The Santa Cruz Warriors had one of the stronger draft classes in the 2012 D-League draft. The following is a look at some of the draftees' connections to current Golden State Warriors and some brief background info on Faisal Aden and Travis Leslie, who both get an opportunity to show their pro potential after running into some bad luck.
The Santa Cruz Warriors completed their draft sometime last night while we were focused on the Golden State Warriors' home open and ended up with eight players from the eight-round draft as follows (links to Sports-Reference.com NCAA profiles):
1st round, 13th pick: Travis Leslie from University of Georgia, 6'4", 205-pound guard
3rd round, 1st pick: T.J. Robinson from Long Beach State, 6'8'', 205-pound forward
3rd round, 13th pick: Faisal Aden from Washington State, 6'4", 190-pound guard
4th round, 13th pick: Durrell Summers from Michigan State, 6'4", 205-pound guard
5th round, 13th pick: Steve Tchiengang from Vanderbilt, 6'9", 245-pound forward
6th round, 13th pick: Darren Moore from UC-Irvine, 6'3", 190-pound guard
7th round, 13th pick: Japeth Aguilar from W. Kentucky, 6'10", 210-pound center
8th round, 13th pick: Arron Mollet from Notre Dame de Namur, 6'3", 190-pound guard (school website bio)
College connections run deep for the Warriors
The first thing that might stand out even if you're not familiar with the players individually is some of those school names: the Warriors drafted former teammates of three current Golden State Warriors (Vanderbilt rookie Festus Ezeli, Michigan State rookie Draymond Green, and Washington State product Klay Thompson).
Will Faisal Aden's development continue in the pros?
The second thing that stands out for me as a Pac-12 basketball fan who spent a good part of the last decade in the Pacific Northwest is Faisal Aden. Aden is a player who is certainly not bashful about shooting and became something of a headache for Cougars fans during his two years at WSU.
Jeff Nusser of SB Nation's Coug Center had a great breakdown of Aden's game and perhaps future potential in speculating about whether Aden 2.0 had finally arrived after an impressive performance against the Stanford Cardinal back on January 24th.
...what it's always been about with me -- was whether Aden, playing the way he had played in every single game he had played in his career, could make enough shots consistently enough to warrant the kind of latitude he was given by his coach. Every shred of evidence we had up until now suggested the answer was no, he couldn't...for the first time, Aden is playing in a way that can lead to sustainable production -- even on the mediocre shooting nights.
Unfortunately, just as Aden was turning that corner, he suffered what turned out to be a college career-ending knee injury. The question is whether Aden 2.0 survived that setback.
Travis Leslie searching for his NBA niche
The big score for Santa Cruz is obviously Travis Leslie, who I also got more familiar with as a function of being up north: his Georgia Bulldogs faced the Washington Huskies in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament - I recall Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar saying something about Leslie similar to what Santa Cruz Warriors coach Nate Bjorkgren said in yesterday's Warriors release:
"They have definitely capable backcourt players," said Romar. "Travis Leslie is not their point guard but, man, he's athletic and he's strong and he's durable. And their guards have quickness so we have to wait until we get out on the floor."
Leslie's NBA career has been off to a shaky start, in large part due to plain bad luck as John Raffo of SB Nation's Clips Nation described when the Los Angeles Clippers waived him on October 30. Steve Perrin of Clips Nation had an in-depth scouting report on Leslie, who has also previously played for the D-League's Bakersfield Jam, in his exit interview for the lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA season.
Going back to the basic book on him, he's got all of the physical attributes of an NBA shooting guard, but not the skill set. He played forward in college and got most of his points in transition and attacking the rim. The word is he still has a lot of work to do developing his handle and his shot. Without a summer league last season, and with essentially no practice time due to the compressed schedule, it was a bad season for an unpolished rookie to enter the NBA.
An opportunity to pursue NBA dreams
The D-League seems like a great chance for a player like Leslie to remain on the NBA radar while perhaps working on the things that will help him earn more of an opportunity to prove himself in the future.
Acquiring Aden and Leslie sort of embodies what the league is all about and why it's valuable for a franchise to invest in a team: both players appear to have some raw basketball ability, but becoming a NBA talent will likely depend on their ability to bring everything together.
For more on the Santa Cruz Warriors' 2012 D-League draft, check out our storystream with draft grades, the full list of 2012 D-League draft prospects, and Leslie dunking on DeMarcus Cousins back in his college days.