The Top 5 Best and Worst Golden State Warriors Draft Picks Since 2000
That's perhaps the biggest sign of the franchise's recent turnaround, as the league's annual talent grab has long served as the Warriors' main source of roster improvements.
Prior to this year, the team had participated in 11 of the past 13 draft lotteries. While other franchises based their successes on wins and losses, the Warriors found theirs in pingpong balls and draft selection cards.
Despite almost always having a dog in the race, the Warriors rarely finished near the top of the draft board. They've made just two top-five selections since 2000, neither of which impressed nor disappointed enough to warrant a spot on this list (Jason Richardson, No. 5 overall in 2001; Mike Dunleavy, No. 3 in 2002).
Considering where the Warriors have often made their selections, there aren't many egregious mistakes on their recent resume. Still, they would love to take back a few draft duds.
However, their track record also shows their ability to find some tremendous values. Whether snagging a star in the second round or a potential superstar near the back end of the top 10, they've often done a good job of maximizing the hands they've been dealt.
The draft no longer carries the same kind of weight in the Bay Area. Here's a look back at the best and worst selections made when the draft used to be the biggest night of the year for Warriors fans.
Best: Gilbert Arenas
Selection: No. 30, 2001
With the second choice of the second round in the 2001 draft, the Warriors landed a franchise player. In that draft range, it's hard to envision that type of talent as even a best-case scenario.
Still, the Warriors saw something they liked in scoring guard Gilbert Arenas.
He had a strong debut for the team, posting 10.9 points on 45.3 percent shooting as a rookie. His encore was even better. He claimed Most Improved Player honors for his sophomore season after averaging 18.3 points, 6.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds.
Unfortunately, the Washington Wizards came calling after that season with a six-year, $60 million contract that the cash-strapped Warriors could not match. Over the next five seasons, he averaged 25.9 points and 5.6 assists, three times representing the franchise at the NBA All-Star Game.
However, his rise to prominence wasn't as quick as his fall from grace. He underwent three knee surgeries between April 2007 and September 2008. He had an armed confrontation with then-teammate Javaris Crittenton inside the team's locker room in 2009, which ultimately resulted in a 50-game suspension.
His last NBA appearance was a 17-game stint with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2011-12, but he told Bleacher Report's Dan Favale in December that he's "going to try to come back" to the league next summer.
Maybe "Agent Zero's" basketball story hasn't been completely written just yet. The part that is finished, though, shows an unbelievable talent that the Warriors somehow found sitting on the board in the second round.
Worst: Ike Diogu
Selection: No. 9, 2005
If Golden State fans remember Ike Diogu for one particular reason, it might be his involvement in the eight-player trade that netted the team Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington in 2007.
Considering the impact that deal had on the franchise—the Warriors went on to snap a 12-year playoff drought and then upset the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks—it might help fans remember Diogu in a more favorable light than the stat sheet says they should.
At the time of the deal, he was less than two seasons removed from a being a top-10 pick. He was also drafted with players like Andrew Bynum (No. 10), Danny Granger (No. 17) and David Lee (No. 30) still on the board.
Diogu played 128 games over his first two NBA seasons but has made just 97 appearances since. He's played for six different franchises, last getting a two-game cup of coffee with the San Antonio Spurs in 2011-12.
While he's fallen out of the NBA ranks, he's still making noise in the basketball world. As a member of the Bakersfield Jam, he was named the 2014 NBA Developmental League Impact Player of the Year.
The fact that he's still pursuing his dream is inspirational. The fact that he's forced to pursue this path, though, shows that he wasn't worth the investment the Warriors made in him.
Best: Monta Ellis
Selection: No. 40, 2005
Talk about saving face. After swinging and missing on Diogu in the first round, the Dubs connected on a moon shot with prep-to-pro leaper Monta Ellis in the second.
He had some good days and bad ones during his six-plus seasons with the Warriors, but his talent has never been in question.
