Ranking the Top 10 Players in Golden State Warriors History

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystJuly 26, 2018

Ranking the Top 10 Players in Golden State Warriors History

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    Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry
    Kevin Durant and Stephen CurryMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have led Golden State to back-to-back NBA championships, but where do those current stars rank on the list of the all-time great Warriors?

    This top 10 is based on a combination of individual statistics, team success and number of years on the roster, in that descending order of importance.

    With six NBA titles, four other trips to the Finals in franchise history and 10 players who have scored more than 10,000 points in a Warriors uniform, it wasn't difficult to find worthy candidates.

    All three data points were important, but there weren't any minimum thresholds for consideration. For example, Wilt Chamberlain played just five-plus seasons with the Warriors and never won a title, but he was an obvious top-five selection due to his individual dominance. Thirteen-year Warrior Chris Mullin was also a clear top-10 pick, even though he was an All-Star in less than half of those seasons.

Honorable Mentions

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    Mitch Richmond
    Mitch RichmondNathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Mitch Richmond (1988-91)

    Richmond averaged better than 22 points per game in each of his three seasons with Golden State, serving as one-third of Run TMC along with Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin. However, it wasn't until the Warriors traded him to Sacramento that he became a perennial All-Star. Had Richmond spent more than three years with the Warriors, he'd have been a no-doubter for the top 10.


    Jeff Mullins (1966-76)

    Mullins played 10 seasons with the Warriors, averaging better than 16 points per game in seven of them and surpassing 20 points in four consecutive years. When Rick Barry left for five seasons to play in the ABA, Mullins essentially took over and helped keep this team in playoff contention year after year. However, it wasn't until late in his career with a drastically reduced role that he finally played on a team that won a title.


    Eric "Sleepy" Floyd (1983-87)

    In a little less than five full seasons with Golden State, Floyd averaged 17.7 points and 6.7 assistscompared to 9.7 and 4.6, respectively, for the rest of his career. But with just one All-Star selection in his career, he was a far cry from the top 10.


    Joe Barry Carroll (1980-84, 1985-87)

    The No. 1 overall pick in the 1980 draft was a force in the post for six-plus seasons, averaging 20.4 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Warriors. But like Floyd, Carroll appeared in only one All-Star Game.


    Purvis Short (1978-87)

    It's hard to believe the Warriors had such trouble even playing .500 basketball with Short, Carroll and Floyd on the roster together for several years. This third and longest-tenured member of the trio averaged 19.4 points per game. But with nary an All-Star Game or All-NBA appearance, Short fell just short of the top 10.


    Tim Hardaway (1989-96)

    Prior to a knee injury that cost him the entire 1993-94 season, it seemed Hardaway was on the fast track to the Hall of Fame. He averaged 22.7 points and 10.0 assists in the three All-Star seasons predating the injury. But how great of a Warrior was he, really, if the season that he missed was one of the team's most successful (50-32) during his time on the roster?


    Latrell Sprewell (1992-98)

    Sprewell averaged 20.1 points per game with the Warriors, but they turned into the laughingstock of the NBA with him "leading" the way. Even with three All-Star Game appearances, the man who was infamous for choking his coach fell well short of the cut.


    Tom Gola (1955-62)

    Gola averaged 13.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his first six seasons with the Warriors, but Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Arizin and Neil Johnston were clearly the driving forces for the franchise during his tenure.

10. Draymond Green (2012-Present)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Stats with Warriors: 9.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 39.0 Win Shares

    Statistically speaking, Draymond Green probably doesn't belong in the top 10.

    We could forgive the low scoring average if he was crushing it in the advanced metrics, but he's not. He has a career player efficiency rating of 15.7, which is only marginally above average. In fact, his PER ranks 48th among the 68 players who have logged at least 12,000 minutes played over the past six seasons. It's a similar story for win shares, where Green's mark of 39.0 over the past six years is identical to that of zero-time All-Star Marcin Gortat.

    And yet, where would the Warriors be without Day-Day?

