Golden State Warriors: Full Grades for the Dubs' 2012 NBA Draft
For the Golden State Warriors, the 2012 NBA Draft needed to be a productive night.
After all, they had sacrificed half of last season just to stay in this lottery.
Luckily, the franchise has had years of practice with high draft picks as last night's selection was their 12th appearance in the past 12 draft lotteries (two lottery picks in 2001, none in 2007).
And just as fortunate was the fact that the front office group that had built those lottery-bound rosters was replaced by one with an NBA legend (Jerry West) and a well-connected agent-turned-general-manager (Bob Myers).
This essentially marked the second draft for this front office, although Myers was assistant general manager last year to (now Director of College Scouting) Larry Riley. Last year's draft haul included the team's projected shooting guard (Klay Thompson) and two low-risk, high-reward projects (Jeremy Tyler and Charles Jenkins).
But after acquiring veteran Andrew Bogut at the trade deadline to pair with their own veteran big, David Lee, the Warriors (more specifically, co-owner Joe Lacob) declared their intentions to win now.
The franchise held four picks in last night's draft: four chances to continue making positive steps or four steps toward yet another lottery pick next season. So, how did Myers and company do?
Harrison Barnes, SF (Sophomore, North Carolina)
Draft position: Round 1, Pick 7
Measurements: 6'8", 228-lbs.
2011-12 numbers: 17.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 44.0% FG
When Barnes arrived at Chapel Hill, N.C., he brought along some historic expectations.
While he will not be remembered among college basketball's all-time greats, he did manage two productive seasons with the Tar Heels, highlighted by 21 games of 20-plus points.
He then dazzled at the NBA combine, showcasing group-bests with a 38-inch standing vertical jump and a 3.16-second three-quarter court sprint. And that fails to mention his tantalizing, Better Basketball DVD-quality shooting form.
Scouts have questioned his ability to create with his dribble, but he has demonstrated the ability to create space for his jumper.
In drafting Barnes, the Warriors managed to draft the best available player at their biggest position of need; Barnes presumably pushes incumbent small forward, Dorell Wright, out of the starting five or possibly out of the Bay Area altogether.
But what's more exciting about the pick is that Barnes was one of four potential superstars in this draft class (along with Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond). He's not the "can't miss" prospect that Davis is, but he has a higher upside than Beal and not nearly the risk level of Drummond.
Festus Ezeli, C (Senior, Vanderbilt)
Draft position: Round 1, Pick 30
Measurements: 6'11", 264-lbs.
2011-12 numbers: 10.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 53.9% FG
As Joe Lacob put it last night, "Bigger's always better."
And in this draft, they did not get a whole lot bigger than Ezeli.
The Nigerian native has more room to grow than the prototypical college senior. He was not a Basketball Without Borders product who came to the United States with hoop dreams. He actually came without every playing the game of basketball in hope of becoming a doctor.
He was about as rough as prospects come when he arrived at Vanderbilt, but his numbers show the effort that he put into becoming a better player. He averaged just 3.8 points and 3.2 rebounds as a sophomore, then posted 13.0 points and 6.3 rebounds during his junior season.
This season, he held his ground in three matchups with Davis' Kentucky Wildcats, averaging 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in those contests.
He went on to impress the Warriors in a workout with Tyler Zeller (the 17th pick). Ezeli did not just get the better or Zeller, Lacob said "he killed him".
Ezeli is already a nice addition to the front line defensively, where he can change shots at the rim and hold his ground against opposing bigs. His soft touch around the basket suggests that there might be some untapped offensive potential as well.
Draymond Green, SF/PF (Senior, Michigan State)
Draft position: Round 2, Pick 35
Measurements: 6'7", 236-lbs.
2011-12 numbers: 16.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 44.9% FG
But the Warriors gladly snatched up the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year (and Michigan State career rebound leader), more excited about the contributions of one of the draft's smartest players than worried about which position he'll actually play.
Green does not have the ideal athleticism to play small forward in the NBA, nor the ideal size to play at the power forward spot.
But he has gobs of intangibles.
He is yet another NBA-ready prospect for the Warriors, as his rebounding and passing abilities alone should earn him somewhere in the 15-to-20 minute range of playing time already next season.
He's also another high-character player to add in the franchise's never-ending quest to change the losing culture that has doomed so many Warrior teams.
His high motor and high basketball IQ will force Myers into some tough decisions with the glut of forwards potentially on next season's roster: Barnes, Wright, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, Dominic McGuire and Chris Wright.
Ognjen Kuzmic, C (22-Year-Old, International)
Draft position: Round 2, Pick 52
Measurements: 7'1", 231-lbs.
2011-12 numbers: 10.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 53.6% FG (Clinicas Rincon)
After finding three players (Thompson, Tyler, Jenkins) in last year's draft, the Warriors' brass were rightfully worried about adding four more rookies to their playoff-hopeful roster.
So they smartly invested this pick in a low-risk, high-potential big in the Bosnian Kuzmic.
The 22-year-old impressed scouts this season with his mobility and low-post game.
He's shown the ability to defend the post, although he needs to add strength. At times, he has been pushed around by physical centers.
He also plays primarily under the rim due to average athleticism, and has not yet developed a face-up game.
But, he has shown a strong work ethic and coaches can't teach his size and agility. And the Warriors can let his European clubs continue to work on his development, saving a spot on the organization's D-League roster.
He is at least two seasons away from his NBA debut as he signed a three-year contract before the start of the 2011-12 season.