By Josh Hunsucker | @JPHunsucker
For the majority of my life and Warriors fandom, NBA draft week brought upon me the mindset of a death row inmate hoping against hope, but ultimately accepting my inevitable execution. For almost twenty years, I sat in front of the TV on draft night praying my death sentence will somehow get commuted. With the exceptions of 1993 (Chris Webber) and 2001 (Jason Richardson) the Golden State Warriors carried out my draft day execution until they miraculously stumbled into Steph Curry in 2009 and General Managers Larry Riley and Bob Meyers outlawed the draft day death penalty in 2012.
Not to deny the entire morbid draft history of the Warriors, but 1993 seems like a good place to start. I could have started in 1980 when the Warriors made the single worst trade in the history of the NBA. I could talk about how before the 1980 draft the Warriors traded Robert Parish and the 3rd pick to Boston for the 1st and 13th pick in the draft. And how the Warriors ended up with a one time All-Star, Joe Barry Carroll, and a career 4.4 PPG guy, Rickey Brown, and how Boston got a slightly better deal in The Chief and Kevin McHale, considering they combined for four World Championships (three with the Celtics), 16 All-Star appearances, two spots on the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, and two hall of fame plaques. But I won’t start there, mostly because I would have to painstakingly relive every Warrior draft blunder, every year, until 1993 with the exception of 1985 (Chris Mullin), 1988 (Mitch Richmond), 1989 (Tim Hardaway), and 1992 (The Oakland Strangler Latrell Sprewell), and OK, the 1991 Chris Gatling pick but that is for sentimental reasons more than anything.
Hope in Reality is the Worst of All Evils
In 1993, I was 11 years old, mesmerized by Michael Jordan, had a favorite player in Chris Mullin that I could completely identify with (white, lanky, left-handed, forward), exposed to the Fab Five and second favorite player Jalen Rose (lanky and left-handed, trash talker), and just witnessed the greatest basketball team ever assembled win the gold medal in Barcelona. I was completely hooked on basketball and excited for the possibility that the Warriors would draft Chris Webber. I knew that Orlando would likely pick him but the night before the draft I prayed to God for the Warriors to get Chris Webber. The next day when the Magic drafted him I was sad but not surprised. Ten minutes later Penny Hardaway and Webber were trading hats (and the Warriors were giving Orlando three additional future 1st round picks). "There is a God," I thought.
However, my prayers were only answered for a year. Webber, citing irreconcilable differences with then coach Don Nelson, exercised an exit clause in his contract and forced a trade with the Washington Bullets for Tom Gugliotta. Webber’s rookie season, 1993-94, was the last time the Warriors would reach the playoffs until 2007.
Stranded On Death Row – The Chris Cohan Era Begins
1994 - The Warriors had the 16th pick in the 1994 draft, after making the playoffs the previous year. They selected Cliff Rozier a forward from Louisville. Cliff gave the Golden State two solid years of 5 PPG and 5 RPG (I’m rounding up) before getting shipped to Toronto a game into his 3rd year. The Warriors missed out on the majority of the top players in the draft by having the 16th pick (Jalen Rose went to Denver at 13) but just for fun let’s mention, all of whom they passed up, Aaron Mckie (17th), Wesley Person (23rd), and Heisman Trophy Winner Charlie Ward (26th). I can live with passing those guys up because no coach or GM will ever get it right 100% of the time or even 60%. Oh yeah, the Warriors picked Anthony Miller (39th) and Dwayne Miller (44th) in the second round. Who are they you ask? Good question.
1995 - After going 26-56 the Warriors had the 1st pick in the draft for the second time in three years. Golden State selected Joe Smith who the previous year was the National Collegiate Player of the Year at Maryland. Smith wasn’t a bad pick but I wanted them to either pick Jerry Stackhouse or Rasheed Wallace, players that had a game more suited for the NBA. Smith was the classic tweener that the Warriors habitually picked from ‘93-'08 and only learned how to effectively fit into a championship roster in the last three years. In case you are not privy to a “tweener,” it’s a player that is between 6'8" to 6'11", that played in the post in college, does not have a developed outside or face-up game, took advantage of smaller and less skilled opponents growing up, is too small to play in the post in the NBA, but too slow to guard anyone on the wing. Overall, it's a player that no team in the NBA effectively used in the Pre-Draymond Green era.
