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Constructing a Winner: The Genius of Jerry West

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Jerry West has had his imprint on the NBA for a substantial part of the last 6 decades. From the 60's - 70's as a player and briefly as a head coach reaching the NBA Finals 9 times (winning 1 NBA title and losing 8). To the 80's - early 00's as GM/ an Executive of the Lakers reaching the NBA Finals 10 times (winning 6 NBA titles and losing 4). In the early 00's, turning around the Memphis Grizzlies franchise as the GM and winning NBA executive of the year. Most recently in the early 10's - current day as an Executive Board Member of the Golden State Warriors helping the team to 2 consecutive NBA Finals trips (winning 1 NBA title and losing 1). In grand total, from 1960 - 2016, Jerry West has been a part of 21 NBA Finals helping hoist 8 NBA titles (1 as player and 7 as GM/Executive).

There is a lot that can be said of Jerry West and his impact on the overall game of basketball. For the purpose of this piece I want to specifically talk about his tenure with the Warriors and how his influence propelled the Warriors out of the wretched gutters of the Western Conference and into perennial title contenders they are today.

In May 2011, the Warriors front office hired Jerry West as as an Executive Board Member after the first full season under the Joe Lacob & Peter Guber era. The move was to help leverage West's scouting expertise as a successful GM/Executive. He was brought on as a team adviser in a non-decision making role in charge of player talent evaluations. The goal of having West on staff was to help assess draft talent to build a competitive roster.

The starting roster from the season prior (2010-2011) was as follows:

Position

Prior to Jerry West

2010-2011 Roster

Commentary

Point Guard

Stephen Curry

Sophomore year, had surgery for torn ligaments in off-season

Shooting Guard

Monta Ellis

Alpha dog on the team averaged 24 ppg

Small Forward

Dorrell Wright

Dorrell lit it up from 3 this season, racking up almost 200 3-pointers

Power Forward

David Lee

First year with Dubs of 6yr/$80M deal

Center

Andris Biedrins

Yikes!

Keith Smart was the first year head coach and led the team to a +10 win improvement going 36-46. The team overachieved a bit, missed the playoffs and ended up with a fairly low lottery pick with the 11th pick in the 2011 draft.

Enter: Jerry West

Now, there are probably many moves we can credit Jerry West with but I'll key into the one's specifically listed below as he has been outspoken about these ones in particular.

West pushes front office to draft Klay Thompson

Just one month after joining the organization, West pushes the Warriors front office to draft Klay Thompson with the 11th overall pick in June 2011. Klay was a great shooter in college but Jerry had experience with the Thompson family far before Klay was even born. In 1987 as the GM of the Lakers, West made a trade to acquire Mychal Thompson (who was the number one overall pick back in 1978 by the Trailblazers) from the San Antonio Spurs. Mychal is the father of Klay Thompson. Mychal acted as back-up C for Kareem and helped the team get to 4 NBA finals during his 5 years of play with the Lakers, winning 2 NBA titles. The fact is, West worked with Klay's father and saw talent and character in him that attracted him in 1987 and resulted in success. Twenty-four years later, West is in a new capacity and another Thompson is on the board. That 24 year relationship with Mychal can't be overlooked. Klay was born in 1990, Mychal's last season with the Lakers was in 1991. Most of us acquire certain behaviors and tenacity from our parents. Now, we can assume maybe West was just keen on Klay in the 2011 draft because he was a skilled shooter and was available. Or maybe it went further and he assessed that Klay would have a certain level of Mychal's skill set, demeanor, and drive. It became a much more meaningful pick as he not only was able to assess the skill but also have insight into the person himself through the eye's of his father.

