Monday, July 11, 2005


They have been a laughingstock in the NBA since their last appearance in the play-offs. That was 1994. They have been a cellar-dweller for eleven years, finishing each season with no reward other than a lottery selection in the draft. But their inability to draft correctly has kept the franchise in despair. The Warriors of Golden State, it had appeared, were doomed by bad luck and bad decisions. The team was bad, morale was low, and the future looked bleak.

How could a team be so inept for so long? Most of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of former General Manager – GARRY ST. JEAN. He fumbled away every opportunity for the team to improve. He continuously attempted to mask his own mistakes by hiring, and then firing, coaches that could not compete with the players that St. Jean himself had provided. But his most damaging act of incompetence was how he drafted. Scouting for the draft is difficult. There is no exact science to predicting which amateur players will become good professional players. But that is a major responsibility of the General Manager. Former Lakers (and current Grizzlies) GM – JERRY WEST, has never had as many high picks as St. Jean, yet he has always had the foresight to find quality players, even with a late pick. And some of the Warriors picks have been just plain baffling. Here is a look at the draft woes of the Warriors starting in 1995, their first draft after their last winning season.


This was the draft that hurt the most. The Warriors had the first pick and it was a good draft with franchise saving players available. The team thought they had a sure thing when they selected ACC hero – PF JOE SMITH, from Maryland. They were wrong. Smith did not have the talent or desire to save a franchise. He was, and still is, a role player. The Warriors were deflated and the pain got worse as PF RASHEED WALLACE (#4), and especially, PF KEVIN GARNETT (#5) have became superstars. The thought that Garnett could easily have been a Warrior still gives the fans in Oakland nightmares.


This draft was just embarrassing. The team drafted plodding center TODD FULLER at #11, even though there were no indications that he would succeed. He didn’t. Fuller was a flop. The #13 pick, a cocky high school guard named KOBE BRYANT has become one of the best player in the league. Hindsight is easy, but it didn’t take a fortune-teller to see that Bryant was a superior talent to Fuller.


The team drafted C ADONAL FOYLE with the #8 pick. An undersized center with an admirable work ethic, Foyle has been a mature role player with the team. He is reliable, but limited, a reserve asked to be a starter. If the team had a competent general manager and a qualified scouting unit, it may have had the vision to select SG TRACY MCCRADY. He was selected #9, one pick after Foyle, and has become a megastar.


Drafted SF VINCE CARTER (#5), then quickly traded him to Toronto for #4 selection – SF ANTWAN JAMISON. Carter and Jamison have both become good, All-Star players, although the team could have drafted PF DIRK NOWITZKI, who was drafted #9. JAMISON played 5 seasons for the Warriors before he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for C EVAN ESCHMEYER, PG NICK VAN EXEL, PG AVERY JOHNSON, PF POPEYE JONES and SF ANTOINE RIGAUDEA. That trade did not work out for the Warriors.


Drafted C JEFF FOSTER (#21), then immediately traded him to Indiana for SG VONTEEGO CUMMINGS and a future first round pick. FOSTER has become a valuable player for the Pacers. Cummings has become another name in a long list of Warriors draft mistakes. Players that were available at #21 included: SF ANDREI KIRILENKO (#24), and SG MANU GINOBILI (#57). Both have become NBA All-Stars.


The Warriors did not have a first round pick. They did have two second round picks, but traded their first one (#32) to the Chicago Bulls, who then selected PG A.J. GUYTON. Unfortunately, by trading the #32 pick, the Warriors missed an opportunity to select SG MICHAEL REDD (#43). He became an NBA All-Star.


This was one of the Warriors best drafts ever. They used their three picks to select SG JASON RICHARDSON (#5), PF TROY MURPHY (#14) and PG GILBERT ARENAS (#31). Arenas was a second round steal, but he signed with the Washington Wizards as an unrestricted free agent in 2003. RICHARDSON and MURPHY are currently starters for the Warriors.


This draft is regrettable. SF MIKE DUNLEAVY, JR. was the Warriors selection with the #3 pick. He struggled in his first two seasons, but played better last year. Nevertheless, he will never be good enough to overcome the fact that PF AMARE STOUDEMIRE (#9) was available. Stoudemire became the ROOKIE-OF-THE YEAR that season and has become one of the best players in the league. He would have changed the Warriors fortunes.

The Warriors also acquired SG JIRI WELSCH (#16) from Philadelphia. He did not produce for the team and is now a journeyman playing for his fourth NBA team. At #30, they selected PG STEVE LOGAN. He held out without signing with the Warriors and is now out of the league. 2004 US Olympic team player PF CARLOS BOOZER was available at #35.


With the 11th pick in the “LEBRON JAMES draft” the Warriors selected SF MICKEAL PIETRUS. He is still developing, but so far, no players drafted after him have become All-Stars, so Pietrus looks like a decent pick.


It may be a few years before this draft can be fairly scrutinized. At #11 the Warriors selected ANDRIS BIEDRINS, an 18-year old 6’11 Latvian center. Biedrins has good size and instincts, but his game is very raw. Two players drafted straight out of high school - #15 AL JEFFERSON and #18 J.R. SMITH both played well as rookies and appear to be much better than Biedrins.


This draft may be crucial to the future of the Golden State franchise. If the picks contribute, the team should make a play-off run for the first time in over a decade. If they fail, the team will likely need to trade important players and risk losing the patience of notoriously moody superstar – BARON DAVIS. With the #8 pick they selected PF IKE DIOGU. Most experts considered this a reach because Diogu is only 6’8. But he had, arguably, the most refined post game in the draft and he dominated the highly competitive Pac-10 for three seasons. At #40 the pick was MONTA ELLIS, a high school combo guard. Ellis needs time to develop, but he is a natural scored with remarkable shooting range. Finally, at #42 the Warriors selected PF/C CHRIS TAFT. With the skills to be a first round lottery selection, Taft fell because of a reported attitude problem. Taft has vowed to make the fans in Oakland proud and the teams that passed on him pay dearly.

Now, after a decade of failure, things finally appear to be on the upswing for the Warriors. Garry St. Jean is no longer in power, having ceded to former Golden State star and current Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations – CHRIS MULLIN. The arrival of BARON DAVIS, via mid-season trade, gives the team a true star capable enough to carry the team to a play-off birth and challenge for a league MVP trophy. And the roster is very young, but talented and deep. The Warriors finished last season with the sixth best record in the league after the all-star break and ended with great hope for 2005-06. The deciding factor for next year may be the play of their draft picks, but the Warriors are praying that history does not repeat itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment