Warriors paying cost of success through low NBA draft picks every year


Warriors paying cost of success through low NBA draft picks every year

OAKLAND – No one among the coaches, players and executives employed by the Warriors is a more persistent worrier than Bob Myers. He agonizes mostly about players, about today and, most acutely, about tomorrow and the tomorrows to come.

“I worry about how long we’ll be able to do this,” Myers said in a recent conversation with NBC Sports Bay Area. “People might think it’s easy, because we’ve got great players and great coaches. Great leaders. Good people.

“But it’s not easy. It’s hard. Really hard. And I wonder sometimes if people really realize that what we’ve done the past few years is not rare. Really rare. We always want to win, but I know we can’t always win. I don’t know if everybody understands that.”

This was shortly before the Warriors were dethroned by the Toronto Raptors. Myers was looking ahead to June 30, when the free agency floodgates open. He was mentally confronting the challenges to come next season and beyond.

He was, in short, feeling the other price of success. Not the one associated with a rising payroll but the one that sends the best teams to the far end of the draft.

The Warriors last week chose Michigan guard Jordan Poole in the first round, 28th overall. Then, in the second round, they chose Serbian forward Alen Smailagic at No. 39 and Villanova forward Eric Paschall at No. 41.

“This is just a chance,” Myers told the trio on Monday. “Right now, you have a chance. We’ll give you every chance to succeed, but it’s up to you guys what you do with that.”

The Warriors miss out to the likes of Zion Williamson, just as they missed out on such recent No. 1 picks picks as Anthony Davis (2013) and Karl-Anthony Towns (2015). They had no shot at a Joel Embiid (third overall in 2014) or Jayson Tatum (third in 2017).

The Warriors haven’t had a lottery pick since 2012, when they took Harrison Barnes seventh overall. Their 2019 first-round pick, Jordan Poole, was No. 28 overall, as was their 2018 first-round pick, Jacob Evans III. Damian Jones was No. 30 in 2015, Kevon Looney No. 30 in 2015.

To pick late is to hope for the best. To buy a second-round pick, as the Warriors did in 2016 (Patrick McCaw) and 2017 (Jordan Bell) is to pray.

“Just getting a guy that can get into your rotation is of value when we’re looking at who we’re going to get at 28, or even 39 or 41,” Myers said after the draft.

This is why success in the NBA is more easily achieved than maintained. Winning almost always means missing out on those judged as the best college players and most likely to thrive in the NBA. There is a reason why, despite the stunning consistency of the Spurs, every NBA team that rises also must fall.

The Lakers, among the elite for most of their existence, have been trying to dig their way out the league’s swampland ever since Kobe Bryant got NBA-old. The Mavericks made 12 consecutive trips to the playoffs, winning it all in 2011, but haven’t been back since 2012. The Bulls soared to incredible heights with Michael Jordan, but they’ve been a lottery team three of the past four years.

Rebuilding, or even reloading, is tough for any team, but it’s appreciably more challenging for one at the top.

The Warriors may be considered the league’s nouveau riche, but they’ve reached the postseason seven years in a row. Only one team, San Antonio, has a longer such streak, with an NBA-record 22 consecutive trips to the playoffs.

The Spurs last won it all in 2014 -- their last trip to The Finals. They were ousted in the first round in three of the last five seasons.

Yet it is the Spurs that the Warriors aspire to emulate. They yearn for such annual consistency. That’s why they aim to draft players with solid character. That’s why they’re willing to spend to maintain their core, with Steph Curry as the centerpiece, along with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

San Antonio kept Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker together for 14 seasons, which included four championships.

The Spurs tried reloading on the fly and nailed it in 2011. They acquired the rights to Kawhi Leonard in a draft-night trade with Indiana that sent veteran guard George Hill to the Pacers. After seven seasons in Texas, Leonard wanted out and was traded to Toronto. His departure ended San Antonio’s stay among the truly elite.

Myers undoubtedly fears that day will come for the Warriors, and surely it will. Maybe in three years, or perhaps six.

[RELATED: 10 players Warriors could target to help next season]

Meanwhile, the only way the Warriors get near the top of the lottery is through a significant deal with a reeling franchise or by stumbling into a sorry season, which would be unwelcome.

That would, of course, be most unwelcome -- until draft night.

