Ranking the Top 25 Players in Golden State Warriors' History
Of course, the consensus response to this is "yeah, it's about time." However, even considering the nearly-20-year period of sub-standardness that started in 1994 and ended a season ago, this response alone lacks perspective.
The Warriors' franchise owns three NBA titles—only four teams have won more—and possesses a lengthy list of immensely talented NBA players.
This is an attempt to celebrate that rich history.
In order to come up with a list of the top 25 Warriors of all time, I will be using seasons spent with the Warriors, statistical averages over those seasons and intangibles contributing to team success during a player's tenure as the three primary criteria.
The other criteria considered will be peak performance (individual seasons of greatness), isolated moments of greatness (such as a championship-winning shot) and the terms on which a player left the club (are they remembered fondly or poorly?).
Philadelphia Warriors' players will be considered, along with current Warriors' players.
As Golden State proceeds into what could be another era of greatness, this list will almost certainly change.
All stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com
Sarunas Marciulionis- The greatest sixth man in Warriors' history, Marciulionis' per-36 averages of 21.3 points and 2.1 steals made him an elite reserve during his four years in Oakland. His 52.8 FG percentage is the best ever for a Warriors' guard.
World B. Free- One more season with the Dubs, and Free would be on this list. He averaged 23.5 points and 5.5 rebounds during his two seasons with Golden State, and will forever be remembered as one of the most exciting, athletically gifted players in team history.
Stephen Jackson- The first victim of the "terms on which the player left" criteria. "Captain Jack" became an instant Warriors legend after coming to the team midway through the 2006-07 season and leading the team to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. After two more great seasons, he demanded a trade that set the franchise back for years.
Billy Owens- Had Owens not been acquired in the Mitch Richmond trade, the power forward would be more fondly remembered as one of the better all-around big men in Warriors' history. An intense competitor, Owens averaged 19.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals on 51.4 percent shooting during his two playoff appearances with the Dubs.
Chris Webber- Although he only played one season in Oakland—a season that ended with a tumultuous exit— Webber's 17.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.2 BPG and 55.2 FG percentage led Golden State to the playoffs. His 1993-94 season is still considered one of the best ever by an NBA rookie.
Joe Fulks- The original star of the Philadelphia Warriors won the scoring title and led the Warriors to the first-ever Basketball Association of America Championship in 1947. He is left off the list because his career took a sharp downturn once the NBA formed.
25. David Lee
David Lee almost didn't make the cut, but the 6'9" power forward had a little too much going for him in the end.
In three seasons with the Warriors, Lee has averaged 18.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists on 51 percent shooting. He also helped lead the 2012-13 club to the postseason, leading the league with 56 double-doubles and becoming the team's first all-star since 1997.
Lee can be viewed as a more productive Billy Owens or a less destructive Chris Webber. Either way, he beats both power forwards out for the last spot on this list.
24. Guy Rodgers
The first great Warriors point guard, Guy Rodgers played eight seasons with the club, averaging 12.8 points, 8.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds from 1958 through 1966.
Although steals were not counted at the time, Rodgers accumulated 30.4 defensive win shares over those eight seasons—a number that, while not entirely accurate, speaks to the strong perimeter defense that Rodgers played.
The reason he is not higher on this list and doesn't belong in the conversation for "greatest Warriors PG ever" is that his FG percentage of 37.8 and his FT percentage of 68.7 greatly limited himself and his team offensively.
Later on, you'll read about some Warriors point guards who were slightly better shooters.
23. Larry Smith
Younger Warriors fans who never saw Larry Smith's style of play got a chance to somewhat experience "Mr. Mean" last season in the form of Carl Landry.
Smith's averages of 8.5 points and 10.4 rebounds are not extraordinary, but when you notice that he got those points on 53.9 percent shooting and that 4.4 of those rebounds were offensive, you start to realize what type of player Smith was.
Throw in the fact that he spent nine seasons with the Warriors (1980-1989) and that his 10.1 PPG and 13.7 RPG carried the Warriors into Round 2 of the 1987 playoffs, and you have arguably the greatest dirty-work guy in team history.
