Every sports franchise has its regrets and “what-ifs.”
The inevitable nature of decision-making in the NBA is that in spite of the massive amounts of data that executives have access to, it’s still impossible to predict how exactly things will turn out. This is especially true for drafting in the NBA, an imperfect science that has seen significant advancements, but remains as ambiguous as ever. Year after year, this perpetually ambiguous process seems to baffle and confound the basketball community with all the busts and surprises that accompany it.
During the 2012 Draft, the Golden State Warriors passed up on Andre Drummond with their seventh pick. We all know how the night ended for the Warriors – they picked up two talented forwards in Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green. For an early second-round draft pick, Green has provided excellent value as an energy-guy and aggressive defender, even developing his three-point shot in recent months. Barnes, sadly, hasn’t lived up to the level of contribution expected from a seventh pick, save for a spectacular playoff performance in 2013.
Imagine if the Warriors had a sudden change of heart and selected Andre Drummond, who somehow fell to ninth in the Draft, with their first-round pick. What would that have meant for the team’s future?
In just two years in the league, Drummond has emerged as one of the most productive young centers. Last season, in his sophomore campaign, Drummond averaged 13.5 points per game, along with an impressive 13.2 rebounds per game and a ludicrous field goal percentage of 62.3. These numbers don’t tell the whole story, but they give an indication of the kind of ultra-efficient low-post scoring threat Drummond is. And he’s only 20 years old.
For the Warriors, Drummond would’ve given them a solid big man to solidify their frontcourt. Considering that their top-two centers (Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli) have been injury-prone, Drummond’s role would’ve taken on an added significance. In this year’s playoffs, the Clippers were able to dominate the paint and take advantage of the Warriors’ lack of size. Drummond would’ve helped mitigate the damage, and the Warriors would’ve had a legitimate chance at beating the Clippers and advancing further into the playoffs.
Drummond likely would also have helped take some of the offensive load off of the Warriors’ starters. His ability to score consistently in the interior sets him apart from Bogut and Ezeli, and would have given Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson the breathing room to occasionally dump it into the paint and allow him to go to work.
It’s unfair to criticize the Warriors’ decision to draft Barnes yet because it’s only been two years. Barnes unexpectedly regressed last season, but he has the physical tools and the intangibles (he’s often praised for his work ethic) to expand his game offensively and become a more significant contributor for the Warriors.
It’s easy to fantasize about Drummond, but looking back at the repeated trips to the lottery and the 20-win seasons, the Warriors have to like where they’re at right now.