    It's Green's versatility that has helped make Golden State such an unstoppable force over the past four years. Even though he isn't often the one doing the scoring, three straight seasons where the primary big man spreads the floor while averaging better than seven assists per game is what makes this "death lineup" function so lethally.

    Defense is where his value truly lies. Over the past four seasons, only Andre Drummond has accumulated more defensive win shares (20.8) than Green (19.2).

    Try as other teams might to emulate Golden State's small-ball approach, their inability to find a stretch 5 like Green who also plays remarkable defense is what keeps the Warriors a step ahead of the curve.

9. Klay Thompson (2011-Present)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Stats with Warriors: 19.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 41.5 Win Shares

    As Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry share the spotlight, it's easy to forget the Warriors also employ a four-time All-Star who is one of the best shooters ever.

    In NBA history, there have only been 27 instances when a player has made at least 210 three-pointers in a season while converting on 40 percent of attempts or better. Thompson has done so in each of the last six years. (So has Curry.) Because of that range, he has an active streak of four seasons averaging at least 20 points per game.

    What keeps him from ranking any higher among the Warriors greats is he doesn't do a whole lot else.

    Thompson isn't much of a passer, he's less of a driver and his defensive metrics are consistently among the worst on the rosterif not the league. But his lethal three-point stroke makes him a nearly irreplaceable asset on an annual title contender. There aren't many players in franchise history who have provided this much value.

8. Nate Thurmond (1963-74)

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Stats with Warriors: 17.4 PPG, 16.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 68.6 Win Shares

    To put it lightly, Nate Thurmond was good at grabbing rebounds. After a few years of destroying the collegiate glass at Bowling Green, Thurmond was drafted by San Francisco and became one of the best rebounders in NBA history.

    Because so much of his career overlapped with Wilt Chamberlain's, Thurmond never led the league in rebounds. But he is fifth on the career leaderboard at 15.0 rebounds per game. That includes his final few seasons with Chicago and Cleveland when he wasn't nearly as dominant in the paint. In his 11 seasons with the Warriors, he pulled down nearly 17 boards per night.

    In 1967-68, Thurmond joined Chamberlain, Bob Pettit and Jerry Lucas as the only players to ever average at least 20 points and 20 rebounds per game for a season. He played in just 51 games that year, but he averaged 20.5 points and 22.0 rebounds. It was one of his five seasons with at least 20 points, as well as one of five seasons averaging at least 18 rebounds.

    But Thurmond never played for a championship team, and a career 42.1 field-goal percentage is largely to blame for the fact that he never had more than 9.9 win shares or a 19.0 PER in a season. (Even with poor shooting figures, how the heck is 20.5 PPG and 22.0 RPG not worth more than 19.0 PER?) Despite the ridiculous rebounding, that inefficiency cost him a few spots on this list.

7. Kevin Durant (2016-Present)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Stats with Warriors: 25.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 5.1 APG, 22.4 Win Shares

    With this one exception, only players who spent at least five years with the Warriors were considered for a spot in the top 10. But Kevin Durant was the NBA Finals MVP and one of the league's best players in each of his two seasons with Golden State, so he has to land somewhere on the list, right?

    There's a case to be made that he belongs as high as No. 3. After all, only Wilt the Stilt has had a higher PPG, PER or WS/48 with the Warriors, and no one has posted a higher career box plus/minus with this franchise than the Durantula has.

    But there's also a case to be made that he doesn't belong in the top 10. It has only been two seasons, and Golden State was a 73-win team before Durant made one of the most controversial free-agency decisions ever.

    Let's split the difference and put him on the list outside the top five.

    Durant has averaged better than 25 points per game in each of the last 10 seasons and is showing no signs of stopping. Provided he plays out his new contract and stays with the Warriors for at least two more years, it's only a matter of time before we all agree he's one of the best players in franchise history.

6. Chris Mullin (1985-97; 2000-01)

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Stats with Warriors: 20.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.9 APG, 79.6 Win Shares

    For more than a decade, Chris Mullin was the Golden State Warriors.

