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Why young core gives Warriors hope for post-Big Three future

In Sports
April 19, 2024

Why young core gives Warriors hope for post-Big Three future originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – There is a lot of hand-wringing sweeping across Dub Nation as fans wait to see if the Big Three of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will remain intact or whether the Warriors will decide to break up the trio of future Hall of Famers.

Whether it happens this offseason, next year, or five years from now, the time is coming when that will happen for certain.

The widespread belief always has been when that day does come, the dynasty that produced four NBA championships and in many ways changed the way the game is played will be over forever.

Yet the fall from grace doesn’t look like it will be as dramatic and harsh as it once seemed.

One of the primary sub-plots to the 2023-24 NBA season was the rapid development of rookies Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis which aligned perfectly with the growth of former first-round picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.

While none of the four is even close to being on the same level as the championship troika of Curry, Thompson and Green, the four gave every indication that the very near future of the team has a chance to be a lot brighter than many maybe expected.

“I think it’s a great core that, if we stick together, we can do big things,” Kuminga told reporters earlier this week. “I’m really excited to see how it all comes out, because I’m very excited to just keep growing with those guys around me.

“Hopefully we can make it happen like Steph and Dray and Klay. I’m very excited. I’m looking forward to that.”

A legitimate argument could be made that the young guys on the roster figured in prominently to the Warriors turning their season around following a ragged start.

Podziemski, the 19th overall pick in the 2023 draft, was a season-long burst of energy every time he hit the court. He showed absolutely no fear defending veteran point guards who have been in the league for years or using his 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame inside to go up against some of the NBA’s elite big men for rebounds.

As he sat at his locker in the aftermath of Tuesday’s season-ending loss to the Sacramento Kings, Podziemski looked around and spoke in a firm but quiet tone, talking about his desire to be the NBA’s most improved player next season.

It won’t be easy because Podziemski tallied a respectable season stat line of 9.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists. The 21-year-old do-it-all rookie also led the entire league in charges drawn while serving most of his time as an understudy to the world’s greatest 3-point shooter and two-time NBA MVP.

Podz expects more from himself and Golden State’s other young players, which in turn should lighten the load on guys like Curry and Thompson, if he and the Warriors are able to reach terms on a contract extension.

“I think our young guys will get way better,” Podziemski said. “So when teams scout for us they’re not just trying to take away Steph and Klay, they have to worry about me, Jonathan, Moses, Trayce. I’m super excited. Us four young guys are kind of the future, however, way you want to look at that.”

Jackson-Davis, a second-round pick in the 2023 draft, was easily the Warriors’ most pleasant surprise of the season.

After being used sparingly off the bench for the first two months of his NBA career, Jackson-Davis worked and became a regular member of the starting rotation and evolved into the Warriors’ best rim defender by season’s end.

TJD’s emergence down the stretch freed up Green to play more at his natural position at the 4 after manning the center slot for much of the year.

“I think he can be a really, really good player,” fellow Warriors center Kevon Looney said. “His feel for the game, his athleticism, his touch around the rim (are) all things that you can’t just teach. I think he finished like 80 percent around the rim. That’s elite as a rookie. He’s only going to get better, he’s only going to get smarter, he’s only going to get stronger.

“I think he has a chance to be a really, really good player, have a long career. I see his potential and what he can do and I was just glad to see him out there doing it at a high level.”

Kuminga also was somewhat of a surprise after sputtering through his first two NBA seasons.

The No. 7 overall pick in 2021 broke out for career highs in scoring (16.1 points), rebounds (4.8), field goal percentage (42.9), minutes played (26.3) and games started (46), all while flashing a ferocious explosiveness whenever he decided to attack the rim.

Kuminga was the Warriors’ most consistent scorer during one stretch of the season. He strung together eight consecutive games with 20 or more points, put up 18 points or more in 31 total games and collected five double-doubles.

“I’m confident in the work that I’m going to put in this summer to come back and be that guy that they’re going to rely on sometimes,” Kuminga said. “I feel like I’m going to be ready for anything, any moment or anything that’s going to be there for me.”

Moody, another first-rounder who was selected seven picks after Kuminga, also took a significant step forward in his progression.

One of the Warriors’ top players on a bench that was very effective and productive, Moody provided the team with solid minutes nightly and had his best stretch of the season when Golden State won six straight and nine of ten in late March and early April.

Moody maintained his steadiness throughout the season despite not having a clearly defined role. He started nine games and came off the bench in 57 others. Moody logged 20 minutes or more in 25 games and had 11 others where he was on the court for fewer than nine minutes.

“The situation was what it was at times,” Moody said. “There were things I can’t control. But whenever I got the opportunity to play I feel like I played well the. I had to figure some things out through out the season that made me better and more consistent later on. But mentally I feel like this is the best that I’ve been so far and physically on the court.”

General manager Mike Dunleavy saw enough to be encouraged about the youth on Golden State’s roster.

“I think we’re excited about it, to have four young players that we think can really play,” Dunleavy said. “A little of it now is finding how it all works together and getting them the appropriate time and making sure that they can properly impact winning. But I feel a lot better about that group and just our overall direction of the team sitting here today than I did a year ago.”

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