Klay Thompson: Candidate for rookie of the year? I think we may be getting ahead of ourselves what that statement. But it is worth noting that rookie Klay Thompson has been the second best pick for a first rounder that the Warriors have gathered in the last decade. Yesterday, I linked an article on how Warrior management was able to screw over the organization 60 different ways. The main way? Trading players for useless draft picks or using the draft picks and selecting some random person.
Crazy thought, the Warriors had a chance to grab some dude name Kobe Bryant in the 1996 NBA Draft, who was picked two players down by the Charlotte Hornets who traded him draft night to the LA Lakers for Vlade Divac and some other guy. Imagine how the franchise would be then?
Another thought of that draft. That draft was not deep but the top twenty picks held some legit players. Some , who are/still talented, and are still playing today, like Kobe (no matter what you say, this guy just wins), Ray Allen (nice to have a sharp shooter) and Steve Nash(nice PG but the Warriors already got one). Other notable guys were Marcus Camby, Allen Iverson, Stephen Marbury, Antoine Walker, Shareef Abdur- Rahim, Erick Dampier, Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. And the Warriors pick some guy named Todd Fuller. Enough said.
Since 2002, the Warriors put together only two draft picks that have seemed to work out. Before that, their record wasn’t bad, though I’m not sure why they would trade Vince Carter for Antwan Jamison and then trade Jason Terry for some random people and other picks. The only trade that was worth noting is that they selected Anfranee “Penny” Hardaway but traded that draft pick for the rights of Chris Webber. Now we all know how Webber was a player. Very good. Needs to remember how many time outs the team has, but nevertheless changed the franchise. However, nothing lasts forever and that rang true when Webber began to clash with coach Don Nelson and ultimately was traded to friendly, Sacramento Kings for god knows who.
So with history not on their side, the Warriors drafted Stephen Curry in 2009 and Klay Thompson in 2011. Sandwiched in between is Ekpe Udoh. I thought that when they drafted Ekpe, he was going to be a trade bait. And clearly, with the recent trade, he really was. He has a cap friendly contract, still young and shows a ton of promise. Between Ekpe and Thompson’s class, both drafts were relatively weak.
Curry’s draft class was better than Thompson’s. It was much deeper but a PG heavy draft. In that class, there are several guys who are still playing now and are making a difference for their team. Of course the top pick of the draft was Blake Griffin. I don’t think there is much to say about him. He’s making it onto ESPN’s highlight reel every night he plays. But other guys in that class, like Eric Maynor (who’s out for the rest of the season for OKC), James Harden (lucky OKC), Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio (who is also out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, Timberwolves could use him) and the Chicago Bulls got a steal with the number 26 pick in Taj Gibson. While hindsight is 20/20, overall I don’t think that choosing Stephen Curry was a bad pick. The only issue I have is that, Jennings, Maynor and Gibson were still on the board. Would the team be different if the Warriors had selected Jennings in the back court with Monta Ellis? Remember that Ellis came out and said he and Curry could not play in the same back court and Curry took it all in stride. There was no controversy. But would Jennings feel the same? Now Ellis is off to the Milwaukee Bucks to try that experiment. Make no mistake, the Bucks is Jennings’ team. Or how would the team be if they drafted Gibson? Gibson isn’t a super center or even a great scoring forward. But the guy can play defense and can give you big buckets when needed. He seems like a guy who listens and does his job. Then the Warriors probably wouldn’t lock up Andris Bedirens for a crazy extension or traded for David Lee and give him an un-friendly cap extension. The money situation may look different if the Warriors had drafted another guy, other than Curry.
As stated earlier, Thompson’s class followed a weak 2010 class. Besides Kyrie Irving, who is probably going to be ROY, none of the other guys in that class have made a huge splash. Iman Shumpert and Marshon Brooks are maybe the other two guys that have made headlines, but none of them are changing that franchise around. So while Thompson is relatively unknown, he is beginning to produce like the number 11 pick he was. In the games that Ellis is no longer a Warrior and Thompson has slid into the starting role, he’s averaged 20 points, 2 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Not bad. And he’s taller, is willingly to play defense and is hitting his shots. Last night was a prime example of what this guy can bring to the table.
So yes, mourn the loss of a star. The face of the franchise for years. The guy that made it seem like the Warriors could be legit. But also remember and step back and know that franchise can be rebuilt by several different ways. One, is to land a marquee free agent, a franchise player, a la Miami Heat. Two, you can try to rebuild through the draft. But you have to have good basketball IQ to see good players. Then there are players who just magically play better in the NBA and players who can not replicate what they did in college. It is a very high risk. Third, you can trade for good players. But usually good players don’t get traded, so good luck there. Fourth, you just get lucky. A combination of all of the previous three and a giant can of luck, can turn a franchise around.
And the suddenly, you “can see clearly now cause the rain is gone.”