The defending NBA champions have the best start in NBA history at 17-0, but how did they lay the foundation through the draft to get to this point? The Golden State Warriors have done a nice job developing their young talent while matching it with the right free-agent signings and trade acquisitions to build their championship roster. It’s possible the Warriors’ success could be sustained for years down the line thanks to their drafting, but for now, they’ll have to settle for setting NBA records seemingly every day.
Oddly enough, Golden State has only made seven selections in the draft over the last five years, and two came in 2011. It was a standard draft for the Warriors, as they had one pick in the first round and another in the second. Luckily for Golden State, at the 11th overall pick they selected sharpshooting swingman Klay Thompson to pair alongside point guard of the future Stephen Curry. Thompson has turned into one of the better two-way shooting guards in the league and a perfect compliment alongside the rest of the versatile roster Golden State has. Charles Jenkins was the pick at 44th overall, but he was traded in February 2013 after making minimal impact for the Warriors during his time there.
The Warriors’ 2012 draft might’ve been the most successful draft by any team over the past five years, as they found three rotation pieces and some depth among their four picks. First off, Golden State took forward Harrison Barnes in the lottery at seventh overall. Barnes is one of the most intriguing young talents in today’s game, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens with his free agency this coming summer.
Thanks to trading away Stephen Jackson to the San Antonio Spurs for Richard Jefferson, the Warriors acquired a second first-round pick. With that, the Dubs took center Festus Ezeli at 30th overall. Ezeli has improved every single year and should continue to be a mainstay on the roster as Andrew Bogut enters his post-prime years.
But the Warriors’ best selection that year? That was do-it-all, defensive-minded forward Draymond Green, who the Dubs took at 35th overall. Green turned into the runner-up in Defensive Player of the Year voting last year and the face of “death ball.” He’s a versatile piece anchoring Golden State’s defense and a killer passer (and now shooter) in the offense. The Green pick actually came from the Nets for big men Brandon Wright and Dan Gadzuric, so that’s quite the steal.
Ognjen Kuzmic was the Warriors’ final 2012 pick at 52nd overall, and the international big man spent a couple years overseas before becoming a depth piece for the Warriors the last two seasons. However, he isn’t on the roster anymore.
Both the 2013 and 2014 drafts were affected by trades by Golden State, as they didn’t have a single pick impact their roster in either year. The Dubs traded away their 2013 first-rounder in the Marcus Williams deal with the Nets in 2009. Their 2013 second-rounder was dealt in the David Lee deal with the Knicks in 2010. Obviously the Williams deal was a huge bust — they already had their point guard in Curry — but it’s hard to blame them with Curry’s ankle issues early on. The acquisition of Lee was a smart one at the time, but nobody thought they’d see him benched in favor of Green years later.
After a three-team trade and salary-dumping deal, the Warriors were without a 2014 first-round pick. The Warriors traded Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush and the first-rounder away for Kevin Murphy and Randy Foye in 2013 to clear way for Andre Iguodala. Iguodala has turned into the Dubs’ Swiss-Amy Knife on defense, and he showed exactly that as the Most Valuable Player in the Finals last year. The Warriors also traded away their second-rounder for Malcolm Lee and the rights to Andre Roberson — neither lasted very long in Golden State.
The Warriors seem to have another promising player for the future in Kevon Looney, who they took at 30th overall in this past draft. Looney is the perfect pick for Golden State, as he’ll use this year as a “redshirt” year after having surgery on his right hip. He’s out four-to-six months in recovery, but he showed a lot of promise early on in Summer League to give an impression he’ll make an impact for them down the line. Acquiring Rush cost them their second-round pick, but Rush fits the mold of a defensive floor spacer, so he should help with depth later on this season.
Building a successful team starts with the draft. The Warriors have been one of the best in recent years, which is why they’ve been so successful on the court. Credit Warriors GM Bob Myers for making the moves they did to acquire talent that fits the system they wanted. He received a lot of criticism for firing Mark Jackson in favor of Steve Kerr, but it’s safe to say that decision was a smart one. It’ll be fun to watch the Warriors continue to stay on top with late first-round picks in the future, but they’ve had enough past draft success to remain in contention. Also, that Steph Curry guy is pretty good.