How Ky Bowman, Alen Smailagic compare to past Warriors in G League


How Ky Bowman, Alen Smailagic compare to past Warriors in G League

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The season of player development is underway, as the chances of the Warriors making the playoffs are slim to none at this junction. For now, all the efforts of the team will be to evaluate their own talent for future roster construction, and try to unlock the potential of many of their young players.

Some of that development currently is happening at the G League level as Ky Bowman and Alen Smailagic are leading the Santa Cruz Warriors to three straight victories. Understanding how G League statistics and play translates to the NBA is quite difficult, as talent and chemistry are not on par with the games played by the parent clubs. One way to create some perspective is to compare Bowman and Smailagic's very small sample size of games this season to past Warriors in their last season's in Santa Cruz.

Here are some comparable Warriors broken out by position group:

Ky Bowman, G

3 games: 33.4 min, 21.7 ppg, 57.4% fg, 33.3% 3pt, 7.7 rebs, 8.3 asts, 1.7 tos

2017-18 Quinn Cook: 29 games, 35.9 min, 25.3 ppg, 52.4% fg, 43.7% 3pt, 8.1 asts, 4.7 rebs, 3.9 tos
2018-19 Kendrick Nunn: 49 games, 29 mpg, 19.3 ppg, 47.3% fg, 33.3% 3pt, 3.8 rebs, 2.8 asts, 2.2 tos
2018-19 Damion Lee: 24 games, 31.5 mpg, 20.3 ppg, 47.3% fg, 39.8% 3pt, 6 rebs, 2.2 asts, 1.8 tos

The easiest player to compare Bowman to is former Warrior Quinn Cook. Both were two-way players around the same size. Cook would go on to make it onto the Warriors' NBA playoff roster his first season with the squad, as insurance for a Steph Curry injury.

Similarly to Bowman, when given the chance to lead the parent club, Cook performed admirably and caught the attention of the league. Also like Bowman, he lit up the G League in such a way that it was quite obvious he belonged in NBA.

Cook was, and always has been, more of a shoot-first guard who could create for others as a secondary option (and do it quite well considering his eight assists per game). Bowman came into the league with that same mentality, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr has asked Bowman to change his game to be more pass-first, in a classic backup point guard mold.

Scoring comes easy to Bowman, but what has impressed the Warriors' coaching staff the most has been his ability to switch into a legitimate distributor while limiting turnovers. He has a sensational 4.9 assist-to-turnover ratio, in just three G League games.

Nunn is a surprise Rookie of the Year candidate for the Miami Heat this season, playing even better than he did in the G League last season. Nunn is an undersized but muscular shooting guard, rather than a point, so the comparison to Bowman is not necessarily fair. Damion Lee plays a completely different position than Bowman, but he is the last two-way player to show he can split time between Santa Cruz and Golden State with success, so showing his overall numbers can provide some context as to what a successful G League campaign looks like.

Alen Smailagic, C

9 games: 24.2 mpg, 15.8 ppg, 52.9% fg, 42.9% 3pt, 5.4 rebs, .6 blks

2017-18: Terrence Jones: 16 games, 29.8 mpg, 19.3 ppg, 53% fg, 37.2% 3pt, 7.1 rebs, 1.3 blks
2016-17: Kevon Looney: 4 games, 19.6 mpg, 12.8 ppg, 56.1% fg, 11.3 rebs, 1 blk
2018-19: Marcus Derrickson: 35 games, 27.2 mpg, 13.7 ppg, 46.7% fg, 42.1% 3pt, 5.6 rebs, .5 blks

The 19-year old Smailagic is a much more raw prospect than Bowman, and also missed all of training camp and the beginning of the regular season due to an ankle injury. As he has regained his conditioning and shaken off some rust, "Smiley" has blossomed for the Sea Dubs, hitting five 3-pointers in each of the last two games.

Finding comparisons to Smailagic in the Santa Cruz Warriors system the past few years was difficult to do, but for the sake of argument, the closest comparison to the style of game offensively would be former Houston Rocket Terrence Jones. The young power forward played for Santa Cruz two seasons ago, and put his mature offensive game on display.

