Luckily for Thompson, and the Warriors organization, he will only be out this upcoming season. Having fully recovered from his ACL tear during the 2019 NBA Finals on his left leg, Wojnarowski reported that he is expected to make a full recovery due to the type of he is dealing with.
News about Thompson’s injury initially broke when Stadium’s Shams Charania tweeted the injury occurred during a workout yesterday, just minutes before the 2020 NBA Draft was set to begin. While it seems as if the injury could have affected the draft strategy of the Warriors, it ultimately did not. They decided to draft former Memphis Grizzles center James Wiseman who according to their GM Bob Myers, was the #1 player on their board.
“We had him No. 1 on our board when all the dust settled. Certainly the Klay thing made you think for a second, but it was just a short amount of time and we decided we’re staying the course of what we always felt but you have to take pause and think about things for a second… We got the guy we wanted and excited like I said to get going and get him in our practice facility and get to work.”
Speaking further about Wiseman, Myers also detailed what he will need to learn to become a productive NBA player and a force on the defensive end of the floor.
“He’s big but NBA has got a lot of big guys in it. But I think he’s physically can do it but there’s going to be a mental growth. He’s going to have to learn the NBA game. It’s a style, he’s never played against these caliber players. We hope he can do all that but no 19-year-old I think figures it out right away. But I think he’s got a willingness and an effort he’s going to learn. Can’t learn from a better defender than Draymond Green who probably won’t be shy correcting him if he needs to.”
Who in Free Agency the Warriors Should Target as Thompson’s Replacement
Wiseman may fill in a great need at center for the Warriors yet, Thompson’s injury news is more severe and hard-hitting. It almost nixes any hope the Warriors had of competing for a championship this season. However, if former back to back MVP Steph Curry can return to his previous MVP winning form and the Warriors receive more production from former #1 overall pick and recent trade addition Andrew Wiggins, they may have a chance to still make noise in the western conference.
In addition to those needs, the Warriors will also have to find a replacement for Thompson this season. Looking into free agency, they have a number of players they could entice with a starting role on the team. Lakers guard Avery Bradley declined his player option of $5 million earlier this week and the Warriors have a mid-level exception of $6 million they could use to sign him. He would fit in well with the team being a solid wing defender and solid shooter who can provide stability and reliability on a nightly basis.
Former Milwaukee Bucks swingman Wesley Matthews and former Indiana Pacer Justin Holiday are also available and would fit well within the team. Similar to Bradley, both are good wing defenders who can shoot well consistently behind the three-point line. The one advantage they would have over Bradley is both are taller with Matthews being 6’5 and Holiday being 6’6.
Players via Trade the Warriors Should Target
Given they still have their $17.2 million trade exception from their 2019 Andre Iguodala trade, now is the best time to use it. Owner Joe Lacob has given Myers the “green light” to use the exception and they are running out of time to do so as it expires at the end of this month.
As they say, being at the right place at the right time works out for most and it could for any of the players available via trade that all may thrive in a more open offensive system such as the one Golden State runs.
Previously, I mentioned the possibility of the Warriors trading for either of the Houston Rocket role players Robert Covington or P.J. Tucker. On the heels of Russell Westbrook asking for a trade, and James Harden doing the same, it seemed best to nab one of them to fit seamlessly within the healthy Warriors roster. Now with the current reality of Covington being traded to Portland and Thompson’s injury, the Warriors should still make a call to see if guard Eric Gordon is available.
He, much like the other Rockets mentioned, was frustrated in his role last season and may be looking to venture to a new city. Using their trade exception, the Warriors could absorb Gordon’s contract and plug him into their starting lineup. While Gordon is no Thompson, he is one of the best available players who would take their game to another level given more freedom with a starting role. Defensively he’s not as good as Thompson however having Wiseman anchor the paint now provides more coverage in the case either he or Curry were to get beat to the basket.
Another player the Warriors could all about is J.J. Redick. Redick’s streak of consecutive years in the playoffs was broken last season with the New Orleans Pelicans in what could be summed up as a disappointing season. With star rookie Zion Williamson injuries and inability to play many minutes, it took a toll on the style of play the Pelicans had to consistently compete with. Being able to use the TPE for Redick would provide the Warriors with another shooter who, like Gordon, can fill it up from anywhere on the court when hot. He may not be able to create his own shot as well as Gordon but similar to Wiseman stepping up defensively, this is where the Warriors can lean more on Wiggins to become the type of player the team can build around in the future.
The Warriors certainly have a bevy of options to choose from as they look to replace Thompson’s production. With the clock ticking and the season a little over a month away, the time is now if they are to take advantage of all their available assets to bring in the best player they can.