Warriors Rumors: Polarizing Guard Likely Losing Roster Spot to Rookie

Damion Lee

Getty Damion Lee celebrates during a Golden State Warriors game.

A draft-night trade for the Golden State Warriors could bring a big opportunity for a rookie guard but mean the end of the line for one of the team’s most polarizing players.

The Warriors traded up in the second round of Thursday’s NBA Draft, flipping their No. 51 overall pick and $2 million in cash considerations to the Atlanta Hawks to land Toledo guard Ryan Rollins at No. 44. Warriors general manager Bob Myers said they see Rollins as an immediate impact player, which is expected to push one veteran guard off the roster.

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Golden State’s Plans for Rollins

While the Warriors have used second-round picks on draft-and-stash prospects in past years, Myers told The Athletic’s Anthony Slater that they intend Rollins to be on the 15-man roster. While there would still be room for him to split time between Golden State and the team’s G League affiliate in Santa Cruz, some insiders believe it means veteran guard Damion Lee will not be on next year’s team.

Warriors reporter Brian Witt predicted that both Rollins and first-round pick Patrick Baldwin Jr. would be on the 15-man roster and that Lee would not.

The Rollins pick drew some praise for the Warriors, especially after taking a player in Baldwin who is seen as more of a project. Baldwin came into college as a top-10 recruit but struggled his freshman year, only appearing in 11 games.

Rollins, who is 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, drew praise from analyst Jay Bilas who called him a “sleeper” second-round pick.

“Size. Length. Handles it. And a terrific pick-and-roll scorer,” Bilas said. “A mid-range marksman that shoots 80 percent from the free throw line, rebounds his position. And he’s a really active defender. This is a terrific pick in the second round.”

Lee Could Maintain Foothold on His Roster Spot

Lee has become one of the most polarizing players on the Warriors’ roster, with many fans sounding off on his performances and questioning whether his familial connections — he is married to Steph Curry’s sister — are helping protect his spot. But the San Francisco Chronicle’s Connor Letourneau wrote in May that Lee is highly valued within the organization and could keep a spot going forward. He noted that both Lee and reserve big man Juan Toscano-Anderson bring value because they embrace their roles and come relatively cheap.

“There is also the fact that they have endeared themselves to the coaching staff as diligent role players,” Letourneau wrote. “If it’s between Toscano-Anderson and Lee or some relative no-names available on a minimum, I’d take Toscano-Anderson and Lee any day.”

Those choices may have expanded now with the acquisition of Rollins on Thursday, especially given the salary relief they could find from carrying a rookie over a veteran. The Warriors paid close to $176 million for their current roster and owed another $170 million in tax payments, giving them the most expensive roster in the NBA. They have already committed to spending in other areas, with guard Jordan Poole expected to get a rookie-scale extension.

Myers said that the team’s high salary will not be a factor in locking down Poole.

No, no,” Myers told Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill. “I mean, thankfully [I] work for an ownership group in Joe [Lacob] that has committed all kinds of resources to winning. And I know that because every time I asked him about roster and strategy, it’s always winning.”

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