With the 2012 NBA draft less than a week away, mock drafting has reached a fever pitch. Everyone has an opinion on what the Warriors will do with their four draft picks. But mostly, folks are busying themselves trying to fathom what the Warriors will do with their lottery selection. How will Golden State define its future this Thursday?
One way to figure that out is to take a look at the past. Specifically, let’s view this upcoming draft through the eyes of the Warriors’ former top executives. Analyzing how past Warriors’ GMs would use the No. 7 pick should give us some insight into what new GM Bob Myers should do with the selection this year.
And, since we’re talking about the Warriors, it should also give Myers (and us) a good idea of what he shouldn’t do.
We’ll start in 1995. Dave Twardzik was named Warriors GM on May 10 of that year, so he had roughly six weeks to figure out how to use the No. 1 overall selection.
Twardzik eventually decided on Maryland forward Joe Smith. In doing so, he passed up Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett—in that order.
In 1996, Twardzik selected NC State center Todd Fuller at No. 11 overall. So we know that Twardzik prized a 4.00 GPA over any semblance of NBA skill. Speaking of skill, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic and Steve Nash all went in the five picks after Fuller.
So, we know Twardzik liked his picks soft, smart and disappointing. We also know he wouldn’t select anyone with a Hall of Fame ceiling.
With the No. 7 pick in the 2012 NBA draft, Dave Twardzik selects Meyers Leonard.
In Leonard, Twardzik’s Warriors get a raw, unfocused center whose weaknesses include “strength,” according to ESPN. That doesn’t sound good. A perfect Twardzik player. Most importantly, it assures the Warriors won’t gamble on risky potential stars like Kentucky’s Terrence Jones or UConn’s Andre Drummond.
Al Attles, the next Warrior GM, only held the position on an interim basis. But he had the job long enough to preside over the 1997 draft.
That year, Attles selected Colgate center Adonal Foyle with the eighth pick. Tracy McGrady was still on the board at the time, so we know Attles was as poor a talent evaluator as his predecessor.
Foyle did go on to have a career that included over 1,000 blocked shots. Unfortunately, he’s better remembered for being the staunchest proponent of campaign finance reform the NBA has ever seen.
I don’t know of any political science majors in this year’s draft, so Attles is out of luck there. But North Carolina center John Henson blocks a lot of shots and doesn’t do much else. He’s the closest thing to Foyle in that regard.
So Henson’s the pick for Attles.
Garry St. Jean was next to take the position of Warriors GM. Hired July 12, 1997, the Saint held the job through six NBA drafts. I think this image sums him up nicely.
St. Jean had three selections in the top five, and five in the top 11 from 1997-2003. With those picks, he netted precisely zero All-Stars for the Warriors. Gilbert Arenas doesn’t count. He was an All-Star for the Wizards after the Warriors failed to re-sign him in 2003.
Drafts during St. Jean’s tenure were marked by swings and misses on wing players from big programs. In 1998, the Warriors took North Carolina’s Vince Carter with the fifth pick, but promptly traded him for his college teammate, Antawn Jamison.
In 2001, St. Jean had his best year. He selected Michigan State’s Jason Richardson fifth, Notre Dame’s Troy Murphy eleventh, and Arizona’s Gilbert Arenas in the second round. All proved to be solid players, but none were true difference-makers for the Warriors.
In 2003, the Warriors took Duke’s Mike Dunleavy No. 3 overall, passing on Amare Stoudemire, Caron Butler and Tayshaun Prince.
Who fits the bill for St. Jean’s selection in this year’s draft? We know the player must be from a college program with some serious tradition. We also know he can be pretty good, but certainly not a star.
Enter Harrison Barnes.
The North Carolina product is a perfect St. Jean pick. He comes from the biggest college program around. He’s fundamentally sound and highly skilled. But he’s passive and can’t create his own shot. He should be a very good NBA player, but not an All-Star, and not one capable of taking the Warriors to the next level.
Warriors legend Chris Mullin took the GM job from St. Jean in 2004 and ran the show through five drafts.
Mullin is probably best remembered for missing big on two lottery centers in Andris Biedrins (No. 11 overall in 2004) and Patrick O’Bryant (No. 9 overall in 2006). To be fair to Mullin, Biedrins was a solid player for three and a half seasons before he turned into an irredeemable head case.
Mullin also scored big in 2005, selecting Monta Ellis with the 10th pick in the second round. Of course, that only helped offset an awful selection of Arizona’s Ike Diogu at No. 8 overall. Andrew Bynum went to the Lakers at No. 9 that year.
In 2008, the Mullin again missed on Anthony Randolph at No. 14, but he can be forgiven for taking a risk on a low-character, high-ceiling athlete.
So, we know Mullin is prone to missing on lottery big men, but can find some talent in the second round.
I could see him taking UConn center Andre Drummond.
He’s an ideal mixture of the size Mullin always wanted and the character risks he showed he was willing to take (see: Anthony Randolph). Drummond has a higher ceiling than anyone Mullin selected as a center, but he’s also known for his woefully inconsistent effort. Not a perfect Mullin selection, but he’ll do.
Larry Riley, Don Nelson’s right-hand man (or lackey, depending on your perspective) during the “We Believe” years, took the gig after Mullin was run out of town in 2009. And by the way, you’re going to want to click on that last link—just in case you forgot the best dunk in the last five years.
Anyway, Riley is best known for drafting high-character shooters with college experience. Two of his three lottery picks also had NBA pedigrees from their fathers. Dell’s kid, Stephen Curry went to the Warriors at No. 7 in 2009. In 2011, Riley selected Klay Thompson, son of former Laker, Mychal Thompson.
In between, Riley took Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh sixth in 2010.
Of all the former Warriors GMs, it’s hardest to be critical of Riley when it comes to the draft. That could be because not enough time has passed to employ 20/20 hindsight. But, we can say that Riley drafts safe picks with limited upside. And outside of Udoh, we know Riley likes offensive-minded players.
I hate to say it, but Riley would reach for Duke’s Austin Rivers.
NBA dad? Check. Offensive gunner? Double check. And, like Curry and Thompson, Rivers won’t ever be confused for a defensive stopper. While it would be a big stretch to take Rivers—currently slotted somewhere around the 10th pick—he clearly fits the bill for Riley.
Bob Myers has only been the Warriors GM for two months, and his position has some major blunders in its legacy. But Myers has the benefit of learning from failed GMs' pasts.
It’s hard to know whom the Warriors latest GM will take, but my suggestion is Kentucky’s Terrence Jones.
At 6’10” and 250 pounds, he’s already got NBA size. He’s also extremely athletic, has a monstrous 7’2” wingspan and is a great passer. Most importantly, I don’t think any of the Warriors’ former GMs would ever have taken him.
For Myers, that’s a good place to start.