    Oh, there were other quality players on the roster with him. Most notably, he had Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Latrell Sprewell and Sleepy Floyd as teammates at various points in his first 12 years with the Warriors. But Mullin was the constant on Golden State's roster as the NBA grew in popularity.

    And for half a decade, he was one of the best players in the league.

    From 1985 to 1997, Mullin averaged at least 13.3 points per game in a dozen consecutive seasons with Golden State. But from 1988 to 1992, he averaged better than 25 points per game each year. He didn't lead the league in scoring in any of those seasons, but he scored a combined total of 8,313 points during that time. Only Michael Jordan and Karl Malone put up more.

    Mullin has played at least 50 more games with the Warriors (807) than every other player in franchise history. Though there were only four years in which he was considerably better than league average, he is No. 1 among Warriors in steals, top-five in both points and assists, top-10 in blocks and top-15 in rebounds.

    But that accumulation of statistics wasn't enough to put Mullin in the top fiveeven though he's almost certainly the first pre-2010 Warrior that comes to mind for most NBA fans. His peak wasn't that high (one first-team All-NBA selection) or long (five career All-Star Games), and he never led the Warriors to the Western Conference Finals, let alone a title.

5. Neil Johnston (1951-59)

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    Charles T. Higgins/Getty Images

    Stats with Warriors: 19.4 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 92.0 Win Shares

    It's almost unfair to Neil Johnston to count his first and last seasons in the NBA as part of his career averages. As a rookie, he played 15.5 minutes per game and averaged just 6.0 points and 5.3 rebounds. It was a similar story seven years later when those numbers were 14.0, 6.3 and 5.0, respectively, before a knee injury forced him to retire at the age of 30.

    In the six seasons in between, though, he played just shy of 40 minutes per game, averaging 22.3 points and 12.7 rebounds.

    Johnston led the NBA in rebounds in 1955. He led the league in points in 1953, 1954 and 1955. And he led the league in win shares for five consecutive seasons from 1953 to 1957.

    That last statistic is absurd because it puts Johnston in an exclusive club with the greatest of the greats. The only other players in NBA history who can boast at least five seasons with the most win shares in the league are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

    Hard to believe someone in that five-member club could only be regarded as the fifth-best Warrior of all time, but longevity was a key data point considered for this list. Paul Arizin, Rick Barry and Stephen Curry each gave this franchise a few additional years of top-notch production, and in Wilt Chamberlain's five-plus seasons, he averaged more than twice as many points and rebounds as Johnston did.

    That said, Johnston is right up there with George Mikan on the list of the greatest players whose career lasted eight seasons or fewer.

4. Paul Arizin (1950-62)

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    PAUL VATHIS/Associated Press

    Stats with Warriors: 22.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.3 APG, 108.8 Win Shares

    Paul Arizin spent his entire career with this franchise and ended up in the Hall of Fame. He was a mighty fine Warrior.

    Arizin did not play in his age-24 or age-25 seasons because he was serving with the Marines in the Korean War. He also retired from the NBA earlier than most of the greats, playing his final game with the Warriors just a few days before his 34th birthday. He was an All-Star in each of his 10 seasons, though, averaging better than 20 points per game in nine of them.

    There was no MVP award until 1956, but Arizin deserved one in 1952. He averaged 25.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game that season, leading the NBA in points, win shares and about a dozen other categories. In fact, the 23-year-old had more win shares (16.0) than the rest of his teammates combined (12.8). Even when the supporting cast was at its worst in Cleveland, LeBron James was never that much of a one-man show.

    In case it wasn't apparent how valuable he was while playing, it became abundantly clear when he was gone. After making the playoffs in each of Arizin's first two seasons, the Warriors went 12-57 and finished in dead last in their first year without him.

    Arizin didn't miss a beat after returning from his military service either. He led the league in minutes played and field goals made in his first season back on the hardwood. Two years after that, he led the NBA in scoring for a second time.

    He never did win an MVPhe finished in the top 10 four timesbut Arizin was selected to three All-NBA first teams and one second team.

