Yesterday, I described the reasoning behind Golden State of Mind selecting Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon for the Golden State Warriors in SB Nation's NBA blogger mock draft
But we actually conducted two blogger drafts: one wild fantasy draft with trades and another without trades.
Obviously, with the trades in the NBA today, neither is going to approximate reality. But just to further discuss prospects as we all cram for the draft while continuing to deal with the trauma of the 2016 NBA Finals, I thought I'd share our pick in that more "rigid" mock draft: Gary Payton II of Oregon State.
We've already had a number of conversations about The Glove's son and Justin Swinderman laid out why Payton might fit the Warriors back in January. His five reasons then: versatility, fitting the culture, maturity, speed, and local roots. And with the college season now completed, there's even more statistical support for Payton being something of a value pick at #30.
ESPN's Kevin Pelton had Payton ranked 23rd on his big board and had the Indiana Pacers selecting him 20th in his latest look at who each team should pick, writing glowingly about indicators of elite athleticism:
As a 6-foot-3 point guard, Payton outrebounded Stone on the defensive glass. In fact, GPII projects as the best defensive rebounder among point guards in my database, and rebounding has generally been a strong indicator for point guards.
Befitting the son of the former Defensive Player of the Year, Payton has the best projected steal rate in the draft and the highest projected block rate for a point guard in my database. Although Payton is neither a great playmaker nor an outside shooting threat, he figures to be a standout defensively.
Ed Weiland of Hoops Analyst also had high praise for Payton for similar reasons, comparing him to Marcus Smart among others in terms of possessing tools to perform at the NBA level albeit sharing shooting as a weakness.
What Payton does bring are some stats that when posted at an NCAA power conference school have translated into a long NBA career with a decent chance of becoming an all-star...The two big numbers here are that he’s over .500 on 2PP and 10.0 on RSB40.
His age is a huge negative, as is his shaky 3-point shooting. But he’s also a player who clearly brings NBA-level athleticism, strong defense and good finishing skills. I feel he can help an NBA backcourt right away with those skills alone. He doesn’t have the upside of Dunn or the intrigue of Valentine, but he looks like he has the tools to develop into a useful NBA PG.
Payton is certainly interesting in that he's one of the draft's biggest human highlight reels in terms of athleticism who also has the attention of the analytics crowd while still having a glaring weakness that seems to have scouts sort of wary about him. And that struggle to balance NBA skills and glaringly red flags has his pre-draft stock all over the map, if mock drafts are any indication: as of today, Payton's stock ranged from the mid-20's (Pelton's wasn't a true mock, but he went 26th in Kevin O'Connor's mock draft for SB Nation) to falling to 48th in both Sam Vecenie and Gary Parrish's mock at CBS Sports.
I don't have the data to compare that to past drafts, but that seems like a crazy range for any one prospect. But without any data, I think Payton's stock (which actually leans more toward mid- to late-second round) illustrates a fundamental truth about this draft, as stated clearly by Parrish:
So, to me, this draft has three tiers.
1) The Simmons/Ingram tier.
2) The Murray/Bender/Hield/Dunn/Chriss/Brown tier.
3) The everybody else tier.
In other words, a real talent could fall to the Warriors at #30.
In SBN's blogger mock draft, we decided to pass on Brice Johnson, Chinanu Onuaku, Diamond Stone, and Thon Maker among others — I chose to privilege concrete NBA skills that could pay off right away over potential for a team that is staring a wide open championship window right now, even eschewing a glaring need for players who I thought fit or were best available.
But Payton's stock is emblematic of the range of players available to the Warriors at #30. To get a better sense of that, the following is a quick survey of mock drafts around the web
NBADraft.net: Taurean Prince, SF (6'8", Baylor)
Prince is an interesting name here: he's widely expected to go higher than 30th and I'd be somewhat surprised if he fell to the Warriors. But an athletic 6-foot-8 player who could potentially shoot the three and defend? Yeah, that's what the Warriors are all about.
NBADraft.net compares him to DeMarre Carroll and if you combine what Jonathan Givony said about him at DX with what Weiland said at HoopsAnalyst it's easy to put that picture together: while Weiland highlights that, "Prince was better as a junior. This year his efficiency fell off a lot", Givony adds context in noting, "Prince is better playing a more confined and narrowly tailored role, as he demonstrated earlier in his career. Baylor's inconsistent guard play this season led to Prince being forced to shoulder more ball-handling and playmaking responsibilities..."
Similar to what I said about Brogdon, that just sounds like someone who would not only fit what the Warriors do now, but also maybe fits the profile of a certain restricted free agent the Warriors already have.
