Here are the top Warriors to watch at Summer League

SAN FRANCISCO — The Warriors’ Summer League slate begins this weekend with the California Classic at Chase Center, an opportunity for the reigning champions to start digging for some gems to help defend their title.

The Warriors will field a roster with diverse experience levels in the California and Las Vegas portions of Summer League. Some played big playoff minutes and walked the parade route, some newly minted rookies, some guys looking for a chance, a few two-way options and a handful of international players.

There will be some notable absences due to injury. Ryan Rollins, an intriguing combo guard the Warriors traded up to draft in the second round, has a stress fracture in his foot. James Wiseman is not expected to play until the latter half of the Las Vegas portion.

Gary Payton II was a Summer League invitee last year and impressed enough to win the final roster spot, eventually becoming an irreplaceable part of the title team. Could the next Payton be in Summer League this year? Let’s take a look at some names to watch.

Quinndary Weatherspoon, guard

Klay Thompson raised the green flag on Weatherspoon last year. The G-Leaguer played impressive defense on Thompson in practice during the star’s ramp-up back from major injury. Weatherspoon signed a 10-day deal, then a two-way deal and was on the bench throughout the Warriors’ playoff run.

He has a shot at a roster spot, if not a two-way deal and a bigger role next year. Weatherspoon is a smart cutter and a great defender. In Summer League, watch how he develops his scoring. With an improved 3-point shot, a path to the roster could clear for him.

Lester Quiñones, guard

Golden State signed Quiñones, undrafted out of Memphis, to a two-way deal on draft night. Quiñones can shoot the ball: He shot 51% on 2-pointers and 37% from 3 for the Tigers. He’s a 6-foot-6 wing with a 6-foot-10 wingspan — the type of player the Warriors love.

Can Quiñones show he has some NBA skills, can he show them off at summer league? He plays with a special kind of flair, famous in Memphis for his air-guitar celebration after made shots and on-court fashion choices that he said got the crowd and media excited about his play. He’ll be fun to watch, with real potential to be a contributor this year.

Justinian Jessup, guard

The Warriors selected Jessup in the second round in 2020 and he’s spent the last two seasons playing for the Illawarra Hawks in Australia. The 24-year-old profiles as a strong 3-point shooter who can pass. But in his Summer League appearance in 2021, his sharp shooting wasn’t consistent enough to make up for his defensive lapses.

He hasn’t proven he can stick in the NBA, but this Summer League will be crucial in deciding how to proceed with Jessup’s future with the Warriors. Jessup and Seth Cooper, the Warriors’ coach for the California Classic, said his main focus will be monitoring his defensive improvements.

Selom Mawugbe, center

Wiseman’s unexpectedly long recovery from knee surgery leaves the Warriors in need of center depth. Kevon Looney will be a free agency priority, and some options are on the market if that fails. Mawugbe, a 6-foot-8 big, provides some depth and assurances at that position.

He’s a strong rebounder, a lob threat and could slide into an NBA role after spending the last two years with the Santa Cruz Warriors. If Wiseman’s recovery extends into the season, Mawugbe has a shot to make the team. His Summer League performance could be pivotal.

Gabriel Chachashvili, center

With some shifted focus to the center position to possibly bolster depth there, keep an eye out for Chachashvili. The 6-foot-10 Israeli center is known as one of the best switching defenders in the Israeli League. He’s a shorter backup center option who fits the Warriors’ system.

Patrick Baldwin Jr., wing 

Baldwin, the Warriors’ first-round pick this year, is bouncing back from an ankle injury and won’t play in the California Classic. But there’s a chance he could return for part of the Las Vegas portion of summer league, and he will have an opportunity to show the high IQ that Bob Myers and the Warriors saw pop on film.

Baldwin said on Wednesday he is excited to “prove he can win.” A five-star recruit out of high school in Milwaukee, Baldwin’s draft stock tumbled when he struggled at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Summer League will be an opportunity for Baldwin to flash some of the potential he holds from those high school days.

Contributed by local news sources

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