Worst Starter No. 10 – Festus Ezeli
The Warriors almost blew it. Heading into the 2012 NBA Draft, the Warriors were armed with three picks in the top-35, including the seventh overall selection. They took North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes at 7, and then were back on the clock with pick No. 30. Draymond Green, a versatile and long-limbed forward out of Michicago State, was still there on the board; the front office loved Green.
Instead of scooping him up, however, they instead drafted Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli, hoping Green would fall. He did, so history looks back favorably on the Warriors for taking a Hall of Famers in the second round, but the Warriors still chose a center with concrete hands ahead of him and made a scary gamble that could have changed the course of their franchise.
The Warriors started Ezeli a whopping 41 games as a rookie, then after a season lost to a knee injury they gave him another 20 starts over the following two seasons, the first the Dubs’ championship run in 2015 and again during their standout 2016 that ended in heartbreak. In fact, many Warriors fans think it’s the 10-plus minutes he played in Game 7 of the NBA Finals that lost them a game; he was a -9 in a game they lost by four.
Ezeli couldn’t catch a pass to save his life, and it had an impact on his rebounding; he should have dominated the glass with his size and athleticism, but instead, he was simply a decent finisher and big body on defense. He’s one of the players the front office locked onto over the years and just kept waiting to see if he would develop. Unfortunately for Ezeli and the Warriors, he suffered a series of injuries that prevented him from playing another minute in the NBA; Game 7 would be his last game.