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.
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.