Jones was a highly sought after prospect out of the University of Kentucky as a future star stretch-four in the NBA. His career in the league was derailed for many reasons, but the talent still is very much there. Like Smailagic, Jones is an offense-first type player, and somewhat lacking on the defensive end.

The Warriors hope through his development that Smailagic will eventually use his unique athleticism for a 6-foot-10 frame and be able to be the stout defender that a player like Kevon Looney became. 

[RELATED: Kerr shares Warriors' plan for rookie Alen Smailagic]

Looney's stint with the Santa Cruz Warriors was very brief a few years ago, but at that time he nearly was the same age as Smailagic. Looney clearly spent more time working on his rebounding and play around the rim, as he did not make a 3-point shot over four games, but the Warriors are hopeful that Smailagic's future development can be along the lines of Looney.

Marcus Derrickson was a two-way player for the Warriors last season, and played some garbage time in a couple games with Golden State. Derrickson was a undersized power forward that could shoot from distance, but lacked overall athleticism to defend his position. Smailagic has a much higher ceiling than Derrickson at this point. 

NBA Draft 2020: Warriors could help Anthony Edwards realize potential

NBA Draft 2020: Warriors could help Anthony Edwards realize potential

As the Warriors prepare for the 2020 NBA draft, during which they will have a lottery pick for the first time since 2012, NBC Sports Bay Area will present a twice-weekly series spotlighting two players expected to be evaluated. This is the third of a 12-part series over a six-week span.

Whether it’s scanning countless mock drafts or listening to the off-the-record opinions of various scouts or studying video, there is consensus on the merits of Anthony Edwards.

He is about as physically ready for the NBA as any teenager not named Zion Williamson can be.

It generally is accepted that Edwards, a freshman from the University of Georgia, should be one of the first three players taken in the 2020 NBA Draft. Maybe there should be an investigation if he is not.

The first question any franchise must answer properly before drafting Edwards is whether it can afford to bring him along carefully.

If not, you’re gambling.

If so, dive in and accept the challenge of developing this 18-year-old into a rotation player as a rookie, a starter by year three and an All-Star a couple years later.

The Warriors have the requisite patience and proper environment for someone like Edwards to prosper. They know coaching is a crucial factor in maximizing Edwards’ stratospheric potential, and they realize another key factor is environment. With a nine-man staff under Steve Kerr and a culture of winning, they rank high in both areas.

And they don’t sound like a team concerned about Edwards’ relative youth.

“Age has never really come into play,” Larry Harris, the team’s director of player personnel, said. “It’s an analytic component that factors into some of the decisions we make. But we’ve never looked at two guys and thought, ‘This guy is 19, and that guy is 23, and then thought 23 is going to be too old by the time we need him, so let’s pass on him.’

“Whether a guy is 18 or 19, or 22 or 23, age isn’t the primary factor.”

The primary factor is talent, and Edwards has plenty of that. There was some inconsistency, typical of a freshman but also a product of the junk defenses thrown his way on a mediocre team. The Bulldogs, under veteran coach Tom Crean, finished 16-16.

The Warriors, with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, have verified NBA shooters, which provides space for their teammates. Edwards might be visualizing buckets off open looks.

Edwards is not a deadeye shooter, but back in November he scored 33 points – draining seven 3-pointers – in the second half against a traditionally challenging Michigan State defense.

He’s not a great defender, but Edwards in the final minutes of a win over Arkansas suffocated Razorbacks guard Mason Jones, who led the SEC in scoring.

As an illustration of Edwards’ upside, he had a 15-rebound game, a seven-assist game, three four-steal games and one three-block game.

Edwards has drawn some lofty comparisons with such names as Dwyane Wade, Victor Oladipo, Donavan Mitchell and -- deep breath -- James Harden.

If you’re looking for someone with a Warriors history, the closest comparison would be Mitch Richmond, the most physical member of the franchise’s fun and fabled Run-TMC squad.

All five of these names, by the way, are attached to All-Stars, and Harden owns an MVP award.

Crean, who coached Wade at Marquette and Oladipo at Indiana, says Edwards is “absolutely” worthy of being the No. 1 overall pick.

