After two years in the NBA Draft lottery, the Golden State Warriors won the 2022 NBA Championship.
“The guy who put together this group did an amazing job and I would like Bob Myers to be recognized,” coach Steve Kerr said of the Warriors’ General Manager during the NBA Finals Trophy Presentation Ceremony last week. “He never gets enough credit.”
Golden State has found the blueprint to finding franchise-building talent in the draft. The Warriors core group of players that won four titles in eight years – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – were all acquired through the draft. In recent years, Golden State drafted Jordan Poole, James Wiseman and Jonathan Kuminga, who mark the present and future of the franchise.
It’s a blueprint lottery teams, like Orlando and Oklahoma City, look to duplicate during the 2022 NBA draft on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
“The way you duplicate it is by making really good decisions at the slot you’re in,” ESPN’s college basketball analyst Jay Bilas told USA TODAY during a media call on Tuesday. “It’s important for every team to get it right. There’s only so many swings.”
That’s easier said than done: “I know that sounds simple, but this is a hard process.”
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The Warriors selected Stephen Curry No. 7 overall in the 2009 Draft, picked Klay Thompson 11th overall in the 2011 NBA draft and selected Draymond Green with the 35th overall pick in the second round of the 2012 NBA draft. That took a mixture of luck and execution, Bilas said.
“That means six teams had a shot at (Curry) and said no for someone else,” Bilas said. “That was was fortunate for Golden State, but when it was their turn, they grabbed (him).”
The Warriors drafted Kevon Looney 30th in 2015 and Jordan Poole 28th in 2019, two players who both played a key role in Golden State’s 2022 title run.
“Bob Myers and (assistant GM) Mike Dunleavy and Steve Kerr, all those guys have made extraordinarily smart decisions,” Bilas said. “Each year, I gain more respect for front office people and the decisions they have to make.”
Jay Bilas: It’s ‘harder’ to find talent in NBA Draft, compared to NFL Draft
NBA front offices have to make the best decision for their team based on available information, which is limited compared to the NFL draft, for example.
According to the NFL, to be eligible for the draft “players must have been out of high school for at least three years.” In the NBA, a “player must be 19 years old during draft calendar year, and at least one season has passed since graduation of high school.”
A college freshman has been the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft for the past 12 years. Blake Griffin, a sophomore from Oklahoma, was the last non-freshmen selected with the first overall pick (2009).
“Football gets five years to look at their prospects. Basketball most often gets one (year) once they get out of high school. And you don’t see NBA scouts sitting in high school gyms anymore. They don’t do that,” Bilas said. “They may sit in the McDonald’s All-American gym for a week and watch the prospects. They don’t do it like they used to so it’s not as much information as football has.”
Even with a wealth of scouting, “football makes egregious mistakes,” Bilas said, highlighting the uncertainties of the draft process.
“You’re trying to predict the future and where a player’s ceiling is,” Bilas added. “Then you have to look inside of each player’s chest and see how that motor runs and how big that heart is. Those are difficult things.”
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There’s no wrong No. 1 pick for Orlando Magic
For the fourth time in franchise history, the Orlando Magic have the first pick in the NBA Draft. Orlando previously took Shaquille O’Neal (1992), Chris Webber (1993) and Dwight Howard (2004) at No. 1 overall.
Will Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Auburn’s Jabari Smith or Duke’s Paolo Banchero join the ranks? Although it’ll be “a hard decision,” Bilas said they can’t go wrong because there is “franchise-level talent at the top of the draft.”
“With the Smith-Holmgren decision, it’s not that you can be wrong, because both those players are going to be, as long as they stay healthy, All Stars,” he said. “But, making the best decision … that’s really the key, because if one of those players blows up to be an all-time great and you don’t take them, you get held responsible for that. Right or wrong, that’s sort of the way it goes.”
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Oklahoma City ‘will continue to make good decisions,’ Bilas says
The Thunder have the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, the franchise’s first top five selection since taking James Harden with the third pick in 2009. Oklahoma City drafted Russell Westbrook with the No. 4 pick in 2008 and Kevin Durant second overall in 2007, all members of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team and future Hall of Famers.
During NBA All-Star weekend in Cleveland in February, Lakers star Lebron James shined the light on Presti when asked about the Thunders’ Josh Giddey.
“The MVP over there is Sam Presti,” James said of Presti, who has served as the Thunder GM since 2007. “I mean, Josh Giddey is great. But Sam Presti, I don’t understand this guy’s eye for talent. He drafted (Kevin Durant), Russ (Westbrook), Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Josh Giddey and the list goes on and on and on. This guy is pretty damn good.”
Presti described the entire draft process as a game of poker.
“The NBA is not really like a chess game,” Presti said in May during a Pre-NBA Draft Lottery interview. “The NBA is more like poker because of the uncertainties and the fact that so much of it is out of your hand and everyone is starting at a different starting point.”
Who will the Thunder go all-in for? Oklahoma City also has the No. 12 and No. 30 overall pick in the first round.