Revisiting the 2012 Draft Class: Harrison Barnes vs. Andre Drummond


When the Golden State Warriors take on the Detroit Pistons tonight, the two teams will be on very distinctive ends of the championship spectrum. The Pistons are currently on the upswing, after a quick and disastrous end to the Josh Smith era. But not too long ago, the two teams were much closer to each other than many would care to remember, as the Warriors had the seventh pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, two spots higher than the Pistons’ ninth overall pick.

More from Warriors News

The Warriors, of course, selected Harrison Barnes – one of the top high school prospects, whose stock had taken a dive after a less than stellar freshman year at college. The Pistons surprised everyone with the Andre Drummond pick, as many thought that he lacked the motor and drive to succeed in the NBA.

Since the draft, each team’s fortunes have changed drastically, but as we all do, the comparisons between Barnes and Drummond are inevitable. Barnes hasn’t quite flourished, but has done well in his limited 3-and-D role. Meanwhile, Drummond is fast becoming one of the best young centers in the league, and is in for a five-year, maximum contract extension once the season ends.

The question here is simple: should the Warriors have drafted Drummond instead?

Back in March 2012, the Warriors had just acquired Andrew Bogut from the Milwaukee Bucks. His Warriors’ career did not get off to a good start as he was forced to undergo surgery in April to clean out loose particles and bone spurs in his ankle. This would explain the Warriors’ decision not to draft Drummond, as they had just traded for a former number one pick in Bogut. However, his injury-filled start to his career would be a sign of things to come for the Australian big man – He has missed several games due to injuries and is yet to play more than 70 games in a single season.

The Warriors were also in the market for a backup big man, as evidenced by their decision to draft Festus Ezeli with the 30th pick in the Draft. The Warriors, with the 7th pick, had to choose between drafting a potential starter in Barnes or a replacement big man in case Bogut’s injury concerns continued in Drummond. They chose the former, of course.

And it’s hard to fault them for doing so. Often with draft picks, you’re forced to decide between drafting talent or for fit. General managers and fans will give you differing opinions and sides on the debate, so it will always be hard to discern which is “right”. For the Warriors, the decision to draft Barnes fit both the “talent” and “fit” criteria – they needed a starting small forward (Dorrell Wright was their starter in the 2011-12 season, but was subsequently traded to the Philadelphia 76ers after the Warriors drafted Barnes). It made little sense for them to draft Drummond since they already had a starting center and the concerns surrounding Drummond’s NBA motor.

But let’s just play devil’s advocate for a second here, shall we? Let’s pretend the Warriors really did draft Andre Drummond – how would things look like then?

My belief is that the Warriors’ Drummond would be a lot different than the Drummond we know now. With Bogut as the incumbent starter, Drummond would receive little to no minutes – a move that would stall his growth as a basketball player. With Detroit, Drummond was able to get reps in, averaging 28.8 minutes per game and playing 229 games with the team. He would not have been able to get those numbers playing as Bogut’s understudy.

More from Blue Man Hoop

While it may hurt to hear this, the Warriors’ decision to draft Barnes may have ultimately been the right one. He hasn’t lived up to his high school hype, but he did contribute in the Warriors’ championship run. Barnes will always be a divisive figure within the Warriors’ fan base, but it would be hard to justify the Warriors picking someone else instead of him with the seventh pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.