22. Bernard King
The first Hall of Famer to appear on this list, Bernard King is only this low due to his short time with Golden State. The fact is that King's play during the 1980-81 and 1981-82 seasons was all he needed to establish himself as one of the all-time great Warriors.
Coming off an injury, the 24-year-old King averaged 21.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 1980-81, winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award. His 58.8 FG percentage was a career-best.
He followed up with 23.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.6 APG and 56.6 FG percentage the next year, earning an All-Star Game appearance and an all-NBA selection.
Many great scorers have played for Golden State, but the combination of efficiency and proficiency that King brought is unique to the team's modern era.
21. Robert Parish
The Boston Celtics teams of the 1980s were among the best in NBA history. However, if not for an ill-advised Warriors trade at the start of that decade, Larry Bird may not be considered the top-5 player he is now and three different teams may have won championships in 1981, 1984 and 1986.
That's because Golden State sent their star center Robert Parish and their 1st-round pick Kevin McHale to Boston for Rickey Brown and Joe Barry Carroll.
The tragedy of this trade is not the return; Carroll will appear later on this list. It's simply that Parish went on to become one of the all-time great interior presences, and that the Warriors should have seen it coming after what were a very strong four seasons in Oakland.
During his final two seasons with the Dubs, Parish averaged 17.1 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.2 blocks per game.
20. Antawn Jamison
One of the few bright spots on the early-2000's Warriors, Antawn Jamison was a dynamic offensive force.
The combo forward was able to score from outside with a deadly jump shot, on the drive and from the post as well, featuring a wide array of finesse moves.
While Jamison was sometimes plagued by inconsistency, he was truly an unstoppable force at times. Warriors fans will always remember him for his back-to-back 51-point games on Dec. 4 and Dec. 6 of 2000, the latter game being a classic overtime win in which Kobe Bryant and Jamison both went for 51.
Unfortunately, Jamison is also remembered as a player who was first acquired for the great Vince Carter in a regrettable draft-day swap and then traded five years later for Nick Van Exel in another incredibly ill-advised move.
19. Tom Gola
The 6'6" swingman could be called a poor man's Oscar Robertson, an incredibly poor man's Oscar Robertson or even a broke man's Oscar Robertson. Whatever level of diminishment you choose to apply to Gola's game is fair.
Having said that, Gola did rebound like few others of his stature could (10.1 RPG) and was also an excellent passer (5.0 APG was an absolutely elite number at the time) and defender (20.7 defensive win shares in six seasons with the Warriors). He also could score a little, averaging 13.6 points a night.
More importantly, Gola was a true winner. He helped the Warriors to the playoffs five times during his six years in Philadelphia and San Francisco, and was a leader of the 1956 championship team.
18. Jamaal Wilkes
During the 1974-75 season, Jamaal Wilkes won the Rookie of the Year Award and helped lead the Warriors to their first and currently only championship while playing in the Bay Area.
Known as a great shooter, winner and teammate, Wilkes helped the Warriors win at least one playoff series in all three of his seasons with Golden State.
He averaged 16.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals on 46.1 percent shooting with the Warriors. While others such as Stephen Jackson, World B. Free and Bernard King posted better numbers in similarly-short stints with the club, Wilkes' will to win and vital role on the 1975 championship team are what earn him a better spot on this list.
17. Latrell Sprewell
Latrell Sprewell started his career with the look of a future superstar, eventually leaving fans very disappointed.
By the end of his second season, "Spree" had made an All-Rookie team, an All-Star team, an All-NBA 1st team, an All-Defensive team and had led his team to the 1994 playoffs.
Sprewell continued to excel during his remaining four seasons in Oakland—he left the Warriors with averages of 20.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.7 steals with three All-Star appearances—but his career was tainted due to his proficiency for turnovers, bad shots and, most notably, violent behavior.
Had Sprewell's head been on straight, he'd be much, much higher—similar to the next guy on this list.
16. Monta Ellis
After three years in the league, it appeared as though Monta Ellis was destined to end his career as one of the top-10 players in Warriors history.
A 2nd-round pick drafted straight out of high school in 2005, Ellis won the NBA's Most Improved Player Award during his second season, helping Golden State make its first playoff appearance in 13 years. In year three, Ellis averaged 20.2 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting an absurd 53.1 percent from the field—best in the league for a guard.
