Ahh, reclamation projects. Who doesn’t love them?
I’ll tell you who does love them. The Golden State Warriors, that’s who. Also me. Also you, unless you have no heart.
The Warriors tried to make Marquese Chriss a reclamation project, and they look pretty smart for that decision. They’re trying it with Dragan Bender, with results TBD.
There have been other hits (remember Andrew Bogut’s return last year?), and a large number of misses (hey there, Jimmer Fredette, how ya doin’?), and there will continue to be hits and misses, likely as soon as next year, if not next month.
So here are nine reclamation projects I want the Warriors to get in on.
Make it happen, Bob Myers. Or, if you want to do your job well, maybe don’t.
9. Jan Veselý
Drafted: 6th overall, 2011 (Washington Wizards)
Current team: Fenerbahçe (EuroLeague)
2019-20 stats: 8.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, 60.7% FG
In all likelihood, Jan Veselý’s three-year NBA stint will best be remembered for his The Bachelor-inspired celebration on draft day.
Whoa, whoa, take it easy, buddy. This is a family show.
Veselý’s brief NBA career was, in a word, bad. In two words, really bad.
But he’ll always be remembered fondly by American sports fans, who have quite the affinity for oddly-placed intimacy. And his recent success (he was the 2019 EuroLeague MVP) suggests he can still hoop.
Would the Warriors bring him back after a six-year NBA hiatus? No. But they should, damn it.
8. Frank Ntilikina
Drafted: 8th overall, 2017 (New York Knicks)
Current team: New York Knicks
2019-20 stats: 5.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game, 38.2% FG, 30.4% 3FG
Ahh, the old point-guard-who-can’t-shoot schtick. You gotta love it.
Franky Smokes is two things: Really bad at offense, and pretty good at defense. The Warriors are also two things: Really bad at offense, and really bad at defense. So in that regard, he represents quite an upgrade.
But the Warriors will no longer be bad, bad, bad in 2020-21, and it’s hard to imagine an offensively-inept player contributing to a contender.
Yet Ntilikina comes with an asterisk nearly as big as his wingspan: He’s played his entire career for the Knicks, so judging his poor play is like judging a Chopped! dessert when the ingredients were anchovies, prune juice, liver, and goat milk.
If Ntilikina could improve his jump shot to a league average level, he could play a Shaun Livingston-level role. Get him out of New York and maybe it happens.
7. Justin Patton
Drafted: 16th overall, 2017 (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Current team: Oklahoma City Blue (G League)
2019-20 stats: 12.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 3.1 blocks per game, 53.5% FG, 30.0% 3FG
Justin Patton has worn a ton of hats, but barely played any games. He was officially drafted by the Chicago Bulls, but quickly found out he’d been traded to the Timberwolves, who soon traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers, who waived him, at which point he signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who traded him to the Dallas Mavericks, who waived him before he played for them.
All in all he’s been affiliated with five NBA teams, and played for three NBA teams. And he’s appeared in a grand total of nine games over three years.
Sounds like the perfect guy to ruin the league by suddenly figuring it out in the Bay Area.
6. Greg Oden
Drafted: 1st overall, 2007 (Portland Trail Blazers)
Current team: Aliens (BIG3)
2019 stats: 10.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 0.8 assists per game
The Warriors had the second overall pick in the 2007 Draft for the last three years. That worked out pretty well; imagine how well the first overall pick could work out?
Oden already tried one comeback, and it didn’t work. All the more reason for a second one, right?
Now his game is a bit antiquated, and to call him injury prone would be an insult to the term, but . . . I mean . . . c’mon. Think about the narratives.
5. Anthony Bennett
Drafted: 1st overall, 2013 (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Current team: Injured
2018-19 G League stats: 12.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game, 54.6% FG, 45.3% 3FG
Okay, here me out. Two things.
