I've been thinking way too much about the NBA Draft recently, I figured I should share my thoughts with all of you.
First, there's this article: http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/draft2009/insider/news/story?id=4266076. I was just going to post a fan shot about this article, but I figured most of you didn't have ESPN Insider. It is one of the most painful, heart-wrenching stories you will ever read, because it is about the Warriors over the past 20 years. It's a short article, but I had to stop reading and leave the room on several occasions. It was too much pain and bad memories for me to take. It starts like this:
The NBA teams that have drafted well over the past 20 years and won because of it have several common traits: a definitive style of play, a stable front office and patient ownership.
The Golden State Warriors offer evidence of what you get when only a definitive style of play prevails. First of all, there isn't that much winning, no matter how exciting the style. The draft becomes a particularly painful device, because it evolves into a Groundhog Day horror show. An unheralded player is taken and almost immediately achieves sleeper status for a surprisingly robust rookie campaign. Said player is gone after a couple of years, by free agency or trade. Another gem is unearthed. He, too, slips away, spending his most successful years elsewhere. And so on. The result is almost cruel for its fan base: Five former Warriors played in the 1997 All-Star game. Four of them -- Mitch Richmond, Latrell Sprewell, Tim Hardaway and Chris Webber -- had been drafted by Golden State. Actual Warriors All-Stars gained from dealing the five?
Ouch... Richmond for Owens. Webber for Guggliotta. Hardaway and Gatling for Kevin Willis and Bimbo Coles. The Choke, followed by Spree for Starks, Mills, and Cummings. Thanks, ESPN, for making relive all that pain.
The article then breaks down the history you already know. Nelson creates Run TMC. Nelson breaks up Run TMC for Billy Owens. Nelson makes up for this by getting Sprewell and Webber. Managment gets sick of Nelson's teams for flaming out in the first round of the playoffs. Team tries to bring in a defensive mindset. Rozier. Carlesimo. Adelman. Fuller. Foyle. Management decides that defense is boring, tries to bring back Nellie ball, only with completely unexperienced NBA coaches. Cowens. Mussleman. Montgomery. But it wasn't all bad:
That historical synopsis helps explain how a team could find such diamonds in the second-round rough as Gilbert Arenas and Monta Ellis, select six future All-Stars and only have five playoff appearances in 20 years to show for it. In short, they've rolled the dice on a number of explosive players with red-flagged backgrounds and without a defined position and struck gold on a couple. Good or bad, they don't stick around.
I think this is a really important thing to note. When the Warriors play it safe in the draft, we end up with Rozier, Fuller, Foyle, Diogu, P.O.B. When we take calculated risks, we get Sprewell, Richardson, Arenas, Ellis, and Randolph. More on this. Now, more pain:
The Timberwolves, for comparison's sake, have a much worse draft record in the D.R.A.F.T. Initiative analysis (-0.13 EWA per pick, good for a C-minus grade), have selected only four future All-Stars and yet have eight playoff appearances over the same stretch. The biggest difference? Minnesota landed Kevin Garnett with the fifth pick in 1995 and stubbornly built around him for 12 seasons. The Warriors traded Webber away after one season, let Arenas escape after two and have not had a player drafted in the last 20 years stay beyond Hardaway's seven seasons, which includes a full year missed with a knee injury.
"It shows that all of us can become impatient," says one GM of the Warriors' penchant for identifying great talent and then losing it. "We want success overnight. Sometimes it takes a whole career to measure a player's worth. Not every team is willing to wait that long to find out."
This breaks it down for you. I love Nelson. I think he is possibly one of the 5 greatest coaches in NBA history. But, man, he seems to have cursed this entire franchise with the great sin of impatience. I know that there are extenuating circumstances- Webber and Nellie, the choke, Arenas and the C.B.A. rules- but that doesn't excuse what can only be described as immaturity and stupidity from our management. And, by the way, we are seeing this all over again with the current Monta Ellis "Moped-gate" situation.
