The brilliance of the Warriors’ draft in 2009 was that it answered an open question at a position of need for the team. Any time you do that with your draft pick, you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Going in, most mock drafts had the Warriors selecting Arizona big man Jordan Hill with the seventh overall pick. Most of the mocks had Curry off the board before the Warriors’ pick, so it seems like good fortune that he fell to the Warriors. Here’s a look at the prominent mock drafts from last season:
DraftExpress: Curry at No. 6, Warriors draft Hill
NBAdraft.net: They nailed it with Curry to the Warriors at No. 7.
NBA.com: Curry at No. 6, Warriors draft Hill
ESPN (Insider subscription required): Curry at No. 8, Warriors draft Hill
Sports Illustrated: Curry at No. 6, Warriors draft Hill
The craziest mock I saw was RealGM, which had the Warriors drafting James Johnson (with Curry, Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings still on the board). It just goes to show that mock drafts deserve to be mocked. Johnson ended up going to the Bulls at No. 16 and averaged 3.9 points per game this season. The consensus pick for the Warriors was Hill, a highly touted power forward who went to the Knicks at No. 8 and was traded midseason to the Houston Rockets. He had a nondescript rookie season, averaging 6.4 points and 4.9 rebounds with the Knicks (16.2 minutes) and 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds for the Rockets (10.5 minutes). I think Hill could have a nice career if and when he gets a chance to play meaningful minutes. But it’s a little scary to think of what this past season would have been like for the Warriors if the mock drafts had been right. I think it’s safe to say that neither Johnson nor Hill would have added much to the team. It could have been a lot worse than 26 wins (that’s a sad commentary).
But that’s not how it happened, obviously. The Warriors were fortunate enough to have Curry drop past Minnesota’s two picks at Nos. 5 and 6, and then were smart enough to snatch him up while rejecting the advances of the Phoenix Suns, who were dangling Amare Stoudemire for Curry and a few other players. Like I wrote before, the Warriors’ draft completely answered a dangling question on the Warriors roster, because prior to Curry’s arrival, the Warriors didn’t have a point guard. Monta Ellis has a point guard’s body but isn’t a point guard. The same is true for C.J. Watson. With Curry in the fold, however, the Warriors have at least one position on their roster settled in spectacular fashion for the next several years. Curry proved himself to be one of the best rookies from the 2009 draft class and one of the best point guards in the league.
Here’s a look ahead at what the Warriors can expect from each point guard on their roster moving forward:
Stephen Curry: Obviously, I’ve written more than enough about Curry in this blog. But I wouldn’t change that. Curry was the best player on this team in the 2009-10 season and the best story to write about. His rookie of the year competition with eventual winner Tyreke Evans was fun to follow, and he had some of the best single performances I’ve ever seen (the 36-10-13 triple-double against the Clippers in February; five games with more than 30 points and 10 assists).
After the draft and prior to the 2009-10 season, there were a lot of naysayers who didn’t believe Curry was a point guard, who questioned whether he could run an NBA offense. I was on board with that thinking and questioned at the time why the Warriors would reject a player like Stoudemire for this rookie, who I thought was an identical player to Ellis (a lot of talent, but a shooting guard in a small point guard’s body). We were all wrong. Curry proved that he could run an offense and improved each month of his rookie season. He has excellent court vision, makes his teammates better, plays hard 100 percent of the time, is an improving defensive point guard and is one of the best shooters (and scorers) in the NBA, especially at his position. He’s not yet in the same class as the NBA’s elite point guards — Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Chris Paul — but he’s close.
The future looks bright for Curry, not solely long-term but also specifically for his second season. The point guard position isn’t one that caters to sophomore slumps. Most elite point guards in the NBA right now started out great as rookies (Nash being the exception) and improved the next season. Chris Paul went from 16.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists as a rookie to 17.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists his sophomore season. Deron Williams went from 10.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists as a rookie to 16.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists the next season. I expect the same jump from Curry. I envision Curry putting up 18-20 points, 4-5 rebounds and between 7-9 assists next season with the same great percentages. But ultimately, Curry’s stats aren’t what matter most. He is the kind of player who makes a team better and I expect under his direction as the unquestioned leader of the team next season, the Warriors will be better than they were in 2009-10. The most important stat to judge Curry on next season will be wins.
C.J. Watson: Watson had a good season in 2009-10. He averaged career highs in minutes (27.5), points (10.3), assists (2.8), rebounds (2.6), steals (1.6) and field goal percentage (.468). He had some memorable individual moments as well, most notably the 40-point game against the Kings in February. He also had seven games of 20 points or more. He was a good combo guard off the bench for this team.
The future is uncertain for Watson. He was a bargain last season, making just over $1 million for the season. But he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer and the Warriors will have to make the decision to bring him back or let him go. It will be interesting to see how much interest Watson gets on the open market. He’s a good player, but he’s not a traditional point guard (he’s like a less-talented Ellis) and he really shouldn’t be starting. Will any team offer him more than $3 million per season? If that’s what his going rate is, I think the Warriors would be wise to bring him back. But if his asking prices goes up much higher than that, that will be a difficult decision for the Warriors.
What do you think? Do you want Watson to return next season? At what cost? At what amount would you want the Warriors to let him go?
The draft: I can’t imagine the Warriors drafting a point guard with their top pick, unless they get the top pick and choose John Wall over Evan Turner. After Wall, this isn’t a very deep draft for point guards. Perhaps the Warriors would take a point guard with their second-round draft pick (No. 35 overall) as a backup to Curry. Some of the point guards who might be worth a gamble at that spot would be Nevada’s Armon Johnson (he might have to drop a little to be available at No. 35) or Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe looks to be a project while Johnson looks more ready to contribute right away.