Unfortunately, the combination of a moped-related ankle injury, the deterioration of the roster around him and a perceptible disinterest on the defensive end not only stunted Ellis' growth, but led to somewhat of a regression.
He will still be remembered as one of most gifted Warriors ever—his blazing speed, quickness and ability to finish ridiculous plays at the rim were second to none—and his averages of 19.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 steals on 46.9 percent shooting during his six seasons in Oakland paint an accurate picture of one of the all-time great Warriors shooting guards.
15. Jason Richardson
Looking at his raw numbers, Jason Richardson appears to be a similar and slightly inferior version of Ellis and Sprewell.
He averaged 18.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals on 43.3 percent shooting during his time with Warriors, which are solid yet unspectacular numbers.
However, where Sprewell and Ellis fell short, Richardson shined. He was, unlike Ellis, a committed defender and an intense competitor, doing whatever it took to help his team win. He was also, unlike Sprewell, a great teammate and still a fan favorite to this day.
Richardson will likely be most remembered as one of the all-time great dunkers. Not only would he electrify Oakland crowds with regularity, but he electrified the entire league with back-to-back dunk contest titles in 2002 and 2003—the latter performance being one of the greatest in dunk contest history.
14. Purvis Short
From 1978 to 1987, Purvis Short averaged 19.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals on 47.9 percent shooting from the field and 81.8 percent shooting from the line.
Those numbers are enough to get Short onto this list, considering his long tenure with the team and great relationship with the fans, but it was Short's exceptional four-year prime that earns him the No. 14 spot.
Between the 1982-83 and 1985-86 seasons, Short averaged 24.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals with a 47.4 FG percentage and a 82.4 FT percentage.
13. Joe Barry Carroll
Had Joe Barry Carroll not been one of the all-time great college players, one of the most hyped first-overall picks of all-time and acquired by Golden State at the price of Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, Warriors fans would have 100 percent fond memories of the 7'0" center.
After all, he did average 20.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.7 blocks on 48.8 percent shooting during his six seasons in Oakland, establishing himself as arguably the greatest two-way Warriors center after Wilt Chamberlain.
Of course, Carroll cannot be separated from his hype or the players he was traded for. Considering that, for all the numbers he put up, the Warriors only made the playoffs once with him in the middle.
Carroll must be remembered as both an exceptional player and an exceptional disappointment.
12. Jeff Mullins
By the time the Warriors won the 1975 NBA Championship, Jeff Mullins was no more than a role player. That doesn't mean that any player on that team deserved the title more than Mullins.
For the eight previous seasons, Mullins was, along with Nate Thurmond, the face of the Warriors. His 19.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 4.4 APG speak to the all-around type of player that Mullins was, as does his phenomenal 43.2 win shares during his five-year prime.
His body began to slow rapidly as he reached his early 30s, and without the addition of Rick Barry two years prior, the three-time all-star Mullins would have retired without a ring and been lower on this list.
He got his ring though, and his 10 years, eight playoff appearances, unselfishness and consistency make him fully deserving of his spot on this list.
11. Mitch Richmond
This is about the point where the players on this list stop being "Warriors' greats" and become "Warriors' legends".
Like several players to come before him on this list, Mitch Richmond was traded far too early in what went on to be an outstanding NBA career. Fortunately, unlike in the cases of Parish or Webber, Warriors fans got to experience Richmond at his best, and saw him produce excellent results for the team.
His individual numbers are outstanding—22.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.4 APG and 1.3 SPG on 48.6 shooting from the field and 84.0 percent from the line—but he is even better remembered as part of the "Run TMC" trio along with Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin.
Together, the trio tore up the league by running a fast-paced offense centered around a deadly transition game, superb shooting, excellent ball movement and teamwork. Twice in his three seasons, Richmond helped lead the Warriors into Round 2 of the playoffs.
10. Baron Davis
Baron Davis is yet another player who spent only three seasons with the Warriors.
His case is unique, however. For one, he was not drafted by Golden State and traded too soon—he spent what was the middle and prime of his career in Oakland. Secondly, Davis accomplished more between 2005 and 2008 than most players do in a career.
