Nate Parham, Golden State of Mind’s fearless leader/site manager, brought up an excellent point on the GSoM’s latest podcast. I’ll paraphrase: The draft is one of the only opportunities for teams to add cheap, young talent to the roster. Despite the Warriors’ multi-year dominance, drafting remains an essential component of success moving forward.
The draft is also an opportunity to cultivate a player with a personality and work ethic that fits exactly with the organization’s ethos. Trades and signings are expensive and necessary steps for success—but new players acquired by those means are not always culture fits on the team. Fortunately, the Warriors have the luxury to be picky in acquiring cheap talent with a natural personality fit in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Enter, Jalen Brunson, Villanova’s junior point guard. Brunson’s collegiate success is astounding. As a freshman, Brunson, Josh Hart (now on the Lakers), and a host of other talent led the Wildcats to a national championship victory over North Carolina. Last year, he was one of the best point guards in the country and led Villanova to the number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
This season, as Brunson’s junior season commenced, Reid Forgrave of CBS Sports wrote a profile on him. He called Brunson “the smartest player in college basketball.”
Jalen Brunson has unquestionably one of the most advanced basketball minds in the nation. He scores at an elite level, both from 3-point range (he’s shooting above 50 percent this year) and at the rim (he was third in the nation last year at finishing at the rim). We all want a 6-6, ridiculously athletic human being we can turn into an elite point guard. That’s not Jalen Brunson. He’s a basketball savant at a position that values the mind more than any other in basketball.
The pros and cons of Jalen Brunson
Positives: Passing and shooting. Both traits sound obvious for a draftee, but Brunson has done both since entering college. This season, Brunson is averaging 19 points a game on a team with four other solid scoring options. His assist to turnover ratio is 3.9 (18 turnovers in 14 games!). The man takes care of the ball.
Some less-mentioned attributes of Brunson are his height (6’3’’), and he is left-handed (lacking on the Dubs). He’s called a short point guard, but he’s taller than some of the best guards in the NBA. Given Brunson’s basketball-centric upbringing (his father played a decade in the league and is currently a T-Wolves assistant coach), NBA life will be less of a shock for him than for other players. He’s mature and has played well on the grandest stages in college hoops. The Warriors should draft NCAA veterans with big game experience. On this end, Brunson’s the man. He’s prepared for the NBA his whole life.
Negatives: In college, Brunson always has the ball in his hands. He naturally fits on teams playing a slower half-court offense. The Warriors are not the type of team that needs a ball-dominant guard. Given Brunson’s passing ability and decision-making prowess, I still think he could adapt and be a good point guard on a team like the Warriors. Right now though, Brunson’s style is dissonant to Golden State’s.
Power Rankings: Who should the Warriors draft?
For each draft piece, these rankings will be updated with new additions. Wagner could shoot up to the first round, but both have been moved down the list given current mock drafts. Hachimura is still a complete wildcard.
1. Jalen Brunson- Villanova, junior, point guard (first or second rounder)
2. Moritz Wagner- Michigan, junior, power forward (first or second rounder)
3. Rui Hachimura- Gonzaga, sophomore, forward (first or second rounder)
4. Bonzie Colson- Notre Dame, senior, forward (second rounder)