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Golden State Warriors

The rich got richer with Patrick McCaw

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, left, confers with guard Patrick McCaw in overtime of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, in Denver. The Warriors won 129-128 in overtime. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Great teams aren’t meant to get great draft picks. That usually shouldn’t be the case. The prize for the tankers of the world like Philadelphia is a lottery pick. Perhaps the No. 1 overall pick if you’re really lucky, a chance to land a potential All-Star that can transform the future of your franchise.

If you’re Philly, that pick gets injured (sorry about Ben Simmons, Sixers fans). But if you’re another team, you’re left with talent, promise, and a chance to develop a player into a key contributor without having to put all your attention into free agency.

Coming off a historic season in which the Golden State Warriors became the first team to show us how to win 73 games in the regular season and blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals (sorry, I couldn’t avoid it there), they shouldn’t be landing overly exciting players from the draft. They have their fair share of talent, especially after signing who was, by far, the biggest prize in free agency in Kevin Durant.

But the Warriors landed themselves a real talent in the draft, too. For the price of just $2.4 million, the Warriors acquired the 38th overall pick in this year’s draft from Milwaukee. And with that pick they selected 6’7″ shooting guard Patrick McCaw of UNLV, one of the most notable sleepers of the entire draft class.

In other words, the rich got richer. The incredibly wealth Warriors were no exception, adding some more unfair attraction to their “light years ahead” roster.

Talented two-way wings are one of the most valuable commodities in today’s NBA. Threes are more important than ever and the ability to defend multiple positions is vital for lineup versatility and playing small, something that the Warriors are more unstoppable at than anyone.

However, they still need other wing players to provide some depth to their bench. They may be more than acceptable losses to help bring in Durant, but the Warriors lost Leandro Barbosa and Brandon Rush this offseason, two valued wings. Now, outside of stellar do-it-all sixth man Andre Iguodala and Ian Clark, the Warriors don’t have a great deal of depth there.

No, I’m not saying this is a big problem. When you bring in Durant to form what could be the best starting lineup ever and have enough pieces on the bench to get by, you don’t complain.

I’m saying this because it gives Patrick McCaw an even better situation to join for his rookie campaign. There’s a lot for him to prove as a rookie, and he won’t be playing a large role for the sake of his potential alone. But changes to the second unit this offseason improves matters for McCaw. He has the opportunity to play and all the right influence around him to enhance it.

McCaw was regarded by many as one of the best sleepers in this year’s draft. A 20-year-old, 6’7″ shooting guard and the owner of a 6’10” wingspan with terrific speed, McCaw’s frame jumps off the page by the measurements we always like to see for wing players.

The problem is the 181-pound frame that all that physical intrigue comes in, which is something McCaw will need to address as his career gets underway. To sustain the physicality of the NBA and be more effective when taking the ball inside or finishing at the end of the fastbreaks he starts so well, McCaw will need to bulk up.

That’s not much of a long-term issue, though. For a player so young who’s clearly been somewhat of a late bloomer in terms of his slender frame, bulking up over time with NBA training staffs and facilities shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

And then there are all McCaw’s strengths, ones that have been on display through his two years at UNLV and immediately from his time in a Warriors jersey.

McCaw waited no longer than the preseason opener to flash his promise.

During 22 minutes playing time in the Warriors’ 93-97 loss to the Toronto Raptors, McCaw had a perfect start, showing off his impressive passing ability and cat-like nature to pounce for steals. He recorded 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting (1-of-2 from three) to go along with four assists, only one turnover, and five steals.

It’s only his first game of the preseason, and he’s got a long way to go. Not to mention, he was facing weaker competition from the Raptors’ bench some of the time. But McCaw was dishing out poised, crisp passes around the paint during the second half and starting extra possessions with his steals that have to make Warriors fans excited. Because, as they know with Durant and McCaw’s potential, the rich get richer.

The following pass is fairly simple. McCaw takes the ball back from James McAdoo and feeds the ball down the lane to a cutting Shaun Livingston. Yet, rather than throwing a standard pass to Livingston’s chest, McCaw sees Kyle Lowry trailing and uses a bounce pass instead, threading the ball just out the reach of Lowry’s extended arms and placing it in the right spot for Livingston to score.

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Some rookies may get more flustered in a cluttered lane and not make the correct pass so calmly. McCaw making deliveries such as these, as he did in college as well, is always reassuring.

The following pass shows similar awareness, except McCaw shows what he can do when driving. While elite ball handling isn’t his strong suit, primarily when it comes to creating his own shot, a hesitation move helps McCaw create space and burst down the lane. The impressive part for the 20-year-old, though, is that he weaves his body between two big men, and rather than being deterred, he reacts well, spots Kevon Looney on the opposite side of the lane, and drops off the ball for an easy score.

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The next assist just shows McCaw’s quick instincts and the way he reads the floor. He knows where Clark is on the opposing wing, and instantly fires the ball across the floor for his teammate to have a better shot.

patrick-mccaw-touch-pass

These are great qualities to have in a rookie shooting guard, whose main task is to simply keep improving right now.

The other vital intrigue with McCaw’s game is his defense, something he prides himself on after averaging 2.5 steals per game in college last season and making the Mountain West All-Defensive Team. Ideal length, speed, reactions, hands, and positioning give him a strong foundation to build upon in the NBA.

McCaw is a ball hawk, and you can see that with his speed here to break up the play with pesky hands before pouncing onto the loose ball and tearing away down the court.

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When he isn’t scrapping for the ball, McCaw knows where to be. He leaps into this passing lane and tears off down the court with ease. Even though it wasn’t the fastest or wisest pass from the Raptors’ Norman Powell, McCaw jumped the passing lane and made the steal look like light work.

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In addition to McCaw’s handle and shot creation, the most obvious weakness is his lack of strength. You hardly need to know his weight to realize that. It was on display in the Warriors’ first preseason game whenever McCaw was forced to switch onto bigs, which allowed opponents (especially the not-so-lean Jared Sullinger) to push him around for better positioning and easier chances to draw fouls.

Defending from the post or bodying up against players when defending drives will also be tougher for McCaw against stronger players right now (which means most players).

Whenever McCaw adds enough strength, though, he has the developing IQ, positioning, and other physical tools to be a terror on defense. Add in his playmaking ability, vision, and capable three-point shot (36.7 percent in college), and McCaw screams “3-and-D potential.” And what better place to grow that potential than Golden State, a glowing example of three-point shooting and team defense?

“He’s smart, knows how to move the ball, sees angles, understands the geometry of the game,” Steve Kerr said of McCaw to Anthony Slater of The Mercury News. “He’s just a guy who gets it.”

McCaw is only beginning, but from UNLV to the preseason, we’re seeing just that.

This is the start of a young career that holds a lot of promise for the Warriors’ bench and McCaw’s talented fit with it going forward.

Yeah, the rich get richer.

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