Warriors lose top-4 protected pick in 2024 draft

Tony Nguyen | Golden State Warriors
May 14, 2024

The Golden State Warriors could have kept their first-round pick this year if they’d moved up from No. 14 to No. 4. But like so many rebounds, Klay Thompson fadeaways, and Draymond Green fast-break passes this season, the balls did not bounce their way.

This year’s pick was originally traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in the summer of 2019, when the Warriors had to get rid of Andre Iguodala and his $16 million contract because the D’Angelo Russell sign-and-trade hard capped them. The move allowed the team to later trade for Andrew Wiggins and the draft pick that became Jonathan Kuminga. It also set off a long-running feud between Dillon Brook, Ja Morant and the rest of the Memphis “dynasty,” which so far has won a single playoff series.

Memphis held on to the pick for four years before sending it to the Boston Celtics in a three-team deal that sent Marcus Smart to the Grizzlies, Tyus Jones to the Washington Wizards, and Kristaps Porzingis to Boston. Three months later, the pick was sent to the Portland Trail Blazers along with Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams and a 2029 No. 1 pick for Jrue Holiday, days after the Milwaukee Bucks traded Holiday for Damian Lillard.

Now the top-4 protected pick has finished its wild journey and settled at No. 14. There was a 3.4% chance the pick ended up in the top 4, roughly the same odds as Jordan Poole playing full game without committing a turnover. In a way, this is good news for the Warriors.

Having a future first-round pick pending limits a team’s ability to make deals, because of the “Ted Stepien Rule” that forbids teams from dealing their first-round pick in consecutive years. It’s named after the former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who traded so many future first-rounders that the league banned the Cavs from making trades and put this rule in place.

Stepien had a history of racist comments, injured fans by tossing softballs off the Terminal Tower in Cleveland, and once invited a beat reporter to “sit around the pool and watch porno films.” In a quote that sums up his ownership tenure, he once admitted, “I may not be able to run a basketball team, but I can run a lingerie show.”

Teams have gotten around this restriction by trading pick swaps instead, something that ended disastrously when the Brooklyn Nets mortgaged their draft future to the Boston Celtics to get two aging veterans in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and is on its way to ending disastrously again after trading for James Harden. They’ve already sent this year’s No. 3 pick to the Houston Rockets and Houston controls their first-round picks through 2027. Will we see a “Sean Marks Rule” in a few years?

Now that this draft pick has conveyed, the Warriors are free to trade first-rounders in 2026 and 2028 without violating the Stepien Rule. They owe a 2030 first-rounder to the Washington Wizards in the Chris Paul-Jordan Poole deal which is protected for picks 1-20. If it falls out of the top 20, the pick turns into a second-rounder.

The 2024 draft is not considered the strongest crop of players, not that the Warriors seem inclined toward adding a young developmental player anyway, especially at the guaranteed money of a high first-rounder. SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell projects the No. 14 pick to be an 18-year-old French forward named Tinjane Salaun who is 6’9” with a 7’2” wingspan. The scouting report isn’t all that encouraging.

At the moment, Salaun still has a long way to go: his feel for the game is still developing to put it kindly, he struggles to score inside the arc, and his three-point shot runs cold more than hot.

Get excited, Blazers fans!

It’s probably better all around that the pick conveyed this season, since the pending nature of the selection would have hamstrung the team’s front office. The protection would have dropped to top-1 protection in 2025 and no protection at all in 2026, meaning the 2026 and 2027 firsts would be untradeable.

The Warriors will go into the 2024 draft with just one selection, at No. 52, a pick originally belonging to the Milwaukee Bucks and landing with the Warriors after a mind-numbing series of second-round pick swaps we won’t describe here. They did get Trayce Jackson-Davis late in last year’s draft, so it’s not a hopeless position, but it helped that TJD’s agent happens to be Mike Dunleavy Junior’s brother.

Does Dunleavy have deals in mind to use the new freedom to trade draft picks? Does James Dunleavy have any hyper-athletic clients who can run the floor and shoot threes? Does the NBA moving the second round of the draft to a separate day open up the Warriors options? Has Steve Kerr already decided to give this draft pick inconsistent and frustrating minutes, regardless of who they choose?

All these questions will be answered in June, while Warriors fans can officially retire their pipe dreams of adding a future legend like Matas Buzelis or Zaccarie Risacher. And Blazers fans can wonder why their return for Jrue Holiday wasn’t better than this.