Smith played only two years for the Warriors, earning First Team All-Rookie honors and averaging 17 and 8 before moving on to his second of 11 teams in his 14-year career. The Warriors could have drafted literally anyone else but for the sake of clarity, the the Warriors passed up: Kevin Garnett (5th), Rasheed “Hash Weed/Ball Don’t Lie” Wallace (4th), Jerry Stackhouse (3rd), Michael Finley (21st), Damon Stoudamire (7th), Antonio Mcdyess (2nd), and Eric Snow (43rd). Hindsight being 20/20, passing on KG leaves a deep, slow burn. They did however draft Andrew Declercq in the second round, starting the trend of picking under-talented white big men, which is nice. At least they didn’t draft the legendary Constantine Popa, although maybe they should have.
1996 - This was, hands down, not only the worst pick in Warriors history, which I discussed in detail here (yes, worse than Chris Washburn), it was the worst pick in NBA history. GM Dave Twardzik and the Warriors selected, gulp, Todd (pause…look down) Fuller with the 11th pick. It’s ok, I am wearing footwear without laces. They passed up on the greatest player of the post-Jordan/pre-LeBron generation, whether you like him or not, Kobe Bryant (13th), Steve Nash aka Steph 1.0 (more on that later) who was on the top of my draft board (15th), Jermaine O'Neil, but hey, at least we got Zombie Jermaine in 2013 (17th), Peja Stojakovic (14th), and Derek Fisher (24th). In completely a completely related story the Warriors went 30-52 thanks directly to Fuller’s 4 PPG and 3.3 RPG he chipped in every night.
Just to recap, we passed on Hall of Famer Kobe and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash for a guy who almost pulled out of the draft to pursue a Rhodes Scholarship and hosts the “Todd Fuller Math Competition” at NC State (all true). Let it soak in. Is your skin crawling yet? OK, let’s move on.
Dave Twardzik and Gary St. Jean – General Mismanagement
1997 - Apparently, the Warriors scouts in 1996 and 1997 rated College GPA as the most important characteristic in a potential draft pick because they followed the unforgivable Todd Fuller pick with another college wiz-kid, Adonal Foyle, with the 8th pick a year later. Adonal spent 10 fruitless years on the Warriors averaging no higher than 6 PPG and 7 RPG. Personally, I hated Foyle for the first eight years he was on the Warriors. He was a five-tool player: slightly overweight, inept offensively, slow defensively, had terrible feet (my dad’s number one pet peeve for big men), and combined that with atrocious hands.
The Warriors twisted the knife when they flushed $42 million dollars down the toilet for six straight years when they re-signed Adonal in 2004. The next year Foyle finally found a place in my heart. I accepted that although he was a terrible player, he played harder than anyone on the floor every night for teams that consistently went through the motions every season. For that alone, Foyle reached cult status in the East Bay, albeit for all of the wrong reasons. In the end, Foyle did set one NBA record with the Warriors, most games played without reaching the playoffs (641).
Oh by the way, Golden State passed up on Tracy McGrady (9th), Bobby Jackson (23rd), and pre-career ending injury Derek Anderson (13th) in '97. They also picked the infamous Marc Jackson at no. 37, who gave the Warriors one good season and one amazing quote “Unstoppable Baby” after scoring a layup in a 29-point blowout.
1998 - The Warriors had the fifth pick after finishing with 19 solid wins in 1997. Thank God they didn’t win the lottery because they would have picked Michael Olowokandi. Golden State really wanted to pick Antawn Jamison but didn't want to pay him the rookie salary for the number five pick. So, in an underhanded, cheap, stupid, and classic Warriors draft move, they agreed with Toronto to draft Vince Carter and then swap players after they picked one spot after the Raptors. Jamison disappointed his rookie year as Carter lit up the NBA and highlight reels on his way to the rookie of the year. Jamison did have a few decent years on some bad Warriors teams and had the back-to-back 51-point games against the Sonics (RIP) and Shaq/Kobe Lakers.