The blame ultimately lands on owner Cohan, who bought controlling interest in the team in 1994 and has presided over nine coaching changes in 15 seasons.
Yeah, no sh!t.
But it also points to the danger of having one man, Nelson, as GM and coach, roles he jointly held from 1988 to 1995. He's not the first coach eager to get rid of a player he doesn't like -- Larry Brown has an equally quick trigger -- but Brown has been saved from his impulses by a string of strong GMs. Nelson has worked for only one with the Warriors, Mullin, whose authority was effectively negated when the team signed Nelson to a two-year extension last fall and made Mullin a lame duck this past season.
Despite the bashing that Mullin gets from this site, this is one reason why I fear what might happen without him. You have a couple of clueless, penny pinching suits in Rowell and Cohen, and you have Nelson and a Nelson puppet in Riley. There's no one to second guess Nelson's gut, except a couple of dopes who don't know what shape a basketball is.
Now, let's talk about what Nelson does well: find players who fit his system and inflate their value. Or, as I like to call it, "Say hi to Anthony Morrow!!"
Sometimes All-Star berths and statistics can inflate a draft record, too, and the Warriors probably have some of that working for them. Another GM offered Anthony Morrow as an extreme example of how Nelson's system can create false value. Morrow, the GM said, could not play for most teams in the league because he is a poor wing defender and a subpar ball handler who would not get the necessary shots to compensate for the points he gives up on another team. Yet Morrow averaged eight shots, 10 points and 22 minutes a night for the Warriors, staggering numbers for an undrafted rookie, the third undrafted player included in the team's rotation in the past three years.
"They gave him confidence and made something out of him," the GM says. "But put him out on the open market and most teams would still be afraid to touch him. They're convinced he's the product of a system that made him look good. And it's a system that produces great individual numbers, not necessarily team success."
I'll reserve my opinion of Morrow, Azubuike, and Watson for another post, but I will say this: props to Nelson for being able to identify players who fit his system, and get them for cheap.
There's normally a but... in there, but this article depressed me and I'm trying to stay positive.
Which is just it. Despite Morrow's production, or No. 14 pick Anthony Randolph's eight double-doubles, his 7.9 ppg and 5.8 rpg in only 17.9 mpg and an EWA of 3.31 (already 0.91 ahead of the expected career average for his draft slot), the Warriors were 29-53. Meanwhile, sources say Nelson is more than willing to deal Ellis and has told Randolph he, too, might be better off somewhere else.
All of which means there's a good chance the Warriors are going to take a highly talented player with this year's seventh pick. After a year or two of surprisingly impressive play, he'll go elsewhere. On this prediction, Punxsutawney Phil's services aren't necessary.
Oh, here... You left this knife in my spine... Also, you only turned it 180 degrees, are you sure you don't want to complete the circle?
Can I just say, unless your getting one of the top 20 players in the league, moving Randolph or Ellis is a really, really bad idea. REALLY BAD. Hardaway and Gatling for Willis and Coles bad. Richmond for Owens bad. Richardson for Wright bad. Webber for Guggliota bad. BAD.
Okay, enough with the pain. ESPN's D.R.A.F.T. Intiative is actually a really nice series. I tried to replicate all the numbers they were talking about (EWA for each player vs expected EWA) only to find that they gave all those numbers if I just went a little deeper into some links. Anyhow, here's my findings, based on numbers from basketball-reference.com, and ESPN's numbers: http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=rY1y2ASlKsrxkw-c2b71Znw. They're a little different, but I probably screwed up somewhere.
History lesson done, let's talk about the current draft! This is turning into a reallly long post. Note the extra L in really.
