So... we're doing this thing where we rank the players, but we're doing it "Survivor" style, eliminating one player per poll, until we've decided who is the most valuable to the Warriors in 2016 and beyond. Once a player is eliminated, they shouldn't be counted as a reason to choose the next player. For example, whether or not Jason Thompson's presence lessens the value of Festus Ezeli in real life shouldn't be taken into account once Jason Thompson has been voted out in this little game.
We're referring to the players as "assets", to remind voters to consider age, salary, injuries, production, and potential when making their selections.
Here's where we are:
16) Chris Babb (41%)
15) Brandon Rush (68%)
14) Ian Clark (68%)
13) Jason Thompson (34%)
12) Leandro Barbosa (36%)
11) James Michael McAdoo (41%)
10) Marreese Speights (35%)
9) Harrison Barnes (47%)
Which brings us to the most recent selection, coming in as the #8 asset on the Warriors roster, the 30th selection in the 2015 NBA draft, Kevon Looney! The Warriors rookie tallied 396 of the participating votes, good for a true majority at 52%.
The Greatest Love of All
I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Apparently, GSoM feels the same way.
The former UCLA Bruin outlasted all of the other rookies, D-leaguers, a good chunk of the Warriors' championship bench, and even a starter. Every week I'd check the polls, and every week another proven commodity or able body would get voted out. Despite "basketball activity" being ruled out for "at least 4-6 months" according to offical releases, the fans believe Looney's future is more important to the Warriors than this season's contributions by Barnes, McAdoo, Thompson, Barbosa, and Speights in defense of the NBA title.
According to this excellent article by Apricot, only 11% of NBA champions not coached by Phil have successfully defended their titles since 1971. 11%, or about once a decade (again, without Phil). Those are long odds. Think about it this way... pitchers in baseball are usually seen as "automatic outs". Leaguewide, MLB pitchers were the most terrible in history, combining to average an all time low .145 on base percentage last season.
An NBA champion (sans Phil) has about the chance of success as Bartolo Colon does as a hitter (.108 on base percentage). MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Colon's hitting has "been a great source of entertainment" for him. Like I said, those are some long odds. The Spurs, who are probably the best team throughout the Duncan/Popavich era, have never repeated as champions.
Of course, some people would say that the Spurs have made all the right moves, as evidenced by their long term success. They've rarely sacrificed the future at the expense of the present, and have seemingly managed to find useful players at the end of the first round year after year.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
So what are the chances of Kevon Looney becoming a successful NBA player? Speights, JT, and Barbosa are all success stories. They're lottery picks that have had long careers playing lots of minutes, beating out rookies for job opportunities every year. Mo and Leandro have had important roles on an all-time great squad. How likely is it that Looney becomes as good as those guys, let alone better (as the polling suggests)?
Everybody's searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
It's really hard to say. I suppose that some of it depends on your definition of success. We do know that five of the last ten players drafted 30th aren't in the NBA, and Jimmy Butler and David Lee are the only (career) starters in the group. The other three guys (Festus Ezeli, Joel Freeland, and Kyle Anderson) are still on their rookie contracts and it's difficult to guarantee success for any of them, though I'm optimistic about Festus. Having one guy succeed at that draft spot is great. Having two of them in four seasons is unprecedented.
Of course, a lot of folks think Looney should have been drafted higher than 30th. After all, he was the #11 recruit coming out of high school just a little over one year ago. Measured at 6'9" in shoes (with a 7'3." wingspan), Kevon Looney certainly has the frame to excel in the NBA. He's only 19, so there's a lot of room for development, both physically and as a player. One mock draft even had him going 19th overall, but most of them projected Looney in the 20's as concerns about his hip and post scoring hurt his stock.
So what about picks in the 20's? How often do they succeed? According to this excellent (though I'm sure slightly flawed) methodology (and every other article I could find on the matter), there doesn't seem to be any real difference in success rates from 20th to 30th. On average, picks 15-30 have about a 20-23% chance of becoming "impact" players.
We can see that defending the title is difficult, and we can also see that late draft picks rarely pan out. In the case of Kevon Looney, the odds are going to get even longer. On August 20th, a Warriors press release stated that Kevon Looney would "miss basketball activities for at least 4-6 months" recovering from surgery to repair his torn labrum (hip).
That means no D-league before Christmas at best, and the All Star break seems like a more realistic goal for Looney to begin his career. Of course, even Looney's most ardent supporters don't expect him to contribute to the NBA roster at all this season, but he might not even get to contribute to Santa Cruz' title defense either. Also, if he misses the majority of the D-league's season, it's probably fair to assume that he spends a lot of the 2016-17 season in Santa Cruz as well.
That's if he doesn't have any setbacks. Personally, I think it's 2017-18 before Looney gets anywhere near as productive as Speights has been for the Warriors, if he ever gets there at all.
And if, by chance, that special place
That you've been dreaming of
Leads you to a lonely place
Find your strength in love
Still, a 6'10" 19 year old that can drain threes at a 41% rate is just the sort of player that you gamble a late first on, and while I disagree with the poll ranking, I like the draft pick. I would love for Kevon to develop into the awesome player so many of you see. If he exceeds my expectations and becomes a valued contributor, helping the Warriors contend for championships the way Barbosa and Speights do, I'll gladly celebrate his talents.
Of course, Whitney's wisdom, while profound, was ideological. In reality, the late songbird was hounded by addiction and terrible decisions that eventually took her career, her family, and even her life. Sometimes ideology and reality are very different.
On to the next selection!
So, we're in the top seven now, for a squad that should contend for a championship. If you had to lose one of the remaining players forever, which one would it be? Hit the poll and tell us why in the comments!