As the Warriors’ front-office staff prepares for the 2020 NBA Draft next week, president/general manager Bob Myers concedes that he might seek advice from a wise old friend.
A talent evaluator extraordinaire who knows NBA better than perhaps anyone.
Remember Jerry West? Spent six years expressing opinions on potential draft picks and more as an adviser to the Warriors before June 2017, when he made a reluctant departure and took a similar job with the Los Angeles Clippers?
“He gave me conviction,” Myers told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. “Not many people second-guess him in life, because he's been so successful. So, you just miss having him around. Maybe I'll call him and see what he thinks of this (draft), just out of curiosity.”
West, 82, should have time. He might even be antsy. The Clippers have only one 2020 pick, in the second round, No. 57 overall and they’ve already traded their next seven first-round picks. So, West might be willing to share his insight with a former colleague. For, you know, the good of the game.
If so, Myers and the Warriors should be all ears.
Consider that the Warriors had one month to prepare for the 2017 draft, their first without West. They spent $3.5 million to buy a second-round pick, using it to take Jordan Bell No. 38 overall. After a flash of potential early in his rookie season, Bell has fallen off the radar and now is on his fifth NBA team.
Consider that the Warriors had a full year to prepare for the 2018 draft and chose guard Jacob Evans III No. 28 overall. After languishing mostly on the bench for the better part of two years, he was sent to the Timberwolves as part of the D’Angelo Russell deal that brought Andrew Wiggins to the Warriors.
It’s conceivable that West would have advised against Bell. It’s fairly certain, though, that one of the most prescient talent evaluators ever would have shoved the Warriors away from Evans and toward someone possessing at least one evident NBA skill.
“I miss the guy, because it's not just the room; it's the daily conversations about the whole team,” Myers said. “He's obviously done great in many drafts. He's been through a ton of 'em. I think the best advice Jerry always would give would be ‘Don't be fearful. Do what you think is right.’ ”
There was a surplus of experience and brainpower on display in first six drafts after Joe Lacob, Peter Guber and their partners bought the Warriors in 2010. Along with West, there was assistant GM Travis Schlenk, who also left in 2017 to become GM of the Atlanta Hawks. Larry Riley, now an adviser to Schlenk in Atlanta, also was on hand the first few seasons.
In the first draft after Myers replaced Riley as GM in 2012 – with West still very involved – the Warriors made four picks, three of which yielded legitimate NBA players. Harrison Barnes (No. 7), Festus Ezeli (No. 30) and Draymond Green (No. 35) played significant roles on the 2015 championship team. Only Ognjen Kuzmic (No. 58) made no impact.
The only draft pick since 2012 to make meaningful contributions to the team’s elite status is Kevon Looney (first round, No. 30 in 2015).
It’s now a very different front office. Only assistant GM Larry Harris, who came to the Warriors in 2008, remains from Myers’ first draft. Others, including executive vice president Kirk Lacob, have offered input. And now, former Warriors Shaun Livingston and Zaza Pachulia are part of the process.
Those early drafts, including West’s practically demanding the Klay Thompson pick in 2011, helped build quite the team around franchise player Stephen Curry.
“Obviously, Jerry's been great,” Myers said. “And Travis is doing a great job in Atlanta and is very, very helpful. But that's the reason why it's hard to keep a group together. They get other opportunities. They move on.
“Maybe I'll call (Schlenk) before the draft. Travis doesn't care what we do. I'll ask him what he would do. Jerry, I won't even have to ask. He’ll just tell me.”