For the first time in a long time, the Warriors drafted a player whom NBA analysts believe immediately fits Don Nelson's style of basketball. That he was initially selected as bait for a bigger fish in Amar'e Stoudemire now seems irrelevant.
Nelson and GM Larry Riley have repeatedly assured us that Stephen Curry is staying in Oakland, where they believe he'll be a star for years to come.
So, let me get this straight—it's okay to get excited about Stephen Curry's future with the Golden State Warriors?
I'd honestly like to.
However, when I see how people are reacting to Curry I feel like Harvey Keitel as Winston Wolfe from Pulp Fiction. Overhearing Travolta's Vincent Vega and Samuel Jackson's Jules Winnfield express relief over their improving situation, Keitel famously utters the following:
(NOTE: THE LINK BELOW LEADS TO AN AUDIO QUOTE THAT IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR THE WORKPLACE OR CHILDREN)
Indeed, this situation is far from the point of celebration. While there is a good chance Warriors fans will look back at his draft as a key move in the franchise's growth, there's an equally good chance that things won't pan out.
Here are 10 things to Consider:
1) Star Power
The truth is that in most drafts, 2 or 3 players selected will become bona fide stars with 3+ appearances in all-star games. There will be 5-10 guys who become very consistent role players- guys who you wouldn't mind seeing your franchise issue a mid-level offer for after a couple of years. There will be 5-10 guys who have flashes of brilliance but never become consistent.
Finally, there will be 30-40 guys who are out of the league within five years.
In this respect, Curry is up against the same odds as the rest of the field. If your life depended on picking three guys from this draft that will make three or more all-star appearances in their career, who would you select?
2) Rookie minutes
Don Nelson has been coaching in the NBA for about 1,000 years. How many times has he drafted a player that he used extensively as a rookie? I remember one.
Chris Webber was Rookie of the Year for Nelson and the Warriors in 1995 before forcing his way out of town for—gasp—the Washington Bullets. There's a half-full side of the story here, though.
In return for Webber, the Warriors got Tom Gugliotta and several draft picks which became the rock-solid core of their NBA dynasty. Wait, no! The exact opposite of that happened.
There is no half-full side here...
3) Collegiate Competition
Curry performed phenominally at Davidson, often posting impressive numbers despite facing double-teams and exotic man-zone schemes. Years from now, players from Guilford, Lenoir-Rhyne, Winthorp, Samford, Elon, Furman, and Wofford will talk about the time an NBA lottery pick dropped 40 on them.
In fairness, Curry also put up great numbers in wins vs. West Virginia, NC State, and South Carolina as well as losses to Duke, Butler, and Sain Mary's. As an entire body of work, that schedule doesn't offer much in the way of NBA-caliber competition.
4) Curry's Identity as a Player
Stephen Curry can flat-out shoot. Very few professional basketball players have developed this highly-specific skill to the degree that Curry has. But what else can he do?
Curry seemed to be a willing distributor to his collegiate teammates. At Davidson. Against questionable competition. From the off-guard.
Will a summer in Vegas against fringe guys be enough to convince Nelson and Keith Smart that Curry can play the point vs. the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Chauncey Billups?
For that matter...
It will take a lot of work for Curry to prove he can play Nellie ball. Assuming he cracks the lineup and contributes this year, how will he fit when Nelson is gone?
The folks at Johnny Walker are counting down the days until Nelson passes Lenny Wilkins on the career NBA Coaching Wins list. If the Warriors hire a coach who would rather vacation in July than April (admittedly not a safe assumption based on owner Chris Cohen's track record), Curry's defensive skills may be depleted from lack of use—if they exist at all.
6) Monta and CJ's skill sets
Imagine Bill Walsh thinking in 1989, "I've got these two fantastic quarterbacks. Too bad this game offers absolutely no stratigic advantage to playing both at the same time.
Wait a minute—I've never been able to use a tight end effectively. Everyone knows it, and they exploit me all the time. That's it!
Instead of learning how to use my Tight End, I'll kick him off the field and spend every waking minute of my day inventing clever-but-ineffective schemes for my two quarterbacks."
Now substitute the following: "Bill Walsh" = "Don Nelson".
"1989" = "every moment from his first day as a coach until the present"
"fantastic" = "skilled, but incomplete".
"Quarterbacks" = "undersized 2-guards not fit to play or defend the point".
"Tight End" = "post player".
"waking" = "scotch-filled"
Okay, I'll lay off Nellie and the drinking now. Glass houses and what not...
7) Net points
There is a good chance that pairing Monta and Curry in the backcourt will create a dynamic that enhances both of their scoring to the tune of 50 ppg per night as a duo.
There's an even better chance that their ability to score together will be exceeded in magnitude by their inability to stop anyone.
8) Monta's fragile ego
Monta Ellis has made it clear that he only wants to be in Oakland if the Warriors anoint him leader of the team. Monta.
The same guy who sustained an injury that cost him over half of last season while violating his newly-signed $60,000,000 contract.
Nelson and Riley flew across country last month to assure him that whoever comes in via draft or trade will not threaten his position with the team. Anyone else see a problem here?
I don't believe in karma, but I firmly believe that people who take pride in deceiving others inevitably regret their decisions over a long enough time line.
The Warriors clearly had some kind of deal in place with the Suns before the draft. Whether they changed their minds after re-evaluating Curry or acted insincerely from the start, Nelson and Riley waited until they had made their selection to tell Kerr that the deal was off.
As a result, the Suns missed out on a chance to move ahead of the Warriors to get Curry themselves. Instead of getting the guy they wanted—the guy they thought they had—they're left with a star power forward who won't forget how willing they were to part with him when he hits free agency next year.
The next time the Warriors are looking to add some pieces or move contracts, the rest of the NBA will remember what they did to the Suns.
10) 20 Years Means Something
Every sports organization has its struggles. Between injuries, team chemistry, inscientific evaluations of talent, and financial constraints, teams should experience low points from time to time.
For the Warriors, the high points have been few and far between. Come to think of it, they really haven't been that high either. More than an occasional error in judgment or run of bad luck, the Warriors have systematically made poor decisions as an organization for over two decades.
If this young man becomes the living embodiment of the organization's change of direction, you won't find a happier person than me. In the mean time, I'll take the potential and projections for what they are: nothing.
Stephen Curry, welcome to the Bay Area. I can only imagine what people have told you to expect.
For now, we'll keep our pants on.