There are hundreds of NBA mock drafts all over the place, and while I don’t claim to know as much as all of the experts out there, sometimes I feel like many of these predictions hold about as much weight as the Essential Home White Four-Drawer Chest from Kmart – very little. (A side note to prospective college students: while this item of furniture will be tempting because of its light weight and relatively cheap cost, avoid it unless you don’t mind the contents of your bottom drawer spending most of its time on the ground.)
Often there are large discrepancies from one prediction to the next, which I think points to the fact that nobody really knows what’s going to happen come draft day. I have seen mock drafts which have Andre Drummond dropping out of the top 7 or being picked as high as number two (which would automatically doom him to a career ruined by the Jordan curse), and Perry Jones III going to Portland at number 6, or dropping to Boston towards the end of the first round.
The general consensus is that Thomas Robinson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be off the board by the time the Warriors make their pick at seven, and your grandmother could probably tell you that the Unibrow will be gone first. That leaves Drummond, Bradley Beal and Harrison Barnes as the players most mock drafts believe will round out the top six. That being said, I have seen at least a few mocks projecting that one of those three players will fall to the Warriors, usually by way of Weber State point guard Damian Lillard being drafted with the sixth pick by the Blazers. And so without further ado, I’ll play expert for a moment and look at which of these three players would fit best with the Dubs should they happen to fall. But first, as seems the customary thing to do among draft experts, I’ll give my analysis a number label: we’ll call this “Warriors Draft Possibilities 1.0.” That leaves the door open for 2.0, and who knows, maybe even 3.0!
Beal is the least likely to drop, but if the Warriors find that somehow he does fall into their laps at seven, he’s the must take of the three, even if it means moving Klay Thompson to small forward. Although Golden State is after a bigger, stronger guy to step into the small forward position, a-la Terrance Jones (naturally a power forward), the downsizing that would occur with Beal wouldn’t by any means leave Golden State in the same position they were in when Curry started alongside Monta Ellis in the backcourt. At 6’4’’, Beal has a 6’8’’ wingspan (only an inch less than the 6’7’’Thompson’s).
According to scouts he has the strength and smarts to be a solid defender, and he’s already an exceptional rebounder at the guard position; in fact Beal averaged more rebounds, steals and blocks per game in his freshman year than 6’8’’ Harrison Barnes did in either of his freshman or sophomore years at North Carolina. Comparisons to Ray Allen, Eric Gordon and Dwayne Wade certainly don’t seem completely unfounded, although he is less athletic than Gordon and has a better shooting stroke than Wade did coming into the league. I don’t think there’s any question that Bob Meyers and Jerry West would sacrifice their hopes of a long, athletic, defensive minded three if Beal were still on the table.
I watched a fair amount of UConn basketball this last year so I got to see Drummond play quite a bit. For the most part he wasn’t very impressive; lost in the post, terrible at the free throw line, often it just seemed like he disappeared on the offensive end of the court. Obviously he’s young (still 18 until August) and he has some ridiculous physical attributes. But thus far the Amare Stoudemire similarities end after the 2-3 minute highlight clips on YouTube. And don’t get me wrong, some of those highlights make Drummond look scary: check out the play he makes beginning at 2:10 of this video. You will NEVER see Hasheem Thabeet or Andris Biedrins do that. Ever. (Here’s a clip of Andre Blatche making the exact same play, punctuated with a more Blatche-like finish. I put this in only because I think it’s funny.)
Unfortunately physical gifts and athleticism aren’t everything; if they were, than we would likely see Perry Jones III getting drafted second right after Drummond. Drummond is a project. He’s high risk, high reward. And it just seems to me that every time the Warriors make one of those high risk, high reward picks, most recently with Brandon Wright and Anthony Randolph, those picks blow up in their face. For some reason I have a feeling Drummond will be a bust. I thought the same thing about Kevin Love when he was drafted, so apparently my “feelings” about potential should be taken with at least one, if not many more grains of salt.
There have been multiple reports that Thomas Robinson outplayed Drummond in their head to head matchup during draft workouts. This is to be expected – Robinson is one of the most NBA ready players in the draft. When asked what he’s trying to show teams, Drummond replied, at this point, “that I run the floor hard, play hard, grab rebounds and block shots. The offense will come to me.’’ Andre Drummond is not Wright, or Randolph. He has much more potential, and worst case scenario he will probably be a DeAndre Jordan type player. Golden State is one year removed from trying to shell out some $43 million to Jordan, so why not take Drummond if he’s still around? I think they have to. At 18 years old, stash him behind Bogut for a year or two, let him mature and bring some athleticism, rebounding and defense off the bench. Who knows, if the offense does “come to [him]” then he’ll develop into something special.
On the surface Barnes seems like the perfect fit for the Warriors small forward need. With an NBA ready body and a polished offensive game that revolves around a silky jump shot as smooth as his off-court persona, one would think that Golden State would jump at the opportunity to land the sophomore Tar Heel. At the same time there are a number of question marks that surround Barnes. Does he have what it takes to be a great player in the NBA?
After being heralded as the next best thing since fried beer coming out of high school, Barnes had a largely disappointing collegiate career, culminating in a 2012 NCAA tournament in which he averaged 14 ppg and shot a dismal 32.7% from the field. It’s no secret that Barnes has a slow first step and difficulty getting to the rim, but his inability to effectively create his own shot at times was on full display, especially after the injury to North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall. Do the Warriors really need another lanky wing man who can spot up and hit threes? I’m pretty sure they already have that in Dorell Wright.
I’m not saying Harrison Barnes is going to be Dorell Wright; his ceiling is much higher. But it wouldn’t surprise me. In his article Brand Gone Bust (which I recommend reading), Jay Caspian King describes how Barnes’ desire to create his own brand has always been priority number one. Because he’s put so much effort into presenting and shaping his persona, the basketball itself has suffered. Similar to how Baron Davis got caught up in his movie career in Los Angeles, we may see Barnes posing for Calvin Klein or doing more work to perfect his own line of Cologne rather than hitting the gym to work on his first step. It will be difficult, but the Warriors should pass on Barnes. They might just be getting a glorified Dorell Wright.
Eli Pearlman is an NBA writer for The Sports Blitz. He can be contacted at EPearlman@TheSportsBlitz.com.