The Santa Cruz Warriors inaugural season in Northern California ultimately didn't end on a high note as they lost 112-102 to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in their final home game of the season as part of a two-game sweep in the 2013 D-League Finals.
But that doesn't mean the season wasn't a success.
In addition to building a vibrant fan base to make Kaiser Permanente Arena a tough place to play, establishing one of the better relationships with their NBA affiliate, and getting a few call-ups and individual accolades, Santa Cruz will have five players participating in the D-League's 35-player Elite Mini Camp in Chicago.
Mickell Gladness, Lance Goulbourne, Stefhon Hannah, Darington Hobson and Cameron Jones will represent the Warriors in the mini-camp, which is another opportunity for the NBA hopefuls to catch the eyes of general managers around the association.
While the selections are great news for the players individually, this week's Elite Mini Camp followed by the 2013 NBA Draft combine are also an important time for the organization to scout players for both Golden State and Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz general manager and Golden State assistant GM Kirk Lacob described the importance of this week of camp evaluation - despite not currently owning a pick in this year's NBA Draft - in an interview posted on the Santa Cruz Warriors' website.
"Well it's incredibly important," Lacob said. "It's the first step towards the draft and then free agency after that. It's a chance to meet a lot of these players who are coming straight out of college, a chance to see them work out against each other, try to figure out what they're all about. And there's no doubt that some of those guys will slip through the cracks and won't get drafted. We'll be able to pick them up for summer league. We'll be able to pick them up in the D-League next year. So getting a real good close look at those guys is really important, both for Golden State and for Santa Cruz."
After the draft process is over, the Warriors' summer league will be as much about Golden State as it is about Santa Cruz with them offering some guys a contract with a promise to sign them in Santa Cruz, as described later in the interview.
Obviously, the Warriors have two examples of that from this season: Kent Bazemore, who went undrafted, signed with the Warriors in summer league, and then earned a spot on Golden State's roster before being sent to Santa Cruz for a few games to give him some court time; Scott Machado, who went undrafted, signed with the Houston Rockets before being sent to the Vipers and eventually traded to Santa Cruz before being called up to Golden State.
While Machado really emerged in the D-League Finals for Santa Cruz, Bazemore came up big in Game One of the second round for Golden State with a clutch shot against the San Antonio Spurs. Both certainly showed the value of having a D-League affiliate where they can keep track of and develop talent in collaboration with the NBA staff.
It might be early to start thinking about summer league with Golden State still in the playoffs and the 2013 NBA Draft might not be quite as exciting for Warriors fans as last year's draft, but this week could end up still mattering for the franchise down the road.