However, mostly Jamison is remembered for the bad taste his Warriors career left in the mouths of fans because we traded Vince Carter for him straight up. Just for fun, that year the Warriors passed up the aforementioned Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki (9th), and Paul Pierce (10th).
Karmically, Jamison was dealt to Washington where he a) transformed his tweener game b) turned into an all-star and c) went to the playoffs with essentially the same nucleus (Arenas/Jamison) as he had in Golden State.
1999 - Due to some bad trades, the Warriors got stuck with the 21st pick in the 1999 draft and threw it away with tweener Jeff Foster, not to be confused with Oakland legend Greg Foster. Golden State could have picked Andrei Kirilenko (24th) but opted for the “safer” Foster who was then traded for three time All-NBA Cool Name first-teamer Vonteego Cummings. Coincidentally, Vonteego’s career was cut tragically short due to lack of talent as he only played three years in the NBA. Golden State also picked their third white center and second left-handed white center when they drafted Tim Young with the 56th pick. On behalf of all Warrior fans, I’d like to thank Tim Young for only making us suffer through a 137-minute Warrior career because it was mercifully shorter than his predecessors.
2000 - Golden State did not have a first round pick in 2000, a lingering after effect of the Webber trade years before. They did have the 55th pick in the draft though and they used it on, wait, guess the height…YUP 6'7"…guess the position…YES! Power Forward… guess his style of play…WOW three for three, TWEENER. Chris Porter lasted one year in the NBA and has been plagued by drug arrests ever since.
2001 - Finally a good draft, Gary St. Jean is back baby! The Warriors picked Jason Richardson with the 5th pick in the draft. He won two dunk contests that brought some minor media attention to Golden State. He played hard and had a nice all around game that continued to develop every year. He was the right pick, finally they made a good choice.
The Warriors also picked up Troy Murphy at no. 14. Although he fit into the classic tweener mold, he extended his game outside and became an effective player for the Warriors averaging 15-11 in his fourth season and finishing three seasons averaging a double double. The Warriors best pick that year was the diamond in the rough of the draft, Gilbert Arenas, who they picked in the second round with the 30th pick. In his two years with the Warriors he began to blossom into a potential elite point guard. After his second year, even though he publically said he wanted to stay in Golden State, and after the Warriors had a nice nucleus of Jamison, Richardson, and Arenas the Warriors failed to resign him. Good thing the Warriors saved the money because he only averaged 22.4, 25, and 25.8 PPG over the next three years for Washington and was a perennial All-Star until knee trouble and locker room gun trouble began to catch up to him.
Snap Back to Reality – Stranded on Death Row Part 2
2002 - The Warriors found themselves near the top of the lottery in 2002 after an abominable 21-61 record in the 2001 season. They ultimately lost out on the Yao Ming sweepstakes and had the number three pick. They picked Mike Dunleavy from Duke. Dunleavy had become “the sexy pick” that year after his hot shooting propelled Duke to the National Championship. The truth was, Dunleavy was too soft, too weak, and not quick enough to guard perimeter players in the NBA. Golden State got four solid years of Dunleavy getting dunked on and falling down regularly, but only got 13.4 PPG and 5.5 RPG from him in his “standout” season as a Warrior.
At this point, I am not going to even mention Jiri Welsch. I will mention however, that Golden State could have selected Ama’re Stoudamire (9th), Caron Bulter (10th), Tayshaun Prince (23rd), John Salmons (26th), Roger Mason (30th), and Carlos Boozer (34th).
2003 - The Warriors picked Mikael Pietrus, from France, with the 11th pick. When I heard about the pick I naturally assumed he was a white foreign center, likely a lefty, who had played against nobodies in Europe and would be a bust. Boy was I wrong. He was a black guard from Europe, who played against nobodies, could only average around 10 PPG, and would be nothing more than a role player. Thank God we wasn’t a bust.
Pietrus actually was a nice asset for the Warriors coming off the bench. Not really what you want out of your lottery pick but I can’t complain, given the Warriors draft history. The Warriors did manage not to pick Davis West (18th), Kendrick Perkins (27th), and Josh Howard (29th). It also hurt to see Pietrus’ near inability to miss corner threes during the 2009 Orlando Magic playoff run (until the Finals). He and Adonal were two blown games away from heading to L.A. with a 3-2 series lead. I just can’t fathom Adonal Foyle and NBA Champ in the same sentence. Does he get a ring as Warriors Community Ambassador? Maybe.
