Golden State Warriors Still Making Rookie Mistakes

Ray YockeContributor IJune 25, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 03:  Jason Richardson #23 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates after hitting a three pointer against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2007 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2007 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Between 1988 and 1993, the Golden State Warriors drafted a future All-Star in the first round every year.

Chris Cohan took over as owner in 1994, and the team's drafting has suffered considerably, resulting in a volume approach to losing.

With the NBA draft mere hours away, here’s a look back at the Warriors’ first-round draft history under Cohan, ranked from most successful to largest trainwreck:

1. Jason Richardson (fifth pick, 2001) – Only in Golden State could the top draft pick of the past 15 years be someone who made the playoffs exactly one time.

Such is life for the Warriors, who actually managed to do everything right with this pick. Richardson had everything you look for in a draft pick: he won an NCAA title with a big-time program, could jump out of the gym, and gave max effort every game.

For once, the Warriors were faced with a simple draft-day decision, and managed to avoid screwing it up. Around these parts, that qualifies as an unmitigated success.

2. Antawn Jamison
(fourth pick, 1998; acquired in trade) – Another sensible, low-risk pick for Golden State. After posting big scoring numbers his first few seasons, the Warriors rewarded Jamison with a max contract, making him overpaid as soon as pen hit paper.

Jamison was eventually traded to Dallas in the year 10 A.C. (after Cohan), which set events into motion which would change this franchise forever (or at least for two enjoyable seasons).

Jamison begat Nick Van Exel, who begat Dale Davis, who begat a fellow bearded Davis named Baron. Baron Davis begat the only two winning seasons the Warriors have known under Cohan, which begat one of the worst personnel blunders Cohan’s Warriors have ever made.

3. Joe Smith
(first pick, 1996) – “Average Joe” was only too appropriate a nickname for Smith, who played well for Golden State, but was far from a difference-maker.

Taken first overall, Smith will always be remembered for the players he was drafted ahead of: Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett, both of whom went on to become NBA champions

4. Andris Biedrins
(11th pick, 2004) – History celebrates those who bring us new inventions. Thomas Edison. Howard Hughes. The ShamWow guy. Andris Biedrins.

Before Biedrins showed up in 2004, Warriors fans believed it to be either impossible or illegal for a center to catch a basketball. Be it receiving a pass or securing a rebound, big men were supposed to fumble the ball at least twice before establishing possession.

Biedrins changed all that, establishing a new set of rules in the process. Not only was center no longer a position reserved for the clumsiest of players, it was now possible to use all five players on offense.

By flying in the face of conventional wisdom, Andris Biedrins presented Golden State with a new invention: the center as a useful player.

5. Anthony Randolph
(14th pick, 2008) – Randolph has but one NBA season under his belt, so there’s not much to say about him yet. He has a chance to move to the top of this list very quickly, but Don Nelson could also provoke him into demanding a trade at tomorrow’s shootaround.

Given the personalities involved, the latter seems much more likely.

6. Troy Murphy
(14th pick, 2001) – Murphy was simply ahead of his time. A big man who loved to camp out on the perimeter, Murphy didn’t play defense and wanted to shoot on every possession, In other words, a prototypical Don Nelson power forward.

Unfortunately for Murphy, his prime years were spent under Eric Musselman and Mike Montgomery, two coaches who never embraced the finer aspects of moving their tallest players miles away from the basket.

7. Mike Dunleavy, Jr.
(third pick, 2002) – We’re now arriving at the seventh player in a six-deep pool, which should sound familiar to Golden State fans. True to form, the Warriors owned the third pick in a two-player draft back in 2002, selecting the son of a former NBA player.

A tall, skinny forward from Duke, Dunleavy’s biggest collegiate moment came when he hit a three-pointer late in the NCAA title game. Thanks to his Duke upbringing, he entered the NBA with a sense of entitlement and inflated self-worth, causing him to clash with several coaches before eventually being traded.

Who is his famous father, you ask? Mike Dunleavy, Sr. is dancing a jig on the Maury Povich set right now, because the results are in, and this is Christian Laettner’s baby!

8. Mickael Pietrus
(11th pick, 2003) – Neither the Warriors nor Pietrus were ever really sure who he was supposed to be for this team. Was he Richardson’s heir apparent at shooting guard? A defensive stopper at small forward? An energy guy off the bench?

Pietrus was at once all of those things and none of them. He showed flashes of potential in each role, but was maddeningly inconsistent no matter his task.

The one consistent part of Pietrus’ game was his habit of stepping backwards on the out-of-bounds line before driving to the hoop, which resulted in a rash of Oedipal-related injuries throughout the Bay Area.

9. Brandan Wright
(eighth pick, 2007; acquired in trade) – Wright is a tall, talented player who can operate in the paint, which makes him public enemy number one with Don Nelson.

You can’t dunk or rebound your way out of Nelson’s doghouse, which means Wright better start practicing his outside shot if he wants playing time this year.