Steve Kyler, Basketball Insiders: Brice Johnson, C (6'11", North Carolina)
For what it's worth, I find Brice Johnson to be considerably more interesting than some of the center prospects who might be available at this spot. Offensively, he has decent tools to work with as part of an uptempo lineup.
Defensively, DX's comment that he, "struggled with foul trouble on a number of notable occasions, still lacking a degree of discipline, awareness and feel inside...Looking lost, unfocused or disinterested some possessions, Johnson has to tools to be more of a consistent presence on this end" is a concern, but he has the raw materials to do some good things in the Warriors system.
Alex Kennedy, Basketball Insiders: Zhou Qi, C (7'2", China)
I mean, what can you really say about him? But watch this workout video from DX and then try to tell me you're not at least intrigued. A skilled seven-footer who can run the floor would take the "Death Lineup" to a whole new level.
Chad Ford, ESPN (6/21); Derek Bodner, SI: Damian Jones, C (7'0", Vanderbilt)
Damian Jones is another popular choice for the Warriors because, as Ford said in his mock, "There should be room on the roster for a player like Jones, who not only is an elite athlete but can also stretch the floor."
But the knock on Jones is aggression and consistency, which seem to be more red flags that would preclude a player from NBA success. ESPN's Jay Bilas offered an in-depth description of Jones — among the players he identified as good prospects at #30 — in a media conference call on Tuesday.
He can really run, and he's got a lot of ability. A little bit inconsistent with how hard he plays and how productive he is, and he got it handed to him a few times...I just think how productive is he going to be and how aggressive going after it is he, because he can really be an excellent low-post defender and rim protector, and he is very good in pick-and-roll situations, and he's got a very good shooting touch, out to about 18 feet, and does a pretty good job around the rim. He just needs to do it at a higher level and sustain it for longer periods, but he's got a lot of ability.
I'm struggling to determine whether Jones is significantly better than Johnson, but that intangible of aggression seems to be essential to succeed as a NBA post.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com; Sam Vecenie, CBS Sports: Juan Hernangomez, F (6'9", Spain)
Howard-Cooper's description alone makes Hernangomez seem ideal for the Warriors right now: "He is a good athlete who runs the floor well, plays above the rim and can score in a variety of ways." But that's before this tidbit from DX: "...his 20.6 PER ranks is second best in the last decade as well (behind Nikola Mirotic), eclipsing some big names (Ricky Rubio, Tiago Splitter, Serge Ibaka, Kristaps Porzingis, Ersan Ilyasova, and his older brother Guillermo/Willy [drafted by the Knicks last June]) in the process so far...he's one of just a handful of players under the age of 21 to average over 10 rebounds per-40 minutes in the ACB in the past 25+ years."
Strength and physicality seem to be a problem for him, but as someone who will be 21 during training camp, there's some room for growth that makes him a promising prospect...which is probably why he's projected to go much higher in other mocks.
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders; Diamond Leung, BANG (via Washington Post): Thon Maker, C (7'1", HS Senior/Athlete Institute)
I don't have much to say about Maker and I'm not sure anyone else does really. So I'll just leave this here:
@NateP_SBN Thon Maker has the dream NBA frame but.... I don't think he really knows how to play basketball.— Ridiculous Upside (@RidicUpside) June 23, 2016
Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group submitted his thoughts for the Washington Post: "The Warriors have time to develop him. If they part with Festus Ezeli in the offseason, he could see some playing time."
I understand that line of reasoning, but it just seems like the team should build on the momentum they've built up over the last two years instead of building for a brighter future.
Jonathan Givony/DraftExpress; Gary Parrish, CBS Sports; Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report: Diamond Stone, C (6'10", Maryland)
Bringing this thing full circle, I end with the DX mock because they're among the most respected, but also because you'll note that Pelton made reference to Stone as well: 6-foot-3 Gary Payton II was a better rebounder than him.
That's the kind of thing that frightens me about a big for all of the intangible red flags that DX put up in their scouting report:
Stone can be a bit of a black hole at times...There are questions about both his willingness to pass and his feel for the game as he failed to see open teammates when the defense doubled him...He wasn't that physical of a rebounder and didn't attack the defensive glass to pull down the loose ball...his overall effort level and instincts left much to be desired...too often plays with a lack of toughness and physicality by getting pushed under the rim or allowing his man to freely get to his spots on the floor...off the ball he is a major liability...lacking the sense of urgency needed to compensate for his average lateral quickness and explosiveness.
I know, I know — I'm cherry picking. But whereas I argued that Brogdon's scouting report made him an obvious fit for the Warriors, Stone's strikes me as the exact opposite. He might end up being a solid player, but will he fit what the Warriors do? I personally don't see it based on what I've read and seen.
Who do you think the Warriors should pick? Vote in the poll below and let us know what you think in the comments.