fit for the Warriors. As The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie wrote, “Cunningham is one of the best prospects to enter the NBA in the last decade: A high-level shot-maker who has no fear of the moment and excels in clutch situations. A 6-foot-8 point guard who makes high-level reads for his teammates and plays unselfishly. A complete player who competes on both ends of the floor.” Imagine that with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Cunningham is ideal because he fills a number of needs (more shooting, playmaker, secondary ball-handler, perimeter size) and he’s good enough to be a complementary piece immediately. But the Warriors present the perfect opportunity for him to groom at a steady pace, and he can transition to the front-man role as the current stars age.
Obviously, that is the most idealized view of Cunningham. But the consensus agrees he stacks up with the best prospects in the last decade. All the tools are there.
Still, it is a dream. It was given legs by ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Jonathan Givony, who discussed a hypothetical of Wiseman and the Warriors’ two picks for No. 1. Givony said it was something Detroit would consider because the Pistons were so high on Wiseman last year.
That’s enough for me to make the call if I’m GM Bob Myers. And if Detroit GM Troy Weaver doesn’t immediately hang up, then I’m throwing in every sweetener possible. But it would be so hard to imagine the Pistons not taking one of the most promising prospects in recent memory.
The reason they might consider it is another reason for the Warriors to trade up. Detroit only pulls the trigger if it concludes Jalen Green or Evan Mobley is nearly as good and they’d rather get one of them and another lottery pick as opposed to just Cunningham.
If this were true, the Warriors would probably have to get up to No. 4 to really entice the Pistons. Use No. 7 and 14 to get to No. 4, then use Wiseman and No. 4 to get the No. 1. Weaver would have to get two players he absolutely loves to come off the top pick in this long-awaited draft and it would be hard to do that with No. 7. But Wiseman and Green for Cunningham? If they love Wiseman, it’s a nice bounty.
But if the Warriors can get to No. 4, they could also just take Green or Jalen Suggs and be in a similar setup. Green and Suggs are both listed in the 6-4, 6-5 range, so not as long as the Warriors prefer. But the playmaking, the shooting potential, the potential to become a star as the vets age, that’s also there with the top Jalens.
After No. 4, the question marks get bigger, from the Warriors’ perspective.
For Jonathan Kuminga, Scottie Barnes, James Bouknight, Josh Giddey, Keon Johnson — the question becomes whether they can shoot it well enough. They are all superior athletes who can be a boon to the Warriors’ collection of wings. But Golden State needs more shooting and probably won’t move up for a guy who can’t shoot. If they like any of these guys, they could get one of them at No. 7 and feel pretty good.
For Davion Mitchell, Franz Wagner, Moses Moody — the question is upside and star potential. Either of them could be high-level role players. But it would be nice if they could get a player who can contribute now and can become a top-shelf player down the road. Will either of them overcome their respective weaknesses, or be so great at their strengths, to become that type of player? No. 7 might be a reach for these guys. One of them could even fall to No. 14.
All of this underscores why moving up is the move.
Getting the No. 1 is actually more expensive than No. 7 and 14 combined. Cunningham is slotted at just over $10 million, including the customary 20 percent on top). The Warriors’ two picks will come in at just over $9 million. (These totals do not include luxury tax.) The No. 4 pick is set to make about $7.3 million.
The move up isn’t about money, though. It’s about raising the talent level on the roster. The Warriors’ projected starting five is Curry, Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and James Wiseman. They’ve got Jordan Poole, Kevon Looney, Damion Lee and Juan Toscano-Anderson coming off the bench. And they still have Eric Paschall, who fell out of the rotation at the end of the year.
We know they’ll be adding a veteran with the mid-level and probably another on the veteran’s minimum — we know they want to keep Kent Bazemore. They also have the ability to sign-and-trade Oubre to get another veteran should they find a good deal.
So as the draft picks go, the question is who can come in and insert themselves into that? Who can supplant one of these incumbents? Who can walk in as a rookie and be a no-brainer to be on the second unit while competing for minutes with hungry veterans who earned a rotation spot like Lee and JTA? Who is good enough for Kerr to put in a small lineup at the end of games?