10. Adonal Foyle
(8th pick, 1997) – The star of the 1996 Patriot League, Foyle was a collegiate tour-de-force at Colgate. You couldn’t visit a Lehigh pub or a Bucknell party without hearing tales of this young hoops phenom terrorizing the greater Northeast area.

That phenom arrived in Oakland the same summer as a young Erick Dampier, setting up an epic battle the likes of which haven’t been seen in the NBA since.

For decades, scholars pondered how effective Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain would have been as teammates, forced to do battle every day in practice before wreaking havoc on the rest of the league. Well, here was their answer.

Foyle and Dampier forged the greatest pivot combination in mid-'90s Warrior history, consistently propelling each other to new levels of mediocrity. How these titans of the hardwood failed to lead Golden State to a championship remains one of sports’ great mysteries.

11. Marco Belinelli
(18th pick, 2007) – Coach who loves sweet-shooting European guards drafts sweet-shooting European guard in the first round. OK, makes sense.

Sweet-shooting European guard can’t play defense, but that doesn’t matter, because said coach doesn’t care one iota about defense. So far, so good.

So why can’t Marco Belinelli get off the bench for Don Nelson?

Al Harrington may have summed it up best: “If you're not one of (Nellie’s) dudes, you ain't never going to be one of his dudes.”

12. Clifford Rozier
(16th pick, 2004) – The highlight of Rozier’s tenure came in 1995, when he put up 20 points and 20 rebounds in a single game (presumably while the other team was still on the court).

A one-year stopgap at power forward, Rozier served as a way to pass the time between Chris Webber and Joe Smith. He and Carlos Rogers had a chance to be the Chris Gatling and Victor Alexander of the new millennium, but things didn’t quite work out as planned.

Rozier eventually ended up in prison with a mental imbalance, which was likely less stressful for him than remaining with the Warriors.

13. Vonteego Cummings
(26th pick, 1999; acquired in trade) – As far as we know, Vonteego Cummings was not related to former teammate Terry Cummings.

Yet whenever they were on court together, it seemed like a father-son game, as though Terry had invited his boy to play in pickup games against his buddies.

Vonteego Cummings: the son in the father-son game that is the NBA.

14. Ike Diogu
(ninth pick, 2005) – Diogu is living proof that John Hollinger needs a new system for ranking players.

Once a pass went into Diogu in the post, the other Warriors instinctively set themselves up for the rebound, because they knew the ball was not coming back to them.

In this sense, Diogu shared an offensive philosophy with Troy Murphy, though Diogu was a much less effective threat. If Murphy was an offensive black hole, Diogu was merely a whirlpool.

15. Jiri Welsch
(16th pick, 2002) – Until now, the real story surrounding Jiri Welsch’s NBA career has been kept secret for legal reasons. But now that sealed court documents have been made public, the truth can be revealed: Jiri Welsch was laundered.

In one of his daily legal disputes, Chris Cohan ran afoul of a Czech mob boss, who demanded that Cohan pay him a tax. As it’s generally risky to pay notorious crime lords out in the open, the mob boss proposed an alternative.

His nephew Jiri needed a job, so the Czech mob boss told Cohan that if Jiri were hired as a Warriors employee, the payment could be funneled through his paycheck.

And so it was that young Jiri Welsch sat on Golden State’s bench for a season, an unwitting accomplice for an international crime syndicate.

16. Patrick O’Bryant*
(ninth pick, 2006) – Patrick O’Bryant is included with an asterisk here because there’s very little proof that he actually exists.

Those who’ve studied O’Bryant’s legend generally agree that his rookie season was 2006-07, and that he spent it in Golden State. There are rumors that he was traded to the Bakersfield Jam that year, but there is no evidence that the Warriors received anything in return for him.

If one looks carefully at photos taken following Golden State’s 2007 playoff victory, a figure resembling O’Bryant can be seen lurking in the background.

Additional O’Bryant sightings have been reported as far away as Boston and Toronto, where residents claim to have seen him between 2007 and 2008.

Dead Last: Todd Fuller
(11th pick, 1996) – It’s still hard to believe, but there was a time when the Warriors’ chief decision-maker said to himself, “If we want him, Kobe Bryant is ours for the taking. Tempting, but I think we’ll just take the best player instead. Give us Todd Fuller!”

The Warriors paid Dave Twardzick to make that decision. Paid him good money, in fact. He didn’t win a contest, he wasn’t related to the owner, and he wasn’t sent by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to be General Manager for a day.

Twardzick was Golden State’s top basketball man, and he felt that Todd Fuller gave the Warriors a better chance to win than Kobe Bryant. Or Steve Nash. Or Jermaine O’Neal. Or Peja Stojakovich.

Even John Wallace would’ve been a better pick.

The man who hired Twardzick is still running the Warriors, and he has a rookie General Manager who will be making his first-ever draft pick tonight.

Unfortunately, if Chris Cohan has proven one thing, it’s that he’s far from an expert when it comes to picking rookies.

The Oakland Sports Examiner, new columns every Tuesday and Thursday: http://www.examiner.com/x-12984-Oakland-Sports-Examiner


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