OAKLAND – The Warriors are on the clock, and its ticking will get louder with every month of the 2019-20 season.
Next season, more than any other since Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the team in 2010, will provide a microscopic glimpse of the team-building expertise of the front office.
The Warriors entered the 2019 NBA Draft Thursday with multiple roster vacancies and three chances to add players capable of contributing next season. They chose Michigan guard Jordan Poole (No. 28 overall) in the first round, adding Serbian forward Alen Smailagic (No. 39) and Villanova power forward Eric Paschall (No. 41) in the second.
There is reason to believe Poole, who turned 20 on Wednesday, will be a player in the NBA, though it may take a year or two.
There is little reason to believe Smailagic, 18, will be ready without at least two seasons of development.
Paschall, 22 and with four years of college, three of which were in an elite program, may have the goods to earn rotation minutes as a rookie.
Though winning draft night makes no statement whatsoever about the actual players, the selections made by the Warriors lead to at least one unassailable fact. Their selections didn’t prioritize maturity, which indicates they’re thinking less about the particular challenges of next season than those beyond it.
But there must be, if not reasonable production, clear signs of progress. The Warriors need it. The members of a front office putatively anchored by president/general manager Bob Myers really need it.
“If one of them can give us good minutes, great,” Myers said Thursday night. “If two can, great. I don’t know. Who knows who that guy will be? But we like these three well enough and if they can help us next year, that would be great. If they can’t, hopefully they’ll help us the year after.”
The cold truth is the Warriors have not struck it rich in the draft since 2012, when they took Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli in the first round, with Draymond Green and Ognjen Kuzmic in the second. The first three were good enough to be on the floor, together, in late stages of playoff games within three years. That draft was crucial in lifting the franchise to elite status.
The drafts since have not exactly met that standard. And while it’s only fair to point out that the Warriors’ success has pushed them to the back end of the draft, it didn’t hurt them in 2012. Ezeli was taken at No. 30, Green at No. 35.
The only Warriors rookie since ’12 with a clear NBA future is Kevon Looney, taken 30th overall in 2015. He’s not a star, but after undergoing two surgeries to repair his hips, he has developed into a solid rotation player. He’s a keeper.
Nemanja Nedovic, taken at No. 30 in 2013, washed out. The Warriors drafted no one in 2014. Damian Jones, taken at No. 30 in 2016, remains a project. Patrick McCaw, taken at No. 38 with a purchased selection in 2016, is a reserve in Toronto. The future of Jordan Bell, taken at No. 38 with purchased selection in 2017, is uncertain. The Warriors entered the 2018 draft saying they needed someone who could contribute immediately. Jacob Evans III, taken at No. 28, fell short of that threshold. His future is defined by Myers as “to be determined.”
For a franchise that has set such a lofty standard, there isn’t much reason to believe it can be maintained beyond the primes of players drafted prior to 2013.
The Warriors need young standouts, and Draymond is just one in a league rife with examples of finding them late. Nikola Jokic, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris all went in the second round of the same draft. Malcolm Brogdon was a second-rounder, as was Montrezl Harrell.
The Toronto Raptors won an NBA championship with a rotation of players drafted between No. 15 (Kawhi Leonard) and No. 48 (Marc Gasol) – and undrafted Fred VanVleet.
“If you can capitalize on the draft, it’s probably the best way to build a team,” Myers said. “It’s the most cost-effective. And if you do it well, you can really benefit.
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“We’ll see what we did in this one. But overall, we’re pretty pleased with this group of guys.”
Being pleased in June comes easy. The clock on this draft starts in October. On opening night. By the time it stops ticking next April, we’ll have a better idea of how skilled the Warriors are at building through the draft.