SAN FRANCISCO – Nearly three years later, what stands out most to Jordan Poole about his pre-draft workout with the Warriors is just as much mental as physical. It isn’t the amount of shots he put up or the same old drills that prospects go through to prove they have what it takes to make the NBA. It’s something bigger.
Something the Warriors have chased ever since Joe Lacob’s investment group bought the Warriors in the summer of 2010, and especially once Bob Myers took over as Golden State’s general manager.
“They knew I could score. They knew I could play-make,” Poole remembered Wednesday when asked by NBC Sports Bay Area. “They just wanted to see how I was as a competitor and if I could win. I feel that’s something that stood out.
“I was able to show that in my pre-draft workout. I think I’ve been able to show that here as well.”
He certainly has, and the third-year pro has progressed better than anbody could have expected when Myers made him the No. 28 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Poole is now one of the most important figures in the Westeern Conference champions, and holds a major key to them being crowned champions against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.
Myers was hired by the Warriors as an assistant general manager under Larry Riley in April 2011, and took over as their main GM only one year later. In his first draft at the helm, he took Harrison Barnes with the No. 7 pick and Festus Ezeli at No. 30 overall. Barnes was named First-Team All-Rookie, was the starting small forward for the first championship team of these Warriors, along with the historic 73-win 2015-16 season. Ezeli’s career was cut short to knee injuries, but Myers was still able to find a contributing center with the last pick in the first round.
It’s his second-round pick that has become legendary. Not only here in the Bay Area, but in NBA history.
With the No. 35 overall pick in the 2012 draft, the Warriors selected Draymond Green out of Michigan State, a college standout who was seen as someone who didn’t exactly have a natural fit in the pros. A decade later, Green has helped lead the Warriors to six Finals and three titles – so far – while putting together a Hall of Fame summary.
As the Warriors start their sixth trip to the Finals in the past eight seasons Thursday night at Chase Center, they’ll do so pulling off a feat that many thought couldn’t be done. They’re still led by their Big Three of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Green, but are now balancing two timelines of the present and future. The Warriors had two lottery picks last summer, and instead of packaging them for another veteran star, they took two teenagers in Jonathan Kuminga (No. 7 overall) and Moses Moody (No. 14 overall).
Those two trail only Kobe Bryant for minutes played by a 19-year-old in the conference finals, and are expected to be called on again in the Finals.
The draft is a crapshoot, the ultimate guessing game. The odds of success are obviously better the higher you pick, which makes what Myers has done with later picks that much more incredible to coach Steve Kerr. Sure, there have been some misses. But having three players the franchise added late in the draft be so vital to their success is almost unheard of.
“I think the front office really had a great summer, last summer, just in terms of the draft and free agency,” Kerr said Tuesday. “No surprise. Honestly, this has just been a phenomenal front office over the years. The planning, hitting on a lot of picks. You think about getting [Kevon Looney] at 30 and [Jordan Poole] at 28, [Draymomd Green] at 35, this doesn’t happen. I think at the bottom of the first round, if I’m not mistaken, there’s about a 10-percent chance that the guys actually make it in the league for an extended period of time.
“We’ve had multiple guys in that draft area that have not only made it, but made huge contributions to the team and have become foundational pieces. Our front office deserves a ton of credit for that.”
Looney, like Ezeli, was the last pick in the first round of the 2016 draft – one year after Myers was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year and weeks after the Warriors lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals. Injuries held him back through the start of his career, but the Warriors stuck with him and now will make sure he doesn’t find another home this offseason.
The UCLA product is seen as more of a role player than a star, though in this postseason, he has produced star performances and grown to be the Warriors’ latest folk hero. That all comes back to the culture that Myers, Kerr and many others have created. Adding stars like Kevin Durant of course is at the forefront of a dynasty. It’s also about who the stars are surrounded by.
We’ve seen countless organizations in recent years and in the past try to piece together a team solely on stars and big names. It doesn’t always turn out so great. To Looney, it’s Myers’ ability to find the right fit, both as players and personalities, that makes all the difference.
“I think his ability to not just get talent, but just to get talent that fits,” Looney said Wednesday. “Not just our playing style but our culture of the locker room. It’s tough to do that sometimes, you know. Since I’ve been here, we’ve always had guys that fit what we do on and off the court. I never had somebody on our team that we felt like was a bad teammate or he wasn’t a great locker room guy.
“I think Bob does a great job of knowing our team and knowing who will fit in, who won’t. Sometimes a guy can be really talented but he can still come in, he just doesn’t fit in of what we do. I think they do a great job of finding guys that fit.
“Adding a guy like Otto Porter Jr., [Nemanja Bjelica] … years past, adding an [Anderson Varejao]and Jonas Jerebko – guys like that might not be household names. [David West] comes in, they fit our culture, embrace what we do. “
Andrew Wiggins for the first six years of his NBA career, was categorized as someone who wasn’t living up to the expectations put on him from the outside. He was the No. 1 pick by the Cavs in the 2014 draft before being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves two months later. There he was supposed to be the franchise savior, an impossible label to live up to.
Wiggins won the Rookie of the Year with the T-Wolves, though he was never named an All-Star and only made the playoffs once. Myers and the front office saw something in the former top pick. The talent was obvious, and if they could get him in the building, Wiggins could be the perfect piece to the puzzle and unlock his two-way ability with stars and winners all around him.
Bingo. Wiggins became an All-Star for the first time in his second full season as a Warrior, and has raised his game above and beyond in the playoffs as a defensive menace, rebounder and scorer when needed. It didn’t take him long to see what has made Myers so successful.
“He knows what he’s doing,” Wiggins said Wednesday. “I feel like he’s really great at putting pieces together, pieces that gel, pieces that work. He makes the best of every situation.”
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This past summer, Myers signed Andre Iguodala, Nemanja Bjelica, Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. for a combined $ 9,060,130. The Warriors would not be in the Finals without them. Payton was given the 15th and final roster spot on the same day as the season opener. His healthy return from a fractured left elbow could completely change the series.
The Warriors had just ended a 23-win season when Myers was named GM. He followed that by drafting one of the greatest players in franchise history in the second round, and the Warriors made the playoffs for the first time in six years. Another Finals trip now isn’t anything new.
Combining the impact it made on the present and future, this go-around is his greatest construction to date.
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