The way I see it, the top 4 players in the draft (Griffin, Rubio, Thabeet, and Harden) will be gone by the time the Warriors are choosing. They could use any of those guys (especially Griffin) but oh well. After them is a lot of guys with big upsides and big downside. Let me just tell you my Big Board after those four, then tell you why:
1. Tyreke Evans
2. Brandon Jennings
3. Jordan Hill
4. DeMar DeRozan
First, Evans. The more I look at him, the more I pinch myself. He is a too perfect fit for this Warriors team. A 6'5" shooting guard, who is able to play point if need be (i.e. the perfect teammate for Monta), a good perimeter defender, can score at will, plays best in an uptempo system, court vision, athleticism, hits three... He's too good to be true. If he's available, we better take him. Also, check this analysis of shooting guards to see how Evans compares to Harden: http://www.hoopsanalyst.com/0809ew9.htm, and this scouting report from Minneosota to see how Evans compares to other point guards: http://www.nba.com/timberwolves/fans/draft_central_2009.html.
Second, Jennings. I'm a sucker for guys like Jennings. His stats were slightly above mediocre in Europe, but his youtube clips were amazing. The only analysis I need to see on him is this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NpVH_ckBb8. Also, his calling out Rubio... Awesome.
Third, Jordan Hill. I'm not completely sold on him yet. He has a more "NBA ready" body than Brandan Wright, and fills a need. I like the potential of an Ellis, Jax, Randolph, Hill, Beans starting 5. I also see a high chance of him being a bust. I mostly blame history (Rozier, Fuller, Foyle, Smith, Diogu, POB, Wright) for my skepticism, but Hollinger's draft rater system is low on him too: http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/draft2009/insider/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&page=DraftRater-090618 (Insider)
Fourth DeMar DeRozan. Another guy with a potential to be a bust. See above to see that Hollinger's sytem hates him. BUT... Hollinger's system normally doesn't like one and done freshman. It didn't like Derrick Rose last year. I think ReRozan has the potential to be an elite wing player in the NBA, and elite wing players are what get you far in this league. Kobe, Wade, Manu, Pierce... They're all top wing players, and they all have a ring (to be fair, so dp Duncan, Shaq, Garnett, and Gasol, who are elite big men...) For more on DeRozan being a bust, see the Hollinger article above, for more a DeRozan being good, see here:
http://www.hoopsanalyst.com/0809ew10.htm. Also, remember what I said earlier, about the Warriors being most successful when they don't play it safe and take risks? That's what you have here. Lets just say that, if everything goes to plan, the Warriors will have a chance to draft at least one of the three guys above, but if they took DeRozan, I wouldn't be disappointed.
Now let's talk about who I don't necessarily like:
Jrue Holliday: I can't put my finger on it, I just don't think he fits well with this team. However, I'm willing to change my mind. He is a 6'4" point guard, and that would work well with Monta.
Am I the only one who looks at Curry and thinks J.J. Reddick? That's not the worst thing in the world, but it's not worth the 7th pick.
After looking into it more, this is a completely unfair comparison. I've changed my mind on Curry, I now think that he will be a decent pro in the NBA. I still don't think he's of the same caliber as Evans, but I would be happy if the Warriors drafted him. I'd probably, as of now, rate him barely behind Jennings, ahead of Hill and in some crazy opposite side of the spectrum, parallel universe relationship with DeRozan.
Johnny Flynn: I think he's overrated. As far as pure point guards go in this draft, I rate them Rubio, Jennings (drop), Lawson, Teague, Flynn (drop), Collison, Mills. (Full disclosure: I probably rate Mills higher, but I am a heavily biased Saint Mary's alum. Go Gaels!!). I know there are people who disagree, but I don't think Flynn is that worth it here.
Terrence Williams: His name is getting thrown around a lot, and he intrigues me. But, getting him puts in between a rock and a hard place. I think he's a big reach at 7, but there are enough teams that overrate him that trading down is no gurantee. Maybe the best solution is to draft Hill, who has a lot of interest around him from teams lower in the draft, and try and trade from there. If we can move Wright to get Williams, and keep Hill, that's even better.
This ended up way longer than I would have liked, but this is my examination of Warriors drafts- past, present, and future.