West shuts down Kevin Love Trade

In the Summer of 2014, the Warriors were starting to aggressively try to acquire a skilled big man. As we began to see Steph Curry start to flourish as a star in the league, the Warriors wanted to match Steph with another superstar. The roster at the time was Steph/Klay/Barnes/Lee/Bogut. The Warriors were interested in acquiring PF Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timerbwolves. The heavily rumored trade would have included: Klay Thompson + David Lee + 1st round pick for Kevin Love + Kevin Martin (Source). The Warriors were essentially trying to upgrade their PF position in trade for a downgrade at the SG position. This could have been the second blockbuster trade Kevin Martin was involved in, having been the key piece in the James Harden trade in October 2012. From the reports at the time, it seemed that the Warriors were hesitant to part with Klay but were very close. It was documented that West had threatened to resign his position if Warriors traded Klay Thompson. He believed that Klay was a key defensive piece and it was important to keep the back court of Klay & Steph together (Source). It goes back to West's belief in the guy he helped draft and trying to maintain a calm in the organization when the rest of the front office needed a disruptive move. The Warriors had just started to make traction and wanted to continue to make big splashes through free-agency and through trades. West was the calming presence to tell the Warriors to stick to their guy and that Klay was not a short-term answer when they drafted him. The prior decades of Warriors rosters had included so many 2-3 year stints where the team was unable to build any chemistry or draft enough talent to position themselves out West (excluding brief 2 year We-Believe years). Had West not been there, the Warriors very well could have made the trade for Love. West was the voice that spoke from experience and told the front office to stick to the process. The very next year, the Warriors win the NBA title and face the Cavs who had traded for Kevin Love just a few months after the Warriors deal was called off.

West makes the call to Kevin Durant

The prize of the Summer of 2016 was Kevin Wayne Durant. While hundreds of millions of dollars were being flung around like chips at a high stakes poker table with the salary cap spike, the Warriors focused all their efforts and resources on courting Kevin Durant. A once in a generation type player who could swing the competitive balance in the force and amplify the Death star lineup. The Warriors had sent Steph/Klay/Dray/Iggy + Myers & Kerr to the Hamptons to speak with Durant in one of the most sought after free agent wars in recent memory. The Warriors made a good impression and emphasized the team concept as well as family. Maybe this was enough to sway Kevin to Golden State. A lot had happened prior that laid out a path for the move. One of the notable events was the last minute effort that Jerry West made when he decided to give Kevin Durant a call. West had emphasized to Durant that he would have an easier time finding shots with the Warriors with Steph/Klay/Dray as his running mates. He pointed out that Durant took too many contested shots in OKC and wouldn't have nearly the same problem in Golden State. These were both fairly obvious and Kevin could draw his own conclusions so nothing new to Kevin here. What stood out the most was when West brought up his own experience getting to the NBA Finals 9 times and having lost 8 times as a player. That each of those losses still eat at him today. West, who has since become an incredibly successful GM & NBA executive, could still feel a deep level of disappointment decades later (Source). That resounded with Durant whether he will admit it or not. Durant had been with the Sonics/Thunder for 9 seasons and was a top 5 player in the league for most if not all of those seasons. Durant had just one Finals trip, that resulted in a loss, to show for. He had consistently finished just short in the Western Conference Finals and suffered a series of frustrating moves from the OKC front office. Durant had been adamant a few season prior that he was tired of finishing second place, whether it was in the draft, in the MVP voting, or in the NBA Finals. It was an untreated itch that that continued to dig at him as season after season passed by in OKC. West spoke to Durant in a way that he could tap into his insecurities and get to the vulnerability of Durant. This isn't the only reason Kevin left, but when we look back in history on this move, the influence West had in this effort to court Durant should be seen with significance.

So now we are in 2016 and we can look at the Warriors starting roster before West arrived and how it has evolved

Position

Prior to Jerry West

2010-2011 Roster

Warriors Current

2016-2017 Lineup

Point Guard

Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry

Shooting Guard

Monta Ellis

Klay Thompson

Small Forward

Dorrell Wright

Kevin Durant

Power Forward

David Lee

Draymond Green

Center

Andris Biedrins

Zaza Pachlia

Jerry West has exercised significant influence in the molding of the Warriors roster over the last 6 years. He has been the guiding force that have pushed for a player acquisition and have pushed away from a undesired move. Obviously Bob Myers/Lacob & much of the rest of the front office were also key in changing the culture of the organization from a sad franchise into a winning organization and an environment that finally allowed free agents to desire Golden state as a destination. Who knows how long West's tenure will be with the Warriors, all we can say is that his resume speaks for itself and he has consistently proven to make the right move. He was brought in because of his track record and the Warriors front office trusts him. He has etched his imprint on the Warriors organization and once again helped alter the history books.

This FanPost is a submission from a member of the mighty Golden State of Mind community. While we're all here to throw up that W, these words do not necessarily reflect the views of the GSoM Crew. Still, chances are the preceding post is Unstoppable Baby!