Appeal Denied – Chris Mullin Made That Pick? I’m Just Going to Tell Myself it was Dave Twardzik or Gary St. Jean
2004 - After the 2003 Pietrus-white-European player scare, I didn’t dare fathom the Warriors going that route again. Wait, yes I did. Never underestimate the power of the “Golden State Principal of Draft Counter Intuition,” which scientifically proves that picking Andris Biedrins, a left-handed white center from Latvia was the illogical but inevitable move for the Warriors. Bad words were said, emotions were high, I was again floored. I would have rather had Trevor Ariza (43rd), Richard Jefferson (15th), or maybe even Josh Smith (17th), just not Andris. At one point I even talked my way into this thought, “If Biedrins can learn to move his feet, not foul, get some meat on his bones, make free throws, work on his game in the off season instead of Disk Jockeying, and not get hurt at the thought of playing basketball, he could be a solid double-double guy for the Warriors. I was wrong.
2005 - After the turn of the millennium it looked like the Warriors might be fixing their draft karma after solid overall drafts in 2001 and 2003. Then the Ike Diogu incident happened. Even I bought into Diogu from the outset. Well, after one year and 7 PPG I stopped being a believer and so did Golden State. Good thing they passed up world champion Andrew Bynum (10th), Danny Granger (17th), and Nate Robinson (21st). There is absolutely no way they could have used those guys. They did find their second diamond in the rough in Monta Ellis, however.
On a side note, shouldn’t the NBA have a mandatory motorcycle, ATV, and MOPED safety course? Monta was a quintessential Warriors overrated draft pick. Since he wasn't a total bust and actually became the team’s first or second banana for the majority of his Warriors career, fans tend to forget that he shot the Warriors out of more games than he shot them into, that he led the league in foot on the line three-pointers, that he played no defense, and wasn’t the greatest teammate in the world (“Me and Steph can’t co-exist in the same backcourt”). Fans loved him mostly because he was a good player on a bad team and maybe because he got a Dubs tattoo and said “I’m Warriors for life.”
2006 - The Warriors improved marginally in 2005 (although the win column did not reflect it) and carried that momentum into the 2006 season. Golden State, on the other hand, tried relentlessly in the 2006 draft to sabotage their future and unfortunately they succeeded. For starters, they selected Black Irishman Patty O'Bryant, a classic tweener over Rajon Rando (21st). I would have even taken JJ Redick (11th) over O'Bryant. I am not even going to get into it about Kosta Perovic. Except for the fact that he, Marco Belinelli, and Biedrins looked like the Russian mob when they are on the bench in suits and I suppose that intimidation factor is important.
The Warriors did however win 42 games that year and snuck into the playoffs, where they staged the greatest upset in 1st Round history by beating the number 1 seeded Mavericks in five games (the Warriors are the only 8 seed to beat a number 1 seed in a 7-game series, yay). WE BELIEVE!!
2007 - When the Warriors drafted Marco Belinelli I was so numb and beat-down from the Warriors previous draft decisions that I felt absolutely no emotion. I did not try to feel hopeful or doubtful. I just chose not to feel. During Summer League, Belinelli played outstanding. The NBA even named him to the All-Summer League Team. All Summer League is more akin to getting the “Coach’s Award” for showing up to all of the practices. The Warriors hyped him as the next great foreign player and I completely bought in. I convinced myself he was the next Dirk or at least the next Drazen Petrovic. Consequently, I will never ever buy into anything that happens during any NBA Summer League game again. Belinelli played only 7 minutes a game and averaged only 3 PPG. I also received constant and incessant taunts from my friends for hyping Belinelli.
During the draft, the Warriors also acquired the rights to Brendan Wright, a tweener, from Charlotte in a trade that sent the Warriors best draft pick since 1993, Jason Richardson, to the Bobcats. In two years of work for Golden State, Wright averaged 6.2 PPG and 3.3 RPG in only 14 MPG. Wright spent his Warriors career deep on the bench considering he showed little toughness and no outside game. Belinelli reinvented himself in San Antonio under Greg Popavich and ultimately turned into about 65-75% of what Warriors fan thought he would be. As far as the 2007 goes, We continued to Believe until the last day of the season when the Warriors won 48 games and failed to make the playoffs, another NBA record.
