Promising Floor General, Former Warrior Suddenly Fighting Uphill Battle

Nico Mannion Warriors

Getty Golden State Warriors guard Nico Mannion drives to the hoop during a 2021 bout with the Sacramento Kings.

During Olympic play last summer and, more recently, the latest batch of FIBA World Cup qualifying games, Nico Mannion showed some serious skills for Italy. He was essentially the player the Golden State Warriors thought he could be when the team drafted him and signed him to a two-way pact in 2020.

Playing in back-to-back qualifiers against Iceland last month, Mannion averaged 19.5 points, four assists and one steal per contest while shooting 46.4% from the field and 42.6% from deep.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t had the same kind of impact for his Italian club, Virtus Bologna, which competes in Serie A and at the EuroCup level.

On the contrary, it has been a struggle for the baller ever since he signed with the team — with the Warriors’ blessing, no less — in August of last year. And the situation isn’t exactly improving.

An Epic Struggle

When Stephen Curry exploded with a 47-point night on his 34th birthday, March 14, it was a feelgood story for Dub Nation. On that very same night, Mannion turned 21 himself. To say that the youngster didn’t get to celebrate on the court quite as Steph did, though, would be an understatement.

Virtus took on its crosstown rival, Fortitudo, one night earlier and Mannion was limited to just 13 minutes of play off the bench. He did contribute nine points to the win, but that was his highest scoring total in a hot minute. And he followed it up with a three-point effort in limited action on Wednesday.

That’s just the kind of year it has been for the former McDonald’s All-American and All Pac-12 pick.

Mannion’s debut with Virtus was delayed significantly when he contracted a severe intestinal infection. The illness required hospitalization and caused him to lose nearly 20 pounds. From there, he dealt with back problems, an ankle injury and a bout with COVID-19.

Along the way, he’s struggled to get the minutes necessary to find his footing while splitting time with the likes of Milos Teodosic and Marco Belinelli. More recently, Virtus added veteran combo guard Daniel Hackett, which has further complicated the situation.

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The Potential Is Still There

Although his year in Italy hasn’t played out as expected, there’s no denying the potential that Mannion has when he’s actually right physically. Over a 10-game stretch around mid-season of his rookie campaign with the Warriors, he averaged 8.1 points, 3.3 assists and one steal per contest while making 44.4% of his threes.

Moreover, it’s worth remembering that, at one point, Mannion was considered a likely lottery pick. He had craftiness on the dribble and with the pass, pick-and-roll smarts, sneaky athleticism, and 41-inch max vert that made it easy to forget about his meager size.

He still has those things now.

Mannion may not be lighting it up currently, but if he can catch on with someone for summer league play and show that he’s fully back, he may warrant a second look from the Warriors.

Golden State already owes more than $170 million in payroll with just eight players currently under contract for next season. As such, the club will need to capitalize on minimum signings and two-way deals, which could open the door for their old point guard.


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