It feels strange not having the Golden State Warriors dominating the league. The Warriors are essentially the worst team in the NBA this season since Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have been out with injury. With only Draymond Green left to fight on his own, the Warriors have found themselves in the lottery. Of course, any team that loses their three best players will see a drop in productivity.
But a great franchise like the Golden State Warriors will always find a way to build themselves back up. Even if they lose a player like Kevin Durant in Free Agency, the Warriors can still add a third star to pair with Steph and Klay to replace Durant’s shooting as much as possible.
While it is impossible to replace KD entirely, because he affects the game on both ends and might be a top-two player in the game when healthy, the Warriors might have to look in the same conference for a third splash brother.
The Giannis Antetokounmpo Effect
Of course, the priority should be to attract Giannis Antetokounmpo to join forces with Steph and Klay. Giannis is most probably a two-time reigning MVP and the best player this season when you consider pure stats and impact. The Bucks have the best record in the league (56-17) with a 118.7 PPG average which is first among all teams. Giannis is averaging 29.5 PPG and 13.6 RPG and looks to be primed for a deep playoff run this year. There isn’t a team in the East that has a player like Giannis, so it is expected that they make an NBA Finals.
With so much competition in the West, the Bucks have an excellent shot to win it all. The Lakers probably have to deal with Portland and Houston in the first two rounds, while the Clippers have the likes of Utah and Denver. Then they will probably clash at some point before the Finals, making it a horror show in the Western Conference. If the Bucks stay focused and clear opponents handily before the Finals, they might win it all and Giannis might be a Finals MVP.
If that happens, it is likely Giannis stays. He has pledged his loyalty to Milwaukee before, and he might not want to “run away” to win an NBA title. Giannis wants to be the greatest basketball player to have ever lived, and winning a couple in Milwaukee would certainly put him on the right path.
The Warriors might not have a chance to get Giannis, so it is worth risking it and going after Ingram. The Warriors would have to change their game style with Antetokounmpo because he is a player who feasts inside. Giannis can’t shoot as Ingram can, so Ingram would essentially directly fit into the game plan and become a young KD.
A Young Kevin Durant
Luckily, there is an All-Star forward who is built exactly like Kevin Durant. Brandon Ingram is having a sensational season, leading a short-handed Pelicans squad all season long. Zion Williamson basically didn’t play, forcing Ingram to produce at his highest capacity. And he truly had a special season for New Orleans. Ingram put up 23.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 0.6 BPG on 46.3% shooting from the field. These are All-Star numbers and he made his first All-Star team for the Western Conference this season.
If it is possible to create as close as an identical version to KD, it is Brandon Ingram. He handles it well like KD, can shoot the rock (39.1% from three), and is a willing passer. Ingram is not a selfish player and he will be able to get good looks for Steph and Klay. Not to mention, he will get his own shots in rhythm because Steph and Klay attract so much attention. Ingram is a perfect system player and will be able to come close to what KD did for the Warriors.
Most importantly, Ingram is young. He is 22 years old and has already arrived as a star in the league. This is critical because the Warriors don’t want to be irrelevant once Steph gets older, as he is 32 years old and counting. Ingram can help the Warriors win now, and also be the building block for them in the future. He is a very safe option to go for, and the package the Warriors can offer is very good for New Orleans.
The Pelicans would likely ask for the first overall pick in the Draft and Andrew Wiggins who will start in place of Ingram. The first pick is important because New Orleans wants to make Zion Williamson the face of the franchise and focus their efforts on building him up to the superstar he is capable of being. They can also draft a player who can fit their system and style of play around Zion, so giving up Ingram might be worth it.