It’s hard to find a mock draft or hear a scout’s opinion that argues otherwise.

[RELATED: Wiseman fits Warriors' biggest need right now]

Anthony Edwards profile

Position: Shooting guard/small forward

Class: Freshman

Birthdate: Aug. 5, 2001 (18)

Hometown: Atlanta

2019-20 stats: 19.1 points (40.2 percent FG, 29.4 percent 3p, 77.2 FT), 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists.

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 225


What they’re saying: “His combination of strength, speed, his pull-up jumper off the bounce -- he can just rise over people. He's an incredible player with an incredibly bright future. Having coached in that league, he's got an NBA body right now. He can dribble-drive in traffic at the next level, take contact, finish through contact. You watch a guy on film and he's really good and then you watch him live, just his explosiveness. He's got NBA athleticism and NBA strength." – Arkansas coach Eric Musselman, who spent two seasons as head coach of the Warriors and one as coach of the Kings.

Andrew Wiggins-Steph Curry duo's potential shown in Warriors NBA 2K sim

Andrew Wiggins-Steph Curry duo's potential shown in Warriors NBA 2K sim

Editor’s note: With the NBA season halted over coronavirus concerns, Warriors fans have unanswered questions about the team and how it’s building toward the future. To provide answers, NBC Sports Bay Area will simulate some previously scheduled Warriors games through NBA 2K, mixing video-game results with real-life insights for our coverage team.

Even amid the NBA season suspension due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Andrew Wiggins enters the spring as the Warriors' biggest question mark.

A former No. 1 overall draft pick, Wiggins' potential drops jaws, while his inconsistency is head-scratching. Upon arrival, the Warriors believed his ability would bode well alongside Steph Curry and the team's culture.

In a simulation of the March 28 game against the Oklahoma City Thunder using NBA 2K20, Wiggins showed promise towards that goal in a 117-110 loss.

In the digital confines, Wiggins finished with 35 points, getting most of his buckets within the flow of the Warriors' motion offense.

"I think he really fits well," Draymond Green said of Wiggins last month. "As seamless as it could possibly be, I think he can fit right in. He can score the basketball, he can run the wings, he's a pretty good defender. So I think he'll definitely fit in with this core for a long time."

Similar performances weren't as consistent during Wiggins' first four seasons in Minnesota. Wiggins didn't live up to the expectations that come with being a franchise player. His offensive inconsistency quickly drew the ire of NBA observers. Worse, Wiggins became one of the worst defenders in the league, even after he signed a five-year, $145 million contract.

Nonetheless, the Warriors saw potential in the 25-year old, trading former All-Star point guard D'Angelo Russell, along with Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman, in part to pair Wiggins with Curry. In the 2K simulation, the pairing worked, as the tandem combined for 62 points on the night.

The performance was consistent with Wiggins' lone real-world game alongside the former MVP. Against the Raptors back on March 5, the duo combined for 44 points in Curry's return from a broken left hand.

Curry's first highlight against the Raptors came with the help of his Canadian teammate, when he took a dribble in the lane, drew a double-team and fired a behind the back pass to Wiggins in the lane, leading to an easy layup, surprising Wiggins in the process.

"I didn't even know it was coming, really," Wiggins admitted after the loss to the Raptors. "I was kind of watching like it may come, but then when he went behind the back I was just trying to catch it. It was a hell of a pass."

"I'm very excited," Wiggins added. "He's an MVP player, one of the greats. He helped transition the game with his 3s and how fast he plays. So, I'm excited."

[RELATED: How Steph perform in Warriors-Hawks sim]

Wiggins' virtual performance Saturday coincided with his strong play during his short stint in the Bay Area. In his last five games, he averaged 20 points on 46 percent shooting from the field. If Wiggins continues to build on his current play, the Warriors will see the potential they've wanted all along, making for an intriguing process Wiggins says he's ready for.

"I feel like I've adjusted well," Wiggins told NBC Sports Bay Area earlier in March. "I've never played with anyone as good as him. By far, he's the best player that I've played with. Just getting a chance to learn from him and feeding off him and just learning."