OAKLAND — When the NBA draft started Thursday night, the Warriors were nowhere and they were nobodies. They were spectators at the big party. Then everything changed.
They bought the 26th pick in the first round, and they traded it down to the 29th pick, and they traded again to the 30th and last pick in the first round. That means they made three trades in five picks. That's magic. With that final pick they took Serbian guard Nemanja Nedovic. More on him in a moment. First, the meaning of the Warriors' draft.
By getting a pick when they had no pick, the Warriors reminded us, in case we forgot, they matter. These aren't those old Warriors, the perennial patsies who settled for mediocrity, gloried in it.
These new Warriors refuse to settle for no pick. They insist on being heard from, they insist on participating, they insist on being big-time players in the league. If there's a party and they don't have an invitation, they crash it. If they don't have a draft pick, they muscle their way to one.
If people thought maybe they had a small chance of getting somebody or other in the second round, they forced their way into the first round. They announced to the league and their fans always to pay attention. Don't look away for even a second because they are a franchise on the rise.
Got that? OK, back to Nedovic, not exactly a household name. It's not like the Warriors drafted Michael Jordan.
This is what we know about the guy. He's 22. He is a point guard. He is an excellent athlete who jumps high. He is an effective jump shooter who needs to get better. He drives to the hoop like a champ. He is a good passer, but he is not the primary passer on a team. Somebody else is. He can run an offense, but he loses the ball more than you want. He needs to work on ball handling.
Whom does that remind you of?
I'm thinking Stephen Curry.
Curry is a great shooter, obviously better than Nedovic for now. He drives the hoop. He is a great passer, but he's not known for setting up teammates. He is the primary scorer. He loses the ball at key moments and, sometimes, he drives you crazy.
So where does Nedovic come in?
He could be the guy who plays behind Curry. That would make sense, a Curry substitute. Or he could be something more dramatic.
What could that be?
He could be Jarrett Jack. The Warriors have no idea if they will re-sign Jack, who becomes a free agent July 1. Jack is the biggest issue on the Warriors. He is the grownup on the team, the one who takes over when things get tough. He takes the tough shots at crisis time. He handles the ball late in games — not perfectly — but he handles it. Mark Jackson moves Curry to off guard, where he can shoot game-winners, and he makes Jack the point.
If Jack leaves — and the Warriors won't get jack for Jack — Nedovic could have a function. He's more athletic than any guard the Warriors currently have. And he's almost surely a better defender than Curry or Jack. He is someone who can guard an offensive threat. The Warriors need a guy like that.