His numbers were astounding: 20.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 8.1 APG and 2.1 SPG. That barely begins to explain how great Davis was during that stretch, however. His strength, defensive ability and clutch shooting made him one of the top players in the NBA during that time.
He was also the unquestioned leader of the 2006-07 team that became the first ever No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in a seven-game series.
His 25.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.5 APG, 2.9 SPG and 51.3 FG percentage during those playoffs are enough to call it one of the greatest Warriors' playoff performances of all-time. Throw in his Round 2, Game 3 dunk over Andrei Kirilenko (widely considered the greatest dunk in postseason history), and Davis may just be No. 1 on that list.
9. Sleepy Floyd
Besides his four years in Oakland, Sleepy Floyd had a very average career. He averaged 12.8 points, 5.4 assists and 1.2 steals on 44.4 percent shooting.
During his time with the Warriors, he was one of the best point guards and most electrifying players in the NBA.
Floyd averaged 18.1 points, 7.0 assists and 1.7 steals on 47.3 percent shooting with Golden State, and turned those numbers up even higher to post back-to-back seasons with a PER above 20 in 1985-86 and 1986-87.
The only other Warriors' PG to ever have two seasons at that level is the next guy on this list.
What cements Floyd's spot in the top 10, however, is what he did in the 1987 playoffs. His averages of 21.4 points, 10.2 assists and 1.8 steals are one thing, but his 50.7 FG percentage, 46.4 3P percentage and 92.2 FT percentage are hard to fathom.
After carrying Golden State into Round 2, Floyd set a still-NBA record in Game 4 with a 29-point fourth quarter against the LA Lakers.
Upon further review, Baron Davis is still No. 2 on that all-time great playoff performances list.
8. Stephen Curry
If Stephen Curry does not crack the top five of this list when his Warriors' career is over, it will be a sizable disappointment.
For now, Curry is nothing but a massive success.
Coming out of college in 2009, Curry was known to be a very good shooter and scorer. But had teams expected him to become one of the top-five point guards in the NBA by his fourth season, one of the league's most unstoppable scorers and arguably the greatest shooter of all-time, odds are that he would have gone higher than No. 7 in the draft.
Curry has averaged 19.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.7 steals during his four-year career, but his shooting percentages—46.5 FG, 44.6 3P and 90.1 FT—set him apart from the guys with comparable per-game numbers who have already been listed.
That, and the fact that he owns the all-time NBA record for three's made in a single season (272) and carried the Warriors to a playoff series win in 2013 with Davis/Floyd-like domination.
7. Tim Hardaway
Although the past three players listed have all run the point, naming the best PG in Warriors' history is really not that hard.
During the first five years of his career, Tim Hardaway averaged 20.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 9.6 assists and 2.0 steals with a 45.8 FG percentage. He made one All-Rookie team, three All-Star teams, two All-NBA teams and was, after John Stockton, the premier PG in the league.
His playoff numbers were even further off the charts: Hardaway had 25.0 PPG, 10.0 APG and 3.2 SPG during his two playoff runs with the Dubs.
The "T" in Run TMC, Hardaway is remembered as the greatest fast-break starter, passer and ball-handler in team history. Curry may overtake his spot in a couple years, but Hardaway is clearly No. 1 for now.
6. Neil Johnston
A look at Neil Johnston's numbers does not tell you how dominant a player he was.
It's not that you may think 22.3 PPG, 12.7 RPG and 44.7 percent shooting is a bad five-year stretch, but you also wouldn't know that, the 1950's, these numbers were good enough to net Johnston three scoring titles, a rebounding title and three FG percentage titles.
Think about that for a minute. Imagine that the league's leading scorer also had the highest field goal percentage.
Sure, it's been done before, but the only guys to do it who are not waiting to be revealed later on this list are Shaquille O'Neal and Bob McAdoo.
Now, imagine that player also being the league's best rebounder.
It's no wonder why Johnston, in only eight NBA seasons, was a six-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA first-team selection and led the Warriors to the 1956 NBA title.
5. Nate Thurmond
Blocked shots were not kept as an official statistic until Nate Thurmond's final season with the Warriors, when he averaged 2.9 swats.