3. Rick Barry (1965-67; 1972-78)

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    SAL VEDER/Associated Press

    Stats with Warriors: 25.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 5.1 APG, 85.9 Win Shares

    Most people remember Rick Barry for his unorthodox (but highly effective) under-handed free-throw stroke, but he was damn good at much more than one-point buckets.

    Barry is one of just 24 players in NBA history with at least 18,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists, and that doesn't even include his time in the ABA. Combine what he did in both leagues and the only players who can match or exceed him in career points, rebounds and assists are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Oscar Robertson, John Havlicek, Kevin Garnett and Julius Erving.

    Barry was also an excellent defender. Steals weren't recorded by the NBA during his first three seasons with the Warriors, but he averaged 2.3 steals per game over his final five yearsincluding leading the NBA in steals in 1974-75.

    Granted, he didn't get all of the above statistics with the Warriors, but that's where he was most dominant and where he spent eight of his 14 seasons. Barry was an All-Star in all eight of those seasons and was selected first-team All-NBA in five of them. He never won an MVP award, but he did have four top-seven finishes.

    Were it not for the five-year hiatus to the ABA between his two stints with the Warriors, Barry would probably be No. 1 on this list. With the Oakland Oaks, the Washington Capitols and the New York Nets, he averaged 30.5 points per game from age 23-27this after dominating the NBA to the tune of a league-leading 35.6 points per game as a 22-year-old.

    Had those prime years been played with the Warriors, it's a conservative estimate that he could have amassed 135 career win shares for a franchise whose all-time leader (Wilt Chamberlain) gave them 112.4.

2. Stephen Curry (2009-Present)

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Stats with Warriors: 23.1 PPG, 6.8 APG, 4.4 RPG, 93.3 Win Shares

    Stephen Curry's career is only about halfway finished, but there's no question he has already done more for this franchise than any other player.

    Before Curry became one of the most valuable players in the league, Golden State was a joke. The Warriors made the playoffs just once from 1994 to 2012, and they barely got in as a No. 8 seed in 2007. But over the past six seasons, they have become a three-point-draining juggernaut with three championships.

    No one had ever made more than 269 three-pointers in a season until six years ago, but Curry has averaged 292.8 triples per year during that timedespite only playing in 51 games last year.

    Curry set the NBA record with 272 three-pointers in 2012-13, upped the ante to 286 two years later and then obliterated it with 402 made triples in 2015-16. Factor in his 324 mark in 2016-17 and he is responsible for the top three spots on that leaderboard.

    But Curry is much more than a sharpshooter from distance. He's also the franchise leader in free-throw percentage (90.3) and is No. 2 in franchise history in both total assists (4,227) and total steals (1,108). He'll be No. 1 on both lists within two years. He could also be the Warriors' all-time leading scorer by the end of the 2019-20 season.

1. Wilt Chamberlain (1959-65)

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    PAUL VATHIS/Associated Press

    Stats with Warriors: 41.5 PPG, 25.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 112.4 Win Shares

    Though Wilt Chamberlain only spent five-and-a-half seasons with the Warriorsthree in Philadelphia, two-and-a-half in San Franciscoit was enough for him to become the franchise's all-time leader in win shares. Chamberlain has also scored more points in a Warriors jersey than any other player (until Stephen Curry passes him two years from now), and he trails only Nate Thurmond in total rebounds.

    It's almost comical that we spend so much time and energy debating whether Michael Jordan or LeBron James is the greatest player in NBA history when it's clear Chamberlain was the most unstoppable force to ever touch a basketball. During his time with the Warriors, he set the NBA's four highest points-per-game season averages and the three highest rebounds-per-game season averages.

    Jordan is the only other player to ever average at least 36 points per game in a season, but Chamberlain put up 41.5 during the Warriors portion of his career. For heaven's sake, he averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game in his third season in the league.

    Sure, he was a ball hog, he was a tough player for any coach to handle and he never won a title with the Warriors, but he set so many individual records in his 429 games with this franchise that it would be wrong to put anyone else in this top spot. Curry might be able to get here after a few more years, though.


    Advanced statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

    Kerry Miller is a multisport writer for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.