Nico Mannion and the Warriors were a perfect match. That's why the Arizona product turned down other teams' attempts to draft him in the second round, knowing the Warriors were interested in bringing him aboard.
Mannion signed a two-way contract with Golden State, and is expected to need time to develop into an everyday NBA guard. But ESPN draft expert Mike Schmitz believes Mannion could be one of the rookies to outperform his draft slot and has the chance to be the next great Warriors' second-round pick.
"A projected lottery pick entering the season, Mannion slipped all the way to No. 48," Schmitz writes. "But the 19-year-old point guard couldn't have landed in a better situation with the opportunity to learn from Stephen Curry and Steve Kerr. Without much firepower in the Warriors' backcourt outside of Curry, it wouldn't shock me if Mannion won the backup point guard job because of his passing ability, pick-and-roll feel and open-court game. Mannion has a chance to be the Warriors' next second-round steal."
It's hard to argue with Schmitz's logic.
Mannion has all the talent to be a focal point of the Warriors' present and future. He was expected to be a top-10 pick prior to his freshman season at Arizona, but inconsistent shooting and struggles caused him to fall precipitously.
But the talent remains. While Mannion hasn't shown the shooting touch through two preseason games, his playmaking ability has been excellent and he has shown a knack for being a pest on defense. He's tied with Curry for the team lead in assists (seven) despite only playing the 12th most minutes.
Ever since Shaun Livingston retired, Andre Iguodala was traded and Kevin Durant left, the Warriors have been searching for a quality secondary ball-handler who can play next to Curry and initiate the offense when he sits. Mannion could develop into that guy and has the potential to fill that role this season if he shows marked improvement in key areas.
In 2012, the Warriors selected an overlooked forward in the second round of the NBA draft. That forward blossomed into a key piece of a dynasty and showed the Warriors' scouting department has a good feel for underrated players.
Could Mannion follow Draymond Green's path and become the next second-round gem? Absolutely. Mannion was an elite high school recruit who starred at Curry's camp. He's an explosive athlete, a fantastic playmaker and has a good shooting stroke even though the shot hasn't been dropping yet.
As of right now, the Warriors are relying on Brad Wanamaker and Jordan Poole to be the backup guards behind Curry. Wanamaker is a solid veteran and Poole started coming on late last season, showing the promise the Warriors saw when they drafted him in the first round.
But Mannion has the highest ceiling of the three. He's ultra-motivated to prove the other 29 teams made a mistake in passing on him and finds himself in the ideal situation for a former top-rated prospect who fell after one bad college season.
Mannion very well could end up playing a big role for a team with NBA title dreams during his rookie season.