First: While I don’t think the Warriors should be trying to pile on the moribund Cavs, it would be really funny for the old rivalry if Golden State could turn Cleveland’s bust of all busts into a solid NBA contributor.
Second: While Bennett has never played well at the NBA level, he’s shot better than 42% from deep in three straight G League seasons. That was good enough for him to earn a training camp contract with the Houston Rockets, where he was expected to make a little noise. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending injury before the season began.
There’s some athleticism there, and one heck of a jumper. That’s got “Warriors” written all over it.
4. Thon Maker
It’s easy to see the appeal of Maker. At a clean 7-feet, with an even longer wingspan and strong athleticism, he has all the tools to be a strong rim-protecting center. And as a 19-year old rookie, he shot 37.8% from beyond the arc.
Holy heck would the Warriors like to sign up for that player.
But it hasn’t panned out. Maker’s defense has yet to develop, and his three-point stroke has fallen off. But he hasn’t been in the best position for success, as he was stuck behind Brook Lopez in Milwaukee, and then stuck behind Andre Drummond for a mildly-dysfunctional Pistons squad.
Get him working with Draymond Green and Jarron Collins on defense, and give him a green light shooting the ball, and maybe good things happen.
Also he just made a three as I was typing this, so it was fated.
3. Anthony Randolph
Drafted: 14th overall, 2007 (Golden State Warriors)
Current team: Real Madrid (EuroLeague)
2019-20 stats: 13.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 0.4 assists per game, 50.6% FG, 49.1% 3FG
Hey Siri, open up the time capsule.
The fact that Randolph hasn’t played in the NBA since 2014 is a little bit crazy. Sure, he never turned into the playmaker that Don Nelson envisioned (and by “envisioned” I mean “demanded with no backup plan for if it never manifested”), but Randolph has turned himself into a deadeye shooter.
That 49.1% mark from distance this year? That’s a little bit of at an outlier, but not too much of one. He’s turned into a marksman, and he’s done well in international play. And he’s younger than Steph Curry.
Could the Warriors make a reclamation project out of their own initial project? I’m here for it.
2. Mario Hezonja
Drafted: 5th overall, 2015 (Orlando Magic)
Current team: Portland Trail Blazers
2019-20 stats: 4.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 0.8 assists per game, 38.5% FG, 28.3% 3FG
Mario Hezonja checks all the reclamation boxes. Skilled, yet bad? Check. Plays with flair and swagger that aren’t commensurate with his performance? Check. Lottery pick pedigree? Thanks, Orlando. Three teams in five years? Oh, now we’re talking.
The Magic couldn’t make Hezonja good. The Knicks obviously couldn’t, either, no surprises there. The Blazers aren’t having much luck which is actually a red flag but shhh.
But the Warriors. Oh, the Warriors . . . DO IT FOR THE CULTURE!
1. Josh Jackson
Over the course of 2016 and 2017, the Suns had a trio of top-eight picks in the NBA Draft. One of them was Marquese Chriss. One of them was Dragan Bender. And one of them was Josh Jackson.
The Warriors have helped turn Chriss from a player on his way out of the league to a player who has solidified a role on next year’s team. They have every intention of doing the same with Bender, and, while it’s unlikely to happen, for the sake of this article I’m going to assume they succeed.
That would just leave Jackson to create the holy trinity of Suns reclamation projects, which would officially be the funniest storyline in modern NBA history.
They have a few stumbling blocks with Jackson, mainly that he’s bad at defense, bad at dribbling, bad at shooting, bad at penetrating, bad at rebounding, and bad at decision-making. But other than that!
Jackson does have a ton of athleticism and defensive potential, and there are reasons to think that if he A) played for a functional organization with B) good coaching and teammates that C) optimized his D) smaller role, with E) limited expectations, he could maybe carve out a role.
He only just joined the Grizzlies, after dominating for their G League affiliate (20.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game, 38.2% 3FG), so don’t count him out yet.
And if anyone can reclaim his career, history is starting to point to the Warriors.