Warriors

How Warriors' Wanamaker followed road less traveled to NBA

Warriors

Brad Wanamaker's path to the Warriors was one traveled by few of his NBA peers.

After four years at Pitt, Wanamaker, 31, spent the majority of his 20s racking up international miles. He had a short, title-winning stint with the G League's Austin Toros in 2012, but Wanamaker played for seven teams in four countries (Italy, France, Germany and Turkey) from 2011 through '18.

Wanamaker racked up titles and All-Star appearances during his overseas career, but he didn't make his NBA debut until Oct. 16, 2018. He was 28 at the time, just over three months removed from signing a one-year contract with the Boston Celtics and still trying to prove that he belonged.

"The NBA was always my dream, and I always wanted to play in the NBA," Wanamaker told reporters on a video conference call Wednesday. "As I got older, I kind of doubted myself that maybe I wasn't good enough to play in the NBA. And then when the Boston situation came, it was a thing where I wanted to prove to myself if I was able to play. ... I wanted to take the chance and see, 'Am I really made for the NBA, or am I just a guy that's going to play high-level basketball overseas?' "

Wanamaker surely has his answer by now.

He signed a one-year deal with the Warriors last week, set to begin his third NBA season in less than a month. Golden State turned to him to back up Steph Curry, a three-time champion, two-time MVP and global superstar in need of a capable deputy. It's a high-profile assignment and one that would've seemed out of reach for Wanamaker not long ago.

 

Download and subscribe to the Dubs Talk Podcast

All 30 NBA teams passed up on Wanamaker in the 2011 draft, and he built an impressive résumé in Europe. Wanamaker won a cup in France, league titles in Turkey and Germany and made multiple All-Star appearances in the latter two countries as well. He was All-EuroLeague Second Team in 2017, and he made the final with Fenerbahçe the following year.

The Celtics signed Wanamaker to a one-year contract ahead of the 2018-19 season, and he bounced between the NBA and the G League. Wanamaker re-signed with Boston last season, establishing himself as a consistent part of coach Brad Stevens' rotation in November and never looking back. The point guard played significant minutes in the postseason, knocking down 44.4 percent of his playoff 3-pointers as the Celtics' seventh man.

On his way to the NBA, Wanamaker had a close friend serve as something like a role model. Two years before Wanamaker signed with the Celtics, the Atlanta Hawks signed point guard Malcolm Delaney to a two-year deal. Delaney has since returned overseas, but he averaged 6.3 points and 3.0 assists off the bench for Atlanta in 2017-18, making 37.1 percent of his 3-pointers. Wanamaker said it helped to see a friend blaze a similar trail.

"I was really happy for him because a lot of times when you go overseas, you get stuck over there," Wanamaker said. "And for him to make that transition after several years overseas, it also gave me more motivation and confidence that I could do the same."

RELATED: NBA reportedly grants Warriors $9.3 million disabled player exception

With his NBA dream fulfilled, Wanamaker won't let himself get complacent. The point guard has only signed one-year deals in the NBA, and his stint with the Celtics was only the second of his professional career in which he played in the same place for two straight seasons.

Making the NBA was one thing. Finding security is another.

"I play every day as if my job is in jeopardy," Wanamaker said. "Overseas, there are so many people that are trying to get a job. If you have one or two bad games, the team is constantly moving onto the next player. I keep that mindset with me to this day, just going out there, grinding, working hard and just trying to be the best me out there on the floor.”