2008 - History repeated itself when the Warriors selected Anthony Randolph at number 14. The Warriors drafted a 6'10" tweener. Additionally, the Warriors missed the playoffs but unlike the past, Golden State’s draft pick had nothing to do with it. Randolph was an electric player for the Warriors last season. He was guaranteed every game to have an unbelievably athletic block, where he flew out of nowhere to swat the ball. He also had at least one steal where he looked like he was completely out of control but somehow stole the ball, went coast to coast, and slammed it home. Finally, every game he would make a bad play, as rookies do, hustle back, try and make up for it, and get yanked by Don Nelson at the next whistle. He would then have a nervous breakdown on the bench until Marco Belinelli could talk him down by speaking Italian to him. It was breathtaking. I just hope that he gets considerable playing time this year and that they resign him when the time comes because I can just sense him leaving Golden State and playing a major role on a contending team in the next few years.
So, You’re Saying There’s A Chance - Larry Riley, You Beautiful Son of a Gun
2009 – This is why I am not an NBA GM. I emphatically thought that we should draft Johnnie Flynn out of Syracuse. I watched the 6OT thriller against UCONN in March of 2009 at The Garden and thought the guy was just a beast. Throw out that he was undersized, throw out that he had a hard time creating his own shot, the guy could play. Another undersized and unheralded “shooter” out of Davidson also caught my eye, Stephen Curry. I too watched his performance in the Garden and his previous year’s NCAA tourney performance where he dropped 40 on Gonzaga and nearly pulled off an Elite 8 upset of Kansas. I thought then if Johnnie Flynn isn’t available then Curry might be ok. I literally thought that maybe Threesus himself would be a nice consolation prize if the future 2014 Orlandina Basket Itialian Serie A league point guard isn’t on the board. This is why I am not a GM (although I would have never picked Todd Fuller). With that pick, the fates of the franchise unknowingly began to shift.
2010 – Every GM strikes out. Even GM's who pick Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Ekpe Udoh is Larry Riley’s Spaghetti Incident. Udoh on paper seemed like the rim protector that the 2010 Warriors desperately needed. Udoh was long, had a 7-foot plus wingspan, and led the Big-12 in blocks. Unfortunately for Udoh and the Warriors he couldn’t stay on the court. A lingering wrist injury delayed his debut in 2010 and in his year and half of service for the Dubs he played just under 20 minutes a game, averaging about 1.5 blocks per game. He was ultimately traded to Milwaukee with Monte Ellis for Andrew Bogut in 2012. He plays hoops in Turkey now.
2011 – For as underwhelming as the 36-46 were, I kind of like the Monta, Dorrell Wright, and Curry three point threat coupled with David Lee inside. Going into the offseason I had no real opinion on who the Warriors should pick. Despite what developed into a sold draft class, aside from Kyrie Irving (who at the time was even a risk due to being label injury prone) the 2011 class was somewhat underwhelming. When the Warriors drafted Klay Thompson my reaction was very Klay Thompson-ish, kind of a “well…OK [shrugging]. Well that unassuming sharpshooter from Pullman Washington has turned into the best two-way guard in the NBA. Who knew. On a side note, the Warriors also selected Charles Jenkins out of Hofstra. Jenkins found it hard to get on the court with a suddenly frisky Warriors squad. By the end of the 2012-2013 season Jenkins was on to Philly and the next year was out of the league.
Maybe We Aren’t Doomed - Bob Meyers Strikes Gold
2012 - In 2012, the Warriors promoted Assistant GM Bob Meyers to GM and moved Larry Riley to Head of Scouting. Riley and Meyers started their new partnership with a bang, going three for three in the 2012 draft. Despite his disappearing act in the Finals this year, Harrison Barnes has been an effective player but somewhat frustrating for the Warriors. Barnes went to North Carolina for college with much fanfare. Heralded as the next, fill in the blank, Barnes was good at UNC but tended to shrink on the big stage and ultimately was not as good as advertised. The Warriors took him with the 7th pick and he immediately broke into the starting line up for the 2012 Warriors. In his rookie year he upped his scoring from 9.2 ppg in the regular season to 16.1 ppg in the playoffs. Despite his unbelievable athleticism, still upward potential, and his key roll in the 2015 title run, Barnes may not be in the roster next year as he will likely command a near-max deal on the free agent market.
