The Golden State Warriors are sitting on the sill of their championship window with an experienced, albeit young, core that they'll have locked up for years once they re-sign Stephen Curry in 2017.
Coming off of consecutive NBA Finals appearances and a 73-win regular season, you'd be forgiven for thinking that finding a player in the draft who can contribute right away is unlikely.
The track record of 30th picks
Yet contrary to the dominant thinking about late round picks, there have been a number of productive rotation players drafted 30th, including Ezeli (2012), former Warrior David Lee (2005), the incomparable Gheorghe Muresan (1993), the late Sean Rooks (1992), Carl Herrera (1990), and Mark West (1983) as well as players like Kyle Anderson (2014), Jimmy Butler (2011), Marko Jaric (2000), Howard Eisley (1994), and Nate McMillan (1986) — it's possible to find a player at #30.
Judd Olanoff of the New York Times wrote an article about this time last year about the value of late first round picks in the NBA Draft — they produce about as well as players in the middle of the draft. But there was a key line from the Chicago Bulls about Butler in Jeff Zillgitt's article in USA Today about late round picks back in 2013: "We were looking for someone who fit our culture and fit our system."
Fitting the culture vs. filling a need
That matter of fitting the system be especially key for the Warriors this year — they have to capitalize on this market inefficiency of low cost late-round picks this year with the number of upcoming high-priced free agents they have on their hands and that means finding a player in the draft who will fit instead of limiting themselves to limiting themselves to one position based on need.
In addition to having eight free agents, the Warriors owe the Utah Jazz both this year's second round pick and their 2017 first round pick — they aren't guaranteed to have another chance at this low-cost talent pool again until 2018 and will almost certainly be in a situation where they'll be having roster turnover.
It makes sense that many mock drafts are looking directly at a player who could just find a place on the roster because they have no better option — a frontcourt player.
Center Festus Ezeli, forward James Michael McAdoo and small ball power forward Harrison Barnes are restricted free agents. Reserve (stretch) forward Marreese Speights and post Anderson Varejao are unrestricted free agents. Andrew Bogut suffered another injury in the 2016 NBA Finals and was inconsistent during the final two rounds of the playoffs.
Yes, the Warriors need a post. But in evaluating what was available to us in the 2016 SBN NBA Blogger Mock Draft, we went another direction.
Finding a player could who could fit the Warriors' system
When we got to pick #30 in this mock draft exercise with members from SBN's network of bloggers acting as general managers, there were a broad range of intriguing bigs available: Ben Bentil, AJ Hammons, Chinanu Onuaku, Thon Maker, Zhou Qi, Diamond Stone, and Steven Zimmerman. But after looking at the strengths and weaknesses of all the players available, a number of those players had issues that seemed to make them a poor fit for the Warriors: lack of an offensive repertoire, inconsistent effort on defense, poor rebounding, a black holes who don't know their limitations, or completely unknown commodities.
So in expanding my perspective to players who might actually fit what the Warriors do, it was almost impossible to ignore Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon.
Brogdon's value ranges from late first round pick to second round pick, depending on where you look. But when you look at what people are saying about him, his skillset just screams Warriors. You can see my really brief explanation over at Ridiculous Upside with additional commentary and video from mock draft overseer Dakota Schmidt, but the details say a bit more about why he's a fit.
What people are saying about Malcolm Brogdon's offense
- ESPN's Jay Bilas (via David Teel of the Daily Press): "Versatility is key in today’s NBA," Bilas said, "and he’s versatile on both ends of the floor. He can handle the ball, he can play on the perimeter, he’s big and strong, and he can guard a point guard and he can guard a 3-man. He’s not a speed merchant — he’s not that type of athlete. But he’s athletic. "His ability to guard pick-and-rolls — he’s very smart, he picks up concepts. He’s very disciplined and a disciplined defender. I think you can make the argument that outside of the shot-blockers, he’s maybe the top individual defender in the draft."
SBN mock draft: Warriors Select Malcolm Brogdon
•Ridiculous UpsideSB Nation's NBA Network conducted a mock draft with bloggers from each team site making "their" team's pick. We continue with the next pick in the 2016 NBA Mock Draft with Golden State of Mind discussing their selection of Malcolm Brogdon.
- David Fisher of The Bird Writes: "Brogdon also has some ability as a secondary creator. As a wing the ability shown here to navigate the pick and roll, especially splitting against NBA caliber athletes from Clemson and Duke, is solid. His turnover rate as a senior is an absurd 8.3% (more akin to a spot up shooter) despite his 28.4% usage rate."
- Joseph Nardone of Today's Fast Break: "A heady passer with 4.1 assists per40 minutes compared to merely 1.8 turnovers in college, a defensive marvel while in a Virginia uniform and a dude who shot above 39 percent from beyond the arc as a senior. Those seem like decent traits for a role player on Golden State."
- Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post: "He was no worse than in the 75th percentile in effectiveness in off-screen plays, spot up situations, isolation circumstances and as the ball handler in pick-and-roll plays. He was no worse than in the 88th percentile, according to Synergy, in each of the last two."
- Ryan Blackburn of Denver Stiffs: "A common fallacy thrown out by draft experts is that shooting can be difficult to quantify, but here are some statistical examples from the past that will help project the future for 2016 NBA Draft prospects...My biggest risers after doing this exercise: Taurean Prince, Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, and DeAndre Bembry."
- Brett Oswalt of NumberFire: "...take a look at what happens when their stats are taken over the course of 100 possessions, counteracting the gigantic difference in pace between the two schools...although Hield is far superior in scoring and shooting, Brogdon has shown the ability to be just as valuable to his team. In terms of Win Shares per 40 Minutes, Win Shares, and Box Plus-Minus, the two were nearly identical in their last collegiate seasons. It's no wonder that both garnered such accolades."
What people are saying about Malcolm Brogdon's defense
- John Hand of WEEI.com: "On defense, Brogdon’s lateral quickness has been called into question, but he uses his large frame and grit to make it difficult for opposing players to get around him. When Brogdon guarded Duke star Brandon Ingram, who is predicted to be one of the top two picks in this year’s draft, Ingram didn’t score, going 0-for-4."
- Peter Nygaard of Upside & Motor: "Among players with a minimum of 30 possessions, Brogdon ranked in the 94th percentile in pick-and-roll ball-handler defense and the 90th percentile in isolation defense, per Synergy. The key to Brogdon’s success is his combination of length and strength. Standing at over 6-5 with a wingspan of 6-10.5, Brogdon can be difficult to escape."
- Dakota Schmidt of Ridiculous Upside: "Bennett was able to make that defense work by recruiting a plethora of lanky wings that can buy into the system. That list of names features current NBA players Justin Anderson, Mike Scott, Joe Harris and Warriors superstar Klay Thompson. A player that will hope to follow in those footsteps is current NBA Draft prospect Malcolm Brogdon. When you compare Brogdon to those players, he might have had the best college career.
DeAndre Bembry of St. Joe's is certainly another interesting perimeter prospect in this draft, but as that guy who has become everyone's sleeper this year he probably won't be around at #30. Caris LeVert of Michigan is an intriguing prospect, but the uncertainty about his medical history and injury-proneness makes it difficult to commit a three-year contract to him.
But Deadpoolio of Bright Side of the Sun called Brogdon, "The safest pick in the draft". And when you look at a player who has a reputation as a high IQ versatile playmaker, can score in situations that he'd find in Steve Kerr's offense, and comes from a strong defensive culture, it's really difficult not to see him as a fit for the Warriors even if the mock drafts have him ranked lower than the 30th pick.