That’s what the Warriors need to get out of this draft. Maybe they can get one at No. 7. But the best chance to do so is to move up.
Matt Chapman with three home runs in the A’s first eight games on the nine-game road trip. Yes, that qualifies as a power surge.
It’s the second time this season he’s hit three home runs in an eight-game stretch. He did it back in April. That means in between, he hit four home runs in 55 games.
Chapman’s power coming back is a big deal considering how well the A’s did without it.
The Oakland community lost a legendary figure.
Delton Edwards, 58, the former longtime football coach at Oakland Tech, died Thursday at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland. He was Marshawn Lynch’s coach. Josh Johnson’s coach. And the coach for so many other young men who needed a role model and mentor. Coach D, as he was known, dedicated his life to the betterment of the young people in his community.
Among the outpouring, I was struck by this tribute written by one of his players, DiAndre Campbell, the former Washington Huskies receiver.
“From me being a scrawny eighth-grader coming up to Tech to lift with my brothers Dominique Campbell and Demetrius Campbell for summer lifting, to me calling you letting you know I signed with the 49ers, you believed in me. You wouldn’t let me and my ego get in the way of what you saw I could be destined for if I put the work in. … You had us training on Saturdays running the bleachers at Cal or going to East Oakland and running Maybelle Hill to get extra work in to get faster. (You) gave me and others countless rides home and built relationships with all of our parents — making them feel like with you, and the rest of the coaching staff, that we were all in good hands and that you wouldn’t let any of us be lost to the streets if you could help it. You stayed on my head about me not being comfortable and complacent but to ALWAYS PUT THE WORK IN! I elevated my work ethic because of you and the people you put around me. I fell in love with the process of hard work because you created a path for me to build confidence in myself and my athletic abilities knowing that I wasn’t the most athletic kid.”
A tough loss for the Bulldog community, for the local football community and for Oakland.
RIP Coach D.
Speaking of Oakland Tech, remember Ahmed Muhammad, the Stanford-bound scientist hooper valedictorian we’ve featured in this space? His non-profit company Kits Cubed aimed at inspiring the next generation of scientists, especially in underserved communities, received a $50,000 grant.
That brings the coffers of Kits Cubed to $100,000 — enough to fund Muhammad’s grand plan: give away 10,000 science kits for free to students in Oakland.
He’s no longer flying solo either. His team is now nearly 20 deep with college and high school students joining him in helping elementary students fall in love with STEM.
What began as a project during quarantine is now a movement.
Was playing some 21 last week with my cousins and my 14-year-old, who has caught a bit of the hoop bug, was playing with us. And by playing, I mean following me everywhere like we’re playing tag (she thinks it’s defense) and occasionally getting the ball and getting to take an uncontested shot. She only has a couple of months under her belt so we do more encouraging than anything.
But, we’re at a public park and things are opening. So, after we finish our game, a guy by himself on another court asks if he can hop in. I wanted to say no. But something feels wrong about saying no at a public park.
He was a decent enough hooper. Athletically, he was superior to all of us. He had to be about 6-foot-6 with a wingspan even longer than that. He could also jump well. But he was frail and seemed to care more about crossovers than anything else, and that lanky frame hampered his form. He was still a teenager, too. Seemed like a good kid.
So why did I want to elbow him in the sternum so badly? I’ll tell you why.
My daughter gets the ball and we let her take her time dribbling to the spot she feels comfortable shooting. It is clear she can’t dribble well. No one is playing defense on her. She is going through the progressions of the shooting fundamentals learned at camp. She really wants to make it this time, in front of all of us.
Then out of nowhere, this dude blocks her shot. He hustled from the other side of the court and Kelly Oubre’d her shot.
I was instantly hot. This son of a …
The rest of us looked at each other with that what-s he doing? expression. I didn’t say anything. I did my best to suppress my instant anger and I took a moment to think. I watched her reaction: she looked at me a bit confused and then started laughing. Her giggle dissipated to anger quickly. She tried to chase the ball but Mr. Oubre III over here went into a full sprint to get it.
