Bob Myers, Mark Jackson and Jerry West looked incredibly calm Thursday, and Joe Lacob was so serene that he was actually somewhere else. It was Draft Day, and matching both their interest with the level of available talent and their minimal amount of available assets, the Warriors were just as glad to be watching.
Except that they weren’t watching at all. In a hyperactive flurry of phone calls near the end of the first round, the Warriors bought into the draft at No. 26 with Minnesota’s pick, traded with Oklahoma City to go down to 29, traded down again with Phoenix to 30, losing $3 million by buying into the draft and then netting $45,000 in slotted salary for Nemanja Nedovic plus whatever money they saved by trading down.
And they ended up as a part of history. Yay history!
The player they got is a slashing 22-year-old Serbian guard with a prodigious leaping ability, according to draft experts. The history they made was that their player was the last one David Stern ever announced as NBA commissioner, even though Stern, obstinate to the rules until the end, announced that Nedovic was Phoenix’ pick rather than Golden State’s.
In the meantime, the Sacramento Kings under their new management phalanx were in the draft up to their eyelids, picking seventh, wanting to move up and down, wanting to be active, even hyperactive. They’ve got tickets to move, and interest to hawk.
In other words, both teams got what they wanted Thursday. The Kings got an asset, guard Ben McLemore of Kansas, and a second guard, Ray McCallum of Detroit Mercy, with No. 36, clearly as hedges against the expected loss to Tyreke Evans . . .
. . . and the Warriors turned Stern’s last draft into a cop chase.
In fact, the Kings were probably the first team to win universal praise for their pick after a chaotic start to the draft. Sacramento clearly is cutting bait with Tyreke Evans, and the top part of the draft made general manager Pete D’Alessandro’s job of reconstructing his roster immeasurably easier. The Kings had been rumored to leaning toward C.J. McCollum of Lehigh, but that supposition was reliant on McLemore being unavailable.
Indeed, the draft went weird almost immediately, even weirded than the way it ended. The two consensus top picks, Alex Len of Maryland and Nerlens Noel of Kentucky, went fifth and sixth, and the actual top pick, Anthony Bennett of UNLV, stupefied everyone who wasn’t too busy booing the face off David Stern.
And frankly, while booing a commissioner is largely cliché now, the dissatisfaction with Stern’s unbearable sanctimony after he helped drive the lockout of a year ago is both well earned and hopefully resonates into his sleep for months to come.
But we digress.
As for the Warriors, they were happy to be inert, but happier still to wedge their way into the party with someone who described himself as “like Derrick Rose, only three times slower.” They have enough on their plate prioritizing their current assets, particularly Jarrett Jack, so Nedovic could end up a European stash for a year if there isn’t an opening for another guard, or if he doesn’t excel during the summer league. His current European contract, with Lietuvos Rytas in Lithuania, must also be dealt with before he can come west, but the buyout is believed to be relatively benign.
But the gyrations to which they went to get into the draft were enough to obscure all the other developments of the day. Well, except that megatrade that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn. And Doc Rivers essentially calling Bill Simmons an idiot after Simmons essentially called Rivers a coward. And maybe Lucas Nogueira, the Brazilian center who was taken by Boston for Atlanta and whose Anderson Varejao hair forced him to balance his draft hat atop his ‘do without ever approaching his actual skull.
In other words, the Warriors did all they could to get involved on a quiet day, and turned out to be active side players in a nationwide day-long pie fight.
“It was unique to get into the first round without trading a pick or player,” general manager Bob Myers said. “I think we saw about 15 or 16 that we had a chance, when Minnesota traded with Utah and they had 14, 21 and 26, we thought they’d be looking to get rid of one of those picks, so we called, and I’d say we made the deal around the 18 or 19th pick.”
The cost to the Warriors was $600,000 in cash and the second round pick in 2014 that went to Minnesota.
Ultimately, it showed that while the Warriors may stand largely pat come the fall, they are still addicted to the action. They had a chance to sit out an unpromising draft, but inserted themselves into it and contributed to one of the most chaotic nights the NBA has ever had.
That’s a lot for Nemanja Nedovic to live up to, but he got first-rounders’ money, so he’ll surely buck up under the weight.