After spending the last seven springs as part of the front-office team helping the Warriors prepare for the NBA playoffs, Larry Harris was anticipating March and April would bring an altogether different kind of challenge.
With the Warriors bound for the top of the lottery, perhaps even the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft, Harris was eager to follow the script of many of his fellow NBA directors of player personnel at this time of the year: Scour the globe in search of elite new talent.
Instead, with most of the sports world going dark due to a global pandemic, Harris is home in greater Dallas studying video on his TV or his computer screen.
Travel stops, but research continues.
“Everybody’s got certain players that they’re going out and getting information on,” Harris said Friday in a phone interview. "We have a lot of coaches and other contacts, so there are a lot of phone conversations. This gives us even more of a chance. We haven’t had the luxury of doing so much work ahead of the draft over the last five years. But now we’ve got hours and hours of film to watch.”
This is the most important Warriors draft since 2012, the last time they had three picks, two of which were in the first round and one of which was in the lottery at No. 7 overall.
Instead of studying the Houston Rockets or the Utah Jazz or the Los Angeles Clippers, Harris and his front-office partners are watching the likes of Georgia (Anthony Edwards), Dayton (Obi Toppin) and USC (Onyeka Okongwu), as well as teams overseas, where LaMelo Ball and Deni Avdija spent their seasons.
And there’s also James Wiseman, that 7-foot-1 center that spent three games at Memphis before being declared ineligible.
The Warriors already have, according to Harris, narrowed their first-round focus to “eight or 10” players. But with the NBA calendar in shambles, teams have no idea how the draft -- and pre-draft preparation -- will be affected, or when it will take place.
“We’ll approach the draft as if it’s going to be at some point that we’ll be able to watch these players participate in sort of a modified Chicago pre-draft camp,” Harris said. “Will there be interviews? Will there be individual workouts? Will we be able to actually touch these players prior to the draft? All those factors are an unknown right now.”
“But we want to make sure that we do our due diligence on every player and make sure that we know exactly who they are just in case we don’t get a chance to get in front of them. Maybe we won’t have all the luxuries that we’ve had in the past, like bringing them in and talking with them, doing psychological testing and individual stuff.”
Those “luxuries” generally can be significant. Psychological profiles can reveal inspiration and drive, or lack of either, as well as response to coaching. One former Warrior, years ago, was discovered to have the “competitive desire of Ronnie Lott” but was considered a bust. After three seasons, the Warriors traded him. Two years later, Tyrone Hill was an All-Star.
Yet the Warriors have a baseline of attributes they desire and hope to identify. It doesn’t guarantee drafting success, but it provides boxes to check.
Whereas the Warriors in recent years often tried to find immediate part-time contributors -- a euphemism for depth -- they’re also open to drafting those with little experience beyond high school.
“Yes, we’ll try to find someone who can come in play right away,” Harris said. “But we also know that when you’re picking this high, a lot of guys are 18, 19, 20 years old. To expect them to come in and be contributors right away, we’re not so naïve to think it won’t take time.
“But we feel there are some players in this draft, up high, that have the ability to come in and play some minutes. We don’t necessarily need a position. We just need a player, anywhere from one to five.”
[RELATED: Kerr discusses Warriors' three draft options]
The Warriors have expressed belief in opening next season, whenever it comes, with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson at guard, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green at forward and, most likely, Marquese Chriss at center.
They also like some of their reserves who showed well this season, most notably forward Eric Paschall.
But the draft will be a disappointment if their first-round pick can’t crack the rotation. And if that turns out to be the case, the Warriors, like every team in the league, may have a convenient place to lay the blame.
Coronavirus, which derailed the usual draft process.