I opted against telling her to step off the court and chalked it up as a basketball lesson. Courtesy of the hood.
But let’s just say I lived in the post after that, taking great pleasure in a slow, Larry Johnson-esque back down, driving my shoulder into his chest. I cared less about making the shot than I did about making him feel some old man strength. I started from the top and backed him all the way to the rim. I lost him with a smooth up-and-under tricked off the left-handed bunny that would’ve finished.
The next time I got the ball, my daughter jumped in front of me, as she always does. She loves playing defense on me. Her trying to take the ball is like a cat chasing its tail. Clearly she’s going to be a defender. But I told her, “Move out the way.” She thought I was joking, so I shot her a look. She moved. I went back to the post. He blocked my attempt at a quick hook but I got the rebound and put it back, adding a hip check in the process.
My daughter wouldn’t be the only one learning a lesson this day.
Eventually, I tired out. I felt good about exacting some level of revenge. It really was all good afterward. He was a nice kid. I perhaps overreacted. If she’s on the court, her shots are fair game like everyone else’s. If she’s not ready, she’s got to step aside, like we all had to at some point in our hoop lives.
On the drive home, I explained why I told her to move. I explained how I wanted to play a more physical brand of basketball and I couldn’t do that when she was guarding me. She didn’t understand why. I told her I didn’t think he should’ve been playing so hard on her, and he should’ve let her shoot. She’s only 14.
Her response: “He doesn’t know I’m just 14.”
She was right. She’s at least 5-foot-9 — a prime target of adultification. There is a level of pressure and expectation her height will bring her, including people just expecting her to be good at basketball on sight. It made me think of what my friend Alicia Smith has said she’s gone through.
We ended up having a good talk on the ride home. We ended with our handshake, as we do. Halfway through it, she snatched her hand back and grimaced. Alarmed, I asked what was wrong.
“Well, that guy, when he jumped at me while I was shooting, he did hit my hand. I didn’t say anything because we were playing and I could handle it. But my knuckle hurts.”
Son of a …
It feels like we’re watching Formula 1 history in the making. The resurrection of Red Bull. The end of Mercedes’ reign.
Too dramatic? Are my eyes betraying me? Tell me if so.
Max Verstappen’s win at the Styrian Grand Prix on Sunday was dominant. It left seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, winner of the last four F1 World Drivers’ Championships, shaking his head.
“Absolutely gave everything, pushed to the maximum,” Hamilton said in his post-race interview. “Unfortunately, just couldn’t answer to any of the lap times they put in. … Just impossible to match them. Really impressive speeds. I’m aware they’ve improved their car but it’s taken a pretty big leap.”
You just don’t see Hamilton out of answers like he seems to be already.
That’s four consecutive wins for Red Bull, three by Verstappen. Hamilton is now 18 points up behind Verstappen for the driver standings and Mercedes is 40 points behind Red Bull in the constructor standings. Without a doubt, Mercedes is still in position to win either. The fortunes in F1 can change quickly and still plenty of season remains.
But something is dramatically different, and it has been evident in Hamilton’s responses. He knows his car can do nothing with Red Bull on straightaways. Mercedes needs perfect strategy and execution to stay close, and they aren’t getting it from their garage. Red Bull seems to not only have closed the gap but have surpassed Mercedes. They’ve been coming for a couple of years now, but this is a sudden and dramatic overtake. Red Bull’s car is better. Its drivers are better. Its chemistry is better.
Mercedes seems shell-shocked right now after dominating so easily the last few years. It seems Red Bull’s surge of excellence has caught Mercedes off guard. Just as of May, after Hamilton won in Spain, it felt like Red Bull was better but Mercedes was still the class of F1. Four races later, it feels like Mercedes is in trouble. It took everything they had to keep Sergio Perez from overtaking Valtteri Bottas on the final lap for third place.
It’s hard not to expect Mercedes to respond in some fashion. Too much championship pedigree not to. Of course, that makes these developments even more compelling. At a minimum, this season is headed for a riveting finish. That, or we’re witnessing a changing of the guard.
(Top photo: C. Morgan Engel / NCAA Photos via Getty Images)