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A look back at when the Warriors picked Joe Smith No. 1 at the 1995 NBA Draft

The Dubs got some lottery luck, but Smith didn’t live up the expectations of being a No. 1 overall pick.

Photo by Andy Hayt/NBAE via Getty Images

The day is almost here! We will finally find out where the Golden State Warriors will be picking in the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery. We know the Dubs will be picking in the top five due to them finishing the 2019-20 season with a league-worst 15-50 record.

Golden State has a 14% chance to win the first selection, and a 52.1% chance at a top-four pick. This draft class is considered the strongest, but some prospects have the potential to be impactful NBA players for a long time.

The last time the Warriors were picking in the top 10 was in 2012 when they selected forward Harrison Barnes No. 7 overall. This year’s pick comes under rare circumstances. The Dubs are in a position to win now with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green all expected to be healthy and ready to go for the start of next season.

General manager Bob Myers can move the pick to add another veteran or take a player who can help in the short-term while also being a part of the franchise’s long-term plans.

Historically, Golden State hasn’t nailed its high picks. The team has had four top-five selections over the past 25 years, and the names leave something to be desired.

Let’s take a look back at the last time the Dubs won the NBA Draft Lottery.

1995 - Joe Smith (No. 1 overall)

1995 NBA Draft Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Warriors finished the 1994-95 season with a 26-56 record and finished 11th in the Western Conference. It looked like the organization’s luck was about to change when the Dubs won the NBA Draft Lottery with just a 9.4% chance. Golden State fired head coach Don Nelson and replaced him with Rick Adelman. The Warriors had Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway, and Latrell Spreewell on the roster, so it looked like the team could turn it around quickly.

New general manager Dave Twardzik was hired in May of 1995 and was in charge of getting the pick right. In the 90s, big men were the focal point of most NBA offenses, so size was always coveted at the draft.

The Warriors new brass decided to go with a center with the top pick of the draft, selecting 6’10 Maryland forward Joe Smith, who averaged 20.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game for the Terrapins in his sophomore season.

Here is what Twardzik said to reporters after the pick:

“He has a tremendous feel for the game a great basketball I.Q. When I watched him play in person and on film, he always seemed to know where the double teams were coming from. He is very unselfish and willing to give it (the ball) up. He can also go outside and knock down 15- to 18-foot jump shots. He also has a tremendous left hand. Close to the basket, he’s as good with his left hand as he is with his right. In our workout, he shot the heck out of it. . . . Plus he has a strong willingness to improve. There is a tremendous amount of growth to him.”

The then 19-year-old Smith had the length and athleticism that scouts look for, but he was lacking in strength, something Twardzik wasn’t too worried about.

Smith played well in his rookie season, averaging 15.3 points, 8,7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks in just over 34 minutes per game, and had a net rating of +3.0, per basketball reference. Smith finished third in NBA Rookie of the Year voting and was named to the All-NBA Rookie First Team.

Despite his numbers, The Dubs struggled to a 36-46 season, with Twardzik trading Tim Hardaway and Chris Gatling to the Miami Heat for Bimbo Coles and Kevin Willis in February of 1996.

Golden State regressed in Smith’s second year. Although the team finished 30-52, Smith still put up some impressive stats. He averaged 18.7 points and 8.5 rebounds his sophomore season and finished third on the Dubs with a 4.4 win share value. But, he struggled to make shots from in-close consistently. Smith shot just 45.4% from the field, which is unimpressive for a guy who plays close to the rim. He only connected on 43.8% of his field-goal attempts from 3-to-10 feet, while his true shooting add stats was the worst on the team at -69.8 compared to the league average.

The Warriors weren’t going anywhere as a franchise in Smith’s third year. P.J. Carlesimo took over as head coach, and Gary St. Jean replaced Twardzik as the GM going into the 1997-98 season. Mullin was shipped to the Indiana Pacers before the start of the season, and Spreewell snapped at practice early in the year, choking Carlesimo, which resulted in him being suspended for the rest of the season.

With all of the turmoil around the organization, Smith reportedly turned down a 10-year extension worth $80 million and asked to be traded to an Eastern Conference team to be closer to home.

Smith put up 17.3 points and 6.9 rebounds over 49 games before he was dealt along with Brian Shaw to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jimmy Jackson and Clarence Weatherspoon. He never quite found his footing in the NBA, playing for 12 teams over a 16-year career.

Golden State missed out on some high-end talent at the 1995 draft. Kevin Garnett is easily the biggest name of the bunch, he went fifth overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Dubs also missed out on Antonio McDyess, Rasheed Wallace, and Jerry Stackhouse.

Who knows how things would have turned out for the Warriors if they took any of the other options available to them. The franchise wasn’t in the best spot to succeed, so it may not have mattered who Golden State picked at the time.

Still, we know the draft is a crapshoot, and that winning the NBA Draft Lottery doesn’t guarantee success.

What do you remember most about Smith’s time with the Warriors? If the Dubs didn’t pick Smith or Garnett, which player out of McDyess, Wallace, and Stackhouse would you have wanted the team to select?

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