Jerry West has a reputation as the best, if not one of the best executives in the league. However, how good is he at drafting players? Yes, he traded Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant, which gave him cap space to sign Shaquille O'Neal and create a Lakers dynasty, but he also had a much less memorable run as the executive of the Grizzlies, which culminated in the Pau Gasol trade after he left.
For the purposes of this post, I will ignore the years before the draft shortened to only two rounds. However, I will also be including the 1988 Draft, which was shortened to three rounds. Besides the players he drafted, I will also include trades he made for players after they were drafted but before they were signed.
Also, skip to the bottom for the charts and graphs and stuff, if you don't want to go through every single pick he made.
1988 - Drafts David Rivers (25th overall)
1989 - Drafts Vlade Divac (26th overall)
1990 - Drafts Elden Campbell (27th overall) and Tony Smith (51st overall)
1991 - Drafts Anthony Jones (52nd overall)
1992 - Drafts Anthony Peeler (15th overall) and Duane Cooper (36th overall)
1993 - Drafts George Lynch (12th overall) and Nick Van Exel (37th overall)
1995 - Drafts Frankie King (37th overall)
1996 - Drafts Derek Fisher (24th overall), trades Vlade Divac for the rights to Kobe Bryant
1997 - Drafts DeJuan Wheat (51st overall) and Paul Rogers (53rd overall)
1999 - Drafts Devean George (23rd overall) and John Celestand (30th overall), trades Derek Harper for the rights to Melvin Levett
2000 - Drafts Mark Madsen (29th overall) and trades the 2001 and 2002 second round draft picks for the rights to Corey Hightower
2004 - Drafts Sergei Lishouk (49th overall)
2007 - Drafts Mike Conley Jr. (4th overall)
This is quite a lot of information to process. It appears as if Jerry West did his best work as a Laker GM, where he drafted well despite the lower picks and traded for Kobe Bryant's rights. However, as the President of Basketball Operations for the Grizzlies, he drafted Drew Gooden over Amare Stoudemire and traded Marcus Banks and Kendrick Perkins for Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones. That said, these moves are defensible because Amare Stoudemire was a question mark and Drew Gooden was the "safe pick" according to draft experts at the time (if you don't believe me check the draft scouting reports at the time). In addition, nobody expected Kendrick Perkins to become an excellent post defender. Jerry West also made some solid picks with the Grizzlies, drafting Mike Conley and trading for Rudy Gay.
In an attempt to summarize all this data, I will be using charts.
Here's an interesting chart I found summarizing the success of draft picks from 1994 to 2008. How do Jerry West's draft picks compare?
Jerry West's Draft Picks (click to enlarge)
I associated Jerry West's percentages with a draft position using the charts.
Playing over 100 games: 28
Starting at least 50% of games played: 18
Starting at least 85% of games played: 17
Playing at least 16 minutes: 27
Playing at least 22 minutes: 18
All Star: 21
All NBA: 17
Then, I calculated the mean of those draft positions
Jerry West's expected average draft position: 20.85
Jerry West's actual average draft position: 30.89
In conclusion, Jerry West drafted pretty damn well. He drafted players with talent about ten spots above what would have been expected from his drafting position. The Warriors better let him draft the players instead of Riley or whoever is in the front office.