Did The Warriors Ruin The Dynasty By Blowing The Draft? An In-Depth Series
Let's look at who was available and how other dynasties did.
The Conventional Wisdom
The conventional wisdom is that the 2014-2019 Dynasty Warriors messed up their chance to extend the dynasty by poor drafting. Heck, this was my wisdom before writing this article series. After all, look at the draft picks, 2015-2018.
#30. Kevon Looney. Very injury prone, didn’t play for two years, was almost cut, turned out to be a great smallball center, made key contributions in the 2018 and 2019 Playoffs.
#60. Traded to IND in 2011 in the Brandon Rush - Louis Amundson trade.
#30. Damian Jones. Athletic flashes as JaVale McGee Junior, but very injury prone and inconsistent, leading to his being traded to make the D’Angelo Russell sign-and-trade possible.
#38. Patrick McCaw. Occasional moments, including some nice spot minutes in the 2017 Finals, but wanted a bigger role and forced a trade. Pick acquired through cash considerations.
#60. Traded away in the Andre Iguodala sign-and-trade (for Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, the 2014 1st, 2016 2nd, 2017 1st, 2017 2nd, 2018 2nd and cash).
#38. Jordan Bell. Spectacular cult hero with key contributions in the 2018 HOU series and a role player in other parts of 2018 and 2019, but overall minor impact.
#30 and #60. Iguodala trade (see above).
#28. Jacob Evans. Never quite found his shot, got minimal playing time, was shifted to point guard, and then was traded to get out of luxury tax repeater penalty.
#58. Iguodala trade (see above).
Objectively, no game-changing picks and only Looney was a big contributor (after missing two years). Perhaps if the Warriors had drafted better or made better trades with the picks, they could have infused the roster with playoff contributors that would have extended the dynasty.
On the other hand, were there really better players available to be drafted? And the draft order is specifically set up to make it hard for championship teams to draft well, so have any other Dynasties drafted better?
So we will analyze whether the Warriors really blew their dynasty through bad drafting by studying
the quality of the draft choices, by seeing who else was drafted after the Warriors pick, and
the quality of draft choices of all other NBA dynasty teams, including consideration of returns from trading draft picks
Too Long; Didn’t Read (Spoilers)
This is the ultra-short summary. For details, read this series.
It turns out that the Warriors drafted reasonably well overall relative to the other players that were available. They didn’t always get the top player available, but they usually got one of the top, with one glaring exception.
It also turns out that the Warriors drafted quite well compared to every dynasty since the 1980s. The 1980s dynasties (Lakers, Celtics, Sixers) had great drafts, but mainly through high draft picks (#8 and lower) that they got through trades from ripping off incompetent pre-modern NBA owners.
This kind of exercise can get very unrealistic (should we consider every human on the planet available to be drafted?), so I’m going to restrict our search to NBA players actually drafted in the draft after a Finals appearance. For this study, I’m not going to ding the Warriors for not drafting a player that the entire league passed on. Also, undrafted players are sometimes unavailable because of unannounced agreements with teams to sign as a free agent and they refuse to be drafted by anyone in the second round.
Comparison Dynasty Guidelines
I investigated the whole meaning of Dynasty in a thorough article: The Warriors are the first true NBA dynasty (2018).
First, there must be dominance over significant time. How much time? There’s no accepted standard, but some data points: the Warriors were not considered a dynasty when they’d won 2 in 3 years; and “dynasty” is not consistently applied to two-time champion teams like the Hakeem Olajuwon Rockets or the Bad Boy Pistons. And frankly it seems a bit of a low standard to call a team that squeaks out a repeat championship a “dynasty”. So we will set our standard at 3+ championships, while winning the majority of possible championships over the span.
The NBA teams that fit this condition are:
1949-1954 Minneapolis Lakers (won 5 in 6 years)
1957-1969 Boston Celtics (10 in 12)
1985-1988 Los Angeles Lakers (3 in 4)
1991-1993 Chicago Bulls (3 in 3)
1996-1998 Chicago Bulls (3 in 3)
2000-2002 Los Angeles Lakers (3 in 3)
2003-2007 San Antonio Spurs (3 in 5)
2015-2018 Golden State Warriors (3 in 4)
For the sake of this series, I am going to use a more generous definition of Dynasty. Let’s look at every team that made the Finals 3+ times after 1980, advancing to the majority of possible finals over that span.
2003, 2005, 2007 SAS
2000-2002, 2004 LAL
1991-1993, 1996-1998 CHI
1980, 1982-1983 PHI
1980, 1982-1984, 1987-1989, 1991 LAL
The reason for the looser definition is that all these teams faced Dynasty troubles by reigning over their conference: drafting late over a series of years and being strapped by the salary cap from trading easily for young talent.
I have a rather elegant way of comparing draft quality, that I’ll explain later in Part 6. You can decide for yourself if it’s a stupid way, but it’s definitely elegant.
Part 1: How Do You Assess Draft Performance? (this article)
Part 5A: Losing Chris Boucher
Part 5B: Losing Kendrick Nunn
Part 6: How To Compare Dynastic Drafting
Part 7: Comparing the LeBron-Love-Kyrie Cleveland Cavaliers
Part 8: Comparing the LeBron-Wade-Bosh Miami Heat
Part 9: Comparing the Shaq-Kobe and Kobe-Pau Lakers
Part 10: Comparing the Dynasty Spurs, the Raid Boss
Part 11: Comparing the Michael Jordan Bulls
Part 12: Comparing the Bad Boy Pistons and Julius Erving Sixers
Part 13: Comparing the Larry Bird Celtics
Part 14: Comparing the Magic Johnson Lakers