As we wait for the NBA Finals to tipoff, there’s a theory that fans are seemingly forgetting to discuss — The idea that a franchise can’t win a championship by building through the draft.
Our only example to date has been the Spurs, to which many actually discard. Since the only reason they won the Tim Duncan lottery was because David Robinson (another player they won in the lottery) sat out for an entire season, some feel this is a loophole.
In recent memory, we’ve had the Pacers contending in the east, and the Thunder out west, after putting together great cores with their own draft picks … but both of those teams were watching the playoffs from home this season. They may be strong candidates to bounce back next year (specifically OKC), but the point is that neither have anything to show yet for their savvy drafting.
Enter the Warriors.
Currently heavy NBA Finals favorites, everyone seems to ignore how GSW got to where they are — FANTASTIC draft picks.
Looking at Golden State’s draft history is actually pretty comical how up and down it’s been. In 2001, the Warriors came out of the draft with Jason Richardson, Troy Murphy and Gilbert Arenas. A nice class, but it never got them anywhere.
Between that draft and 2009, their first-rounders looked like this: Mike Dunleavy (3rd), Mickael Pietrus (11th), Andris Biedris (11th), Ike Diogu (9th), Patrick O’Bryant (9th), Marco Belinelli (18th) and Anthony Randolph (14th). Yikes …
Big changes came in 2009, though, when the Warriors took somewhat of a risk on Stephen Curry with the No. 7 overall pick. They had a quick hiccup the next summer when they took Ekpe Udoh at No. 6, but then everything fell into place for good.
In 2011, they snagged Klay Thompson with the 11th pick, and then had possibly even more success in 2012 when they landed Harrison Barnes (7th), Festus Ezeli (30th), AND Draymond Green (35th). Talk about killing a draft.
The Warriors clear-cut top-3 players were all acquired through recent drafts, and have evolved into the MVP, an All-Star starter and First-Team All Defense player. You could even argue Harrison Barnes is GSW’s fourth best player, but I understand if you want to hand it to Andrew Bogut or Andre Iguodala.
But there’s more. Bogut was acquired in a 2012 trade for Monta Ellis (GSW’s second-round draft pick in 2005). Ellis may have been the only good pick in that 2001-2008 period, and they turned him into a fifth starter on their 2015 Finals roster (to go alongside the four starters they’ve drafted since 2009).
If the Warriors fall to LeBron’s mighty Cavs, then they just become the Thunder and Pacers. A superb team built around excellent drafting that never made it. My gut tells me that Golden State is better than that, though.
They may become the first real “jump-shooting” team to capture an NBA championship (which seems to be stealing the headlines). But let’s remember that this Warriors squad could break the mold when it comes to how you build not just a contender, but a champion in the NBA.
Find me on Twitter for comments: @julianedlow