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Santa Cruz Warriors season preview: What might these players contribute to a NBA roster?

The Santa Cruz Warriors open their inaugural season in California tonight at 7 p.m. against the Reno Bighorns (which you can watch online on YouTube). The following is just an overview of the team: a look at their roster, what some of the top candidates to make a NBA roster might contribute to the Warriors if called up, and how Kent Bazemore and Jeremy Tyler can participate as assignment players. For more on the team, click here to visit our Santa Cruz Warriors section.


Video preview of the Santa Cruz Warriors 2012-13 D-League season (via Jerry Hoffman).

Perhaps you can consider the Rick Jackson feature from the other day a pre-preview for this Santa Cruz Warriors season preview.

The D-League is a delicate balance of a focus on winning and a focus on development - the Jackson trade could be said to be the result of both a matter of competitive balance on the roster (with the signing of Mickell Gladness, Jackson simply wasn't going to get many minutes based on the Warriors' depth chart) and an interest in helping him make the NBA (more minutes = more exposure).

But even if we were to make that distinction for the league generally, everything that happens in Santa Cruz can ultimately be related right back to the NBA dream, whether that of the Warriors developing talent to become a perennial playoff contender or individual hopefuls achieving their own dreams.

"When we do well as a team in Santa Cruz, that helps everybody," Santa Cruz Warriors GM Kirk Lacob said in a phone interview the other day. "I use the L.A. Defenders as an example last year: they won a ton of games. They also had the most guys called up because they were doing so well. Someone would look and say, 'Maybe I didn't have this guy first on my positional rankings of small forwards in the D-League, but that team's winning and he's a big part of it. So I'd rather have that guy than the guy putting up 22 on a crappy team."

With that in mind, previewing the Santa Cruz Warriors has to start with an eye on development rather than specific team strengths and weaknesses. Also, I - like many of us at GSoM, I'd assume - have not watched much more of the D-League than a few Jeremy Lin clips. Although I fully expect to change that this year, I can't lie to you and tell you I'm in any position to tell you how good this team will be.

So consider this brief overview a primer for the season, which begins today for the Santa Cruz Warriors, which can be used as a reference as those of us interested follow the team this year. Yet in addition to the basics, I'll offer some insight about what the players believe they need to work on to realize their NBA dream

"At this stage it's early in the season so our goal is (to) get these guys comfortable," said Lacob. "A lot of them are young and many of them haven't played in the D-League or in the U.S. professionally; some have. The goal is to get them comfortable first, understanding the pace of play, understanding our system, what this organization expects of players. And for the next couple of weeks they're going to find each other, find themselves, understand (coach) Nate (Bjorkgren), understand what I'm asking of them and just go at it."

Who plays for the Santa Cruz Warriors?

The Santa Cruz Warriors' has been slow to update at times this season, so below is a brief look at the roster along with how the players were acquired and when they last played a regular season game in the NBA (with links to their Basketball-Reference statistics, for the mathematically inclined who are skilled at interpreting small sample sizes).

Player Height Position Acquired Last NBA experience
Maurice Baker 6'1" G Returning Portland, 2005
Carlon Brown 6'5" G Affiliate Rookie
Chris Daniels 7'0" C Via trade N/A
Mickell Gladness 6'11" C Returning Golden State, 2012
Lance Goulbourne 6'8" G/F Affiliate Rookie
Taylor Griffin 6'8" F Returning Phoenix, 2009-10
Stefhon Hannah 6'1" G Returning N/A
Justin Johnson 6'2" G Returning N/A
Cameron Jones 6'4" G Via trade N/A
Travis Leslie 6'4" G 2012 Draft (first round)
L.A. Clippers, 2011-12
Daniel Nwalele* 6'5" G Open tryout


A few notes:

  • As described about Mickell Gladness the other day, Santa Cruz had first dibs on each of their returning players from last season.
  • Carlon Brown and Lance Goulbourne are the team's two "affiliate players" who participated in Golden State's training camp. By virtue of Golden State owning Santa Cruz, the Warriors were able to send them to the D-League while maintaining exclusive call-up rights. The Warriors' third affiliate player, Rick Jackson, was traded on Tuesday (as I was finishing up a feature about him).
  • Although there's a 10-player limit on D-League rosters, teams can also carry two inactive players. Daniel Nwalele is that inactive player.

Who might have the best shot at making the NBA?

At this point in the season, Lacob suggested that NBA Call-Ups are probably not the primary focus for these guys.

"There's very rarely Call-Ups this time of year," Lacob said, noting that both James Anderson and Daniel Orton have already been called up. "But typically it happens later in the year. I had a good conversation with Chris Daniels who we traded for and I told him, 'I had you ranked as one of the best centers in D-League last year. And lo and behold, at the end of the year we were calling up centers left and right. But he hadn't stayed; he left after the D-League showcase, took some money - a lot of money - to go to Korea and play. And I told him, 'That's your prerogative - you need money, I get it. But if the NBA is truly your dream, then you need to understand that this is a process.'...I don't want guys frustrated early in the season because it's not about early in the season.”

An easy rule of thumb for who might crack the NBA this season: look at the players who have previously been in NBA training camps or played in NBA games. Most of us have a good feel for what a player like Mickell Gladness can do at the next level and Maurice Baker is a D-League veteran.

But during the Santa Cruz Warriors' media day in Oakland, I asked their affiliate players, draft pick Travis Leslie, and two returners what they felt they could contribute to Golden State if they were called up now and what they're looking to work on in the D-League.

Carlon Brown

On what he could contribute to the Warriors if he was called up today:

"I think I made some good plays for teammates (in the preseason), put them in position to score some easy baskets. Played pretty good defense. Other than that it's hard to gauge or give myself a barometer based on the time I was given."

Lance Goulbourne

Lance Goulbourne previews his season (via Jerry Hoffman).

On what he would contribute if called up to the Warriors today:

"Just energy and toughness and physicality and just heart really. I try to take advantage of every opportunity I get. I tried to do my best when I was [in Oakland], I'm trying to do my best now with the D-League. No matter where I am, I'm just going to try to give it my all and try to help the team get better, push the guys in practice."

Taylor Griffin

What he needs to work on to get back into the NBA:

"The biggest thing in my rookie year was developing from a four man in college into a three man in the league. That's a big step, especially going from a forward to a guard. One's playing more back to the basket, more around the basket. One's on the perimeter shooting threes, guarding threes. And that's the biggest thing. I've really taken pride in getting better at defense and being able to guard every position on the floor, whether it's guys on the perimeter or guys in the post - whatever the case is - and I think I've gotten better at that.

"At the same time, I've really tried to improve my outside shot, my perimeter shot from three all the way to mid-range and everything...But I think I've made progress and I think I'm getting closer and closer, I just gotta show that I can do it consistently now."

On what he could contribute to the Warriors if he was called up today:

"Just hard-nosed defense, being able to knock down open shots, and just be a facilitator. Just a guy that keeps everything running smoothly, keeps the offense running smoothly, and helps on defense. I wanna be known as a lockdown defender - just with my body type and athleticism, I think I can do that. So it's just a matter of showing that."

Stefhon Hannah

On what he could contribute to the Warriors if he was called up today:

"Man, I could definitely bring in a defensive mindset, just working hard, being a leader. Like, some people look at it like, 'Oh, you gotta stay in your role.' But I feel like anywhere I go, I'm gonna be a leader. Just help out. Anything - anything Coach Jackson or the Golden State Warriors ask of me I'm willing to do."

Travis Leslie

On what he has to do to make a NBA roster again:

"Well, I know my game - I just gotta get out there and work hard, work my butt off. Just play my game: defending, rebounding, being aggressive, attacking the rim; just playing basketball."

On how he would fit in to the current Warriors roster as it stands now:

"Well, I know Brandon Rush went down. I don't know how many roster (spots) they got, but if I did get called up I'm just going to do everything I need to do and just do everything they ask...if I play good, hopefully I'll get that Call Up."

For more on Leslie, visit our 2012 D-League draft storystream.

How do Kent Bazemore and Jeremy Tyler fit into this picture?

As Golden State Warriors fans have surely heard, the organization is sending Kent Bazemore to the D-League in time to play in tonight's game and is open to sending Jeremy Tyler to Santa Cruz as well this season. Bazemore and Tyler can join the Santa Cruz roster as "assignment players."

There is a maximum of two assignments at a time and Santa Cruz would not have to cut anybody from their roster to accommodate those assignments. While designated for assignment, a player could play with Santa Cruz for as long as the team wanted, with or without the player's consent. During that time in the D-League, assignment players receive their full NBA salaries.

For more on the D-League assignment process, click here.

How can we watch them?

As described previously, three games will be televised nationally by the CBS Sports Network.

But SB Nation's Ridiculous Upside posted an article last week about the D-League's new partnership with YouTube, which will now stream the league's games.

Ergo, you can watch games for the entire league free online here:

Click here for the link for tonight's game against the Reno Bighorns.

When can we actually go watch them?

Although Santa Cruz begins their season tonight, their first home game isn't until December 23rd against the Bakersfield Jam. The delay is because Kaiser Permanente Arena is still under construction and is expected to be completed in mid-December.

Where can I stay updated on their season?

  • Obviously, the Santa Cruz Warriors website is a good start:
  • For a look around the entire D-League, check out the aforementioned Ridiculous Upside.
  • For our D-League coverage here at GSoM, check out our Santa Cruz Warriors section. To get to it, you can scroll over the "Sections" button on the main menu bar on the GSoM home page and click "Santa Cruz Warriors" on the drop down menu (also note that the sections move up and down that drop down menu depending on what was updated most recently).

    We're actually going to try to cover a few of their games this season, which I'm looking forward to. But one of the features of SBN United is that we can import content from other SBN sites, so when I see Warriors-related content at Ridiculous Upside I'll try to import it into that section so that you don't have to do too much poking around to keep up with the future of the Warriors.
  • There's no plan for game threads on our end, but I will try to keep up with scores in a storystream that we'll keep pinned in our Santa Cruz Warriors section if not somewhere on the GSoM frontpage.

For more on the team, click here to visit our Santa Cruz Warriors section.

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