Why this ESPN analyst thinks Warriors could be 'terrifying' next year


Why this ESPN analyst thinks Warriors could be 'terrifying' next year

The Warriors will enter the 2019-20 NBA season in unfamiliar territory.

For one, they won't enter the season as title favorites for the first time since lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy in 2015 after significant roster turnover headlined by Kevin Durant's departure in free agency. For another, they will begin the campaign without star guard Klay Thompson in the opening-night lineup for the first time since 2010 as he recovers from a torn ACL. 

But that isn't enough to write off Golden State as an NBA title contender, according to ESPN's Kirk Goldsberry. 

"I'm not a betting man, but if I were, I'd be all over this bet," Goldsberry wrote in a Friday column, referring to the Warriors opening the season as +1,400 championship favorites according to Caesar's Palace. "Why? Call me crazy, but if Klay Thompson returns to action by March or April, and the Warriors are in the playoffs, they're terrifying."

Placing them in his third tier of championship contenders, Goldsberry noted that the Warriors' experience could give them an edge over other title contenders. He also proposed that sign-and-trade acquisition D'Angelo Russell could "take another leap" under head coach Steve Kerr. Russell, who was an All-Star last season, doesn't have the same defensive upside as Thompson, but gives Golden State another credible scoring threat while one half of the Splash Brothers sits on the sidelines. 

[RELATED: Why Mychal Thompson has MVP expectations for Steph]

That defensive drop-off is what concerns Goldsberry the most, especially with Thompson set to miss so much of the season while Durant and Andre Iguodala are no longer playing in the Bay. The Warriors finished outside of the top 10 in defensive rating in each of the last two seasons despite the presence of all three players on the roster. As NBC Sports Bay Area's Grant Liffmann observed earlier this week, those absences leave the Warriors with a lot of question marks on the defensive end of the court. 

The best-case scenarios for the Warriors next season involve a lot of "ifs." If Russell can effectively fill in for Thompson and if Thompson can return healthy and i the Warriors figure out their defense, then Golden State could be a force in the postseason. The Warriors will have 82 games to figure it all out, but they are still a team few teams would want to face if and when they do. 

Why Mychal Thompson thinks Steph Curry will make 500 3-pointers this year

Why Mychal Thompson thinks Steph Curry will make 500 3-pointers this year

The Warriors' roster turnover this summer has been well-documented, but Mychal Thompson things it will bring out the best in Steph Curry next season.

Curry will have to adjust to life without Kevin Durant next season, after the star signed with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency. The two-time MVP also will miss Klay Thompson -- Mychal's son -- for much of the campaign as the Splash Brother recovers from a torn ACL. Because of that, the elder Thompson thinks Curry has the potential for a record-breaking season in 2019-20.

"Now, they're not going to be as good as they were last year -- and by the way, I predict Steph is going to have 500 3s this year without having to share the ball that much back in the backcourt with Klay," Mychal said Friday on SiriusXM NBA Radio. "So he's going to come back to his MVP form we saw two years ago."

Curry set the NBA's single-season record with 402 made 3-pointers en route to the first unanimous MVP in league history in 2015-16. He did so leading a historic Warriors team that went 73-9, and Klay finished second on Golden State that season with 276 made 3-pointers. 

Klay made 241 -- and attempted 599 -- triples last year, while Curry made 354 and attempted 810. Assuming Thompson returns after the All-Star break, there could be enough touches for Curry to shatter his own record. However, summer acquisition D'Angelo Russell made just seven fewer 3-pointers than Thompson last season. He probably will take fewer shots as the No. 2 option behind Curry to start the season, but Russell's presence probably lowers Curry's record-setting ceiling. 

[RELATED: Steph comments on learning about KD's decision on plane]

Curry unquestionably will have to carry a bigger load for as long as Klay's out next season. But when his son returns, Mychal thinks the Warriors will find themselves on the same level as other Western Conference contenders. 

"[Draymond Green] is motivated to have a great year because his contract year is coming up," the elder Thompson continued.  "So I think [Curry and Green] -- and with the addition of D'Angelo Russell and the other role players that they've signed -- I think they'll be right in the mix. Somewhere between a five [or] six seed until Klay comes back 100 percent, and then they'll be ready to make their move."