The Warriors also selected Festus Ezeli with the 30th pick in the draft. Festus, although injury prone, has been a nice big off the bench in his three years. He played huge minutes in Game 6 of the 2015 Finals and conversely threw up a stink bomb in Game 7 of this year’s Finals. Ezeli is also free agent this offseason that the Warriors have to make a decision on whether to keep or not.
The hands down best pick in the 2012 draft came in the second round at pick 35, Draymond Green. We all know the story, Saginaw Pride, Michigan State, constant winner, but a tweener. Ah yes, the dreaded tweener that Warriors drafted year in an year out in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Yes, Draymond is a tweener but what separates him from all of the other guys we drafted is that he is a maniac that is solely focused in getting better, being a great teammate, and proving everyone wrong. You can’t put that rating into verticality or length or explosiveness. You can’t put something so intangible on a draft chart. The best you can do is say, “hey, this guy has been successful at every level, he has gotten better at every level, he has leadership qualities, and Tom Izzo says he is a good dude.” The rest is belief and a hope that he will give you quality minutes. Anything like being a virtual Swiss Army knife on the court, anchoring a defense like no one since KG, dropping a triple-double in the NBA Championship clinching game, going toe-to-toe with LeBron James in the 2016 Finals, and nearly winning Game 7 on the strength of his will to have the Warriors win is just icing on the cake. I love Draymond Green. He will always be an all-timer for me. I never thought that anyone would shake Chirs Mullin off the pedestal for my favorite Warrior but I think Draymond is on the path.
Oh yeah, we drafted Ognjen Kuzmic with the 52nd pick. He is a World Champion and not playing in Greece.
I would be remise if I failed to mention Kent Bazemore. Yes, he went undrafted but Meyers saw him playing in Summer League for OKC and signed the guy. He will forever be an all-time Warriors bench-mobber. The guy’s sideline celebrations of a Curry three or Warriors’ dunk are the stuff of legend. It was tough to see him go but I’m glad that he has found a home on the Hawks and has become a key contributor there.
2013 - No picks.
2014 - No picks, just this.
2015 – In the glow of the 2015 Championship the Warriors picked Kevon Looney out of UCLA. On paper, the guy seemed like a pseudo-Draymond. He’s 6’9”, can play inside-outside, pretty athletic. Looney was hobbled by a hip injury early and then had to battle for playing time on the best regular season squad of all-time (yes, it si so brutal to have to write that). So I will reserve judgment.
Of the first round picks the Warriors had from 1993-2009 (including 2nd-rounders Arenas and Ellis) Golden State first round picks (22 total) have combined to averaged on 10.5 PPG while on the Warriors. Moreover, Golden State first round picks up to 2002 average only 3.6 years with the team (with Foyle being the clear outlier with 10 years on the team), that is not much staying power for a team to build a future with. They drafted 13 tweeners Rozier, Smith, Declercq, Foyle, Jackson, Jamison, Foster, Porter, Murphy, O'Bryant, Diogu, Wright, and Randolph. None of which panned out on the Warriors, save for Randolph who the jury is still out on. They drafted 3 terrible white centers Fuller, Foyle, and Young. Oh, Adonal Foyle isn’t white, my bad. Considering all that, no wonder they ran off these win totals from 1993-94 to 2008-2009: 52, 26, 36, 30, 19, 21, 19, 17, 21, 38, 37, 34, 34, 42, 48, 29.
Thank God for Larry Riley and Bob Meyers, the only GMs that have effectively stayed my annual execution. No matter how bad losing the 2016 title hurts, at least I can take solace that the front office is competent and get more hits than misses in the draft. With so much riding on this offseason and management claiming they will be “very aggressive,” it looks as though the Warriors will shift their a focus on free agency, rather than trying to build within the draft (30th pick). As Bob Meyers knows though, this year’s Draymond Green or Kent Bazemore is out there, he just has to keep his eyes open.