After a quiet rookie season (6.8 points in 18.1 minutes per night), he burst onto the scene by averaging 16.5 points on 47.5 percent shooting as a sophomore. He has yet to average fewer than 19 points in any season since.
Explosive off the dribble and unafraid of contact, he's a constant scoring threat from all angles on the floor. Public perception often paints him as an inefficient, selfish scorer, yet his career stat line includes a 45.5 field-goal percentage and 4.9 assists. Over his last four seasons, which he's split between the Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks, he's dished out at least 5.6 assists per night.
Still, his reputation as a gunner has been hard to shake. Perhaps that's why he holds a dubious distinction that highlights both his skill and his standing in the basketball world.
"He has the highest career scoring average (19.4 points per game) of any player who has never been an All-Star," ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon noted.
If the Mavs can enjoy the type of team success that Ellis struggled to find with the Warriors and Bucks, maybe he will secure the individual accolades that have thus far eluded him. Even if he cannot, he'll still be remembered as a tremendous draft value.
Worst: Patrick O'Bryant
Selection: No. 9, 2006
Patrick O'Bryant seemed like he was capable of ending the Warriors' constant search for a difference-making post player.
After two productive years at Bradley University (11.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks), he seemed to be the answer to the team's prayers.
Aran Smith of NBADraft.net lauded his "huge frame with extremely long arms," his "very good agility," the fact he was "not afraid of contact" and that he "runs the court and moves very well."
Size, speed, strength and toughness? O'Bryant, it seemed, was the Monta Ellis of post prospects—the guy had it all.
Physically, he had everything the team needed. Yet he played just 40 games in two seasons for the Warriors. He later signed with the Boston Celtics, but they traded him after he made only 26 appearances. The Toronto Raptors, who flipped a second-round pick to get him, used him in 24 games over a two-year span.
His last NBA appearance came on April 12, 2010. To date, he holds career averages of 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds.
If he had so many physical tools, what exactly went wrong? He seemed to answer that while attempting to secure a spot with then-Charlotte Bobcats last fall.
"I have to show great work ethic, which has been one of my biggest faults to date – that I tend not to work very hard," he said, via Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.
That's sort of a non-negotiable part of the profession. Now 28 years old, O'Bryant may be running out of time to show what hard work could have done for his impressive natural gifts.
Best: Stephen Curry
Selection: No. 7, 2009
Having a successful draft doesn't happen without a certain amount of skill, but there's plenty of luck involved as well. In 2009 the Warriors benefited from both by landing superstar scoring guard Stephen Curry as the seventh overall selection.
The Dubs needed a bit of fortune on their sides, and it struck when the Minnesota Timberwolves doubled down on the point guard position with Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn with the fifth and sixth picks. That freed the Warriors to draft Curry, a move that was somehow both obvious and bold.
He had already flashed a lethal three-point cannon during three years at Davidson College (414 made triples on 41.2 percent shooting), so he clearly had a bankable NBA skill. Figuring out what else he would bring to the table wasn't easy, though. He had point guard size but not point guard numbers (3.7 assists average in college).
He also appeared a curious fit alongside Ellis, considering both were undersized and better at creating for themselves than for others.
Still, the Warriors saw Curry's talent as too tempting to pass up, and they've been reaping the rewards ever since. He has led the team on back-to-back playoff runs and made his first ever All-Star appearance in 2013-14 while setting career highs in points (24.0) and assists (8.5).
Warriors.com highlighted more of the statistical feats he pulled off during this past season:
The fifth-year guard led the NBA in both 30-point/10-assist games (10) and 20-point/10-assist games (18) while becoming the first player in franchise history to record four 30-point/15-assist games, the most in a single season by any player since John Stockton had four in 1989-90. Curry also registered a career-high four triple-doubles, tied for the second most such games in the NBA and the most by a Warrior in a single season since Wilt Chamberlain tallied five in 1963-64. Additionally, Curry set career highs in double-doubles (27), 30-point games (23) and 40-point games (three).
Curry would have been a brilliant draft choice if he had been the first name called in 2009. The fact that six others went before him makes this selection even more special.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.