Considering that the 32-year-old Thurmond had the worst season of his career in just about every other category that season, it's safe to assume that Big Nate was rejecting something closer to four shots a night during his prime.
After all, Thurmond did make five All-Defensive teams and eight All-Star teams during his 11 seasons in San Francisco and Oakland, and that wasn't exclusively because he was gobbling up 16.9 RPG.
Thurmond's 1967-68 season stands out as one of the greatest years in NBA history. He averaged 20.5 points and 22 rebounds. The only other player to average 20 points and 20 rebounds in a season is also one of the two other players to do what Neil Johnston did.
The suspense must be killing you.
4. Paul Arizin
Remember that thing about two of the four guys besides Johnston to ever lead the league in scoring and shooting percentage waiting patiently to be revealed?
Here's one of them.
Paul Arizin only won two scoring titles, one FG percentage title and no rebounding titles. Why, then, is he ahead of Johnston?
If that image of a player leading the league in scoring and percentage is still fresh in your head, try and estimate how tall your imagined player is. Let me guess, he's about 7'0" and gets his points in the post, right?
Now take that player, shrink him down to 6'4", and you have Arizin; a guy who scored more and shot a better percentage than anyone in the league by relying on his jump shot.
Now take your image of this small stud and imagine him grabbing 11.3 rebounds per game. Such was the 1951-52 season for Arizin, which should be considered amongst the absolute greatest years in NBA history.
During his 10-year career, playing exclusively in Philadelphia, Arizin averaged 22.8 points and 8.6 rebounds, won a championship and made the All-Star Team every single season of his career.
3. Chris Mullin
Chris Mullin made the 1991-92 All-NBA first team.
While that may not sound like the most incredible of accomplishments, this was in the heart of the most competitive, star-studded era in NBA history; an era filled with Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, James Worthy and Dominique Wilkens—to truly just name a few.
Mullin somehow never received the same type of fame and recognition of these players, but he was every bit the superstar that they were.
During a five-year period, the Warriors' small forward averaged 25.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.7 blocks on 52.3 percent FG shooting and 87.1 percent FT shooting.
Besides Jordan, Stockton and Robinson, there wasn't a better all-around player and leader in the NBA during that time.
Mullin led the Warriors to five playoff appearances, both with his "Run TMC" mates and without them. After 12 seasons in Oakland, Mullin was traded.
No one has ever appeared in more games wearing a Warriors jersey.
2. Rick Barry
The only Warriors player to ever win an NBA Finals MVP, the only thing better than Rick Barry was Rick Barry in the clutch.
The 25.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 5.1 APG, 2.3 SPG and 91.0 FT percentage he averaged during his eight seasons with the Warriors were nice, but the 28.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 6.1 APG, 2.9 SPG and 91.8 FT percentage he averaged during the playoffs en route to the 1975 championship were nicer.
Barry was an All-Star in each of the eight seasons he played for the Warriors and an All-NBA player in six of them.
Had he not spent his prime four years (age 24 to 27) in the ABA—and as a result playing six of his eight seasons with the Warriors on a bad knee—there's no telling what Barry would have accomplished in Oakland.
As it were, he'll have to settle for being one of the top 15 or 20 players in the history of the league, and No. 2 in the history of the Warriors.
1. Wilt Chamberlain
By now you know about as much about Wilt Chamberlain as you do anyone else on this list.
If you didn't figure it out right away, he's that other guy to lead the league in scoring and FG percentage and is also that one other player to average 20 points and 20 rebounds for a season.
Of course, these ultra-impressive stats still come off as gimmicky and trivial when looking at Chamberlain's career.
In each of the five full seasons he spent with the Warriors (and his sixth season in which he was traded), Chamberlain won the NBA scoring title. He won the rebounding title in four of those seasons and led the league in shooting percentage in three of them.
"Wilt the Stilt" didn't only average 20 and 20 every season he played for the Warriors, he averaged 41.7 points and 25.3 rebounds.
His PER with the Dubs was 30.6. He posted 104.9 win shares during those five seasons.
He also scored 100 points in a game once, but even that hardly seems worth mentioning.