Nelson on Draft Day: An Appreciation

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 7:44 pm
With nothing occupying this secton lately but tumbleweeds,

A draft related peice, for those that are desperate.....

An Adam Lauridsen blog blowing some smoke up Nelsons ass from

http://blogs.mercurynews.com

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Since Don Nelson first joined the Warriors in 1988, he’s been intimately involved in 14 drafts. 6 times he’s traded the pick. 8 times he’s picked a player and kept him. When you line up all the years, there’s a pretty compelling case to be made that Nelson’s preferences have followed a certain trajectory. Previous results do not predict future returns, but here’s how Nelson has been trending.

Brief side note: Yes, I know that Don Nelson isn’t currently the Warriors GM. Until someone comes up with an issue on which Nelson and Riley split, however, I’m just going to conflate the two friends when describing draft decisions. They’ll be like one of those celebrity couples, merged with a combined name. Except this celebrated basketball management pair’s name, for blogging purposes, will simply be Nelson. Anyway…

The Warriors hired Don Nelson as GM during the 87-88 season. He wasted no time getting down to business, trading Sleepy Floyd and Joe Barry Carroll to Houston for Ralph Sampson. The team was a wasteland for young talent, with the exception of a talented but troubled shooter from St. Johns. The stage was set for Nelson’s first Warriors’ rebuilding.

1988 — Mitch Richmond — The Warriors spent much of the 87-88 season led by Chris Mullin at the 2 spot. Nelson, however, wasn’t discouraged by his current roster from drafting another shooting guard. Mullin moved over to small forward, Richmond won rookie of the year, and the Warriors’ resurgence was immediately jump-started. An inspired pick by Nelson any way you cut it, but any credit for drafting Mitch has to be severely tempered by the mistake of trading him away for the elusive dream of a point forward, this time embodied in Billy Owens.

1989 — Tim Hardaway — Winston Garland started 79 games in the 88-89 season, so point guard was clearly a position of need. Nelson found his man in the middle of the draft, completing the trio that, at least for two years, would fully realize Nelson’s dreams of running, gunning, high scoring basketball. My guess is that Hardaway could still blow by Monta Ellis, Jamal Crawford, or CJ Watson with the ol’ Killer Crossover faster than you can say “unrepentant homophobe.”

1990 — Tyrone Hill — As hard as it is for me to imagine Nelson drafting a no-offense blue-collar player like Hill today, back in the 90-91 season he not only drafted him but started him 22 games on the way to the Western Semifinals. Of course, playing 4 years at Xavier probably didn’t hurt his case. Also, with the 1-3 spots locked up, drafting a power forward was the clear need (although center was equally suspect with Alton Lister returning from a season-ending knee injury the year before).

1991 — Chris Gatling / Victor Alexander / Shaun Vandiver — Nelson’s endless search for a big man continued in the 91 draft. The injury-limited Vandiver was shipped off to Europe, but both Gatling and Big Vic had major roles in Nelson’s system. Of course, Gatling was a 24-year old rookie and Alexander played four years of college ball, so the maturity level of the players isn’t comparable to most players drafted today.

1992 — Latrell Sprewell — Nelson drafted for need with Sprewell, filling the gap created at two by the Richmond trade. Although Spree played only two years of college ball [forgot the JC years, so chalk Spree up as another 4-year player], he immediately became a major player in Nelson’s system. Initially hailed as a defensive stopper, it wasn’t long before Latrell was tossing up nearly 3 three-pointers a night. The first Warrior to lend his name to a major labor law decision, but probably not the last.

1993 — Anfernee Hardaway (for Chris Webber) — The pick for which Nelson will always be remember, at least among Warriors fans. Hardaway was a Warrior for only a matter of minutes before Nelson pulled the trigger on the trade that would define the franchise for, arguably, the next decade. Nelson’s quest for a big man appeared to be over, but new trouble was just around the bend.

1994 — Clifford Rozier — Nelson’s final pick was a three-year collegiate, drafted before the Nelson-Webber-Cohan implosion. Likely intended to play center for Nelson, it once again appeared to be a pick based upon need rather than best player available. Rozier, like almost every Warrior drafted for the remainder of the decade, quickly faded into obscurity.

1995 — Knicks pick traded to Mavericks — The Knicks traded this pick to the Mavs before Nelson’s tenure with either team, so he doesn’t have a pick to be evaluated for the 95 draft.

1998 — Robert Traylor (for Dirk Nowitzki) — The 98 off-season was a revolutionary one for Nelson and the Mavericks. Dirk and Nash both landed in Dallas thanks largely to Nelson’s creativity with the picks as commodities (you don’t have much to choose from when your second best player prior to the trades is Hubert Davis). The deals showed both a keen eye for Dirk’s talent and a sense that he needed to be paired with a point guard capable of getting the most from his game. The moves also were classic Nelson in his reliance on untraditional talent sources (Europe for Dirk, a small college program for Nash).

1999 — Mavs pick traded to Suns (for Steve Nash) — This pick, traded a year earlier, ended up being Shawn Marion. It’s a fun alternative history exercise to speculate on how good the Mavs could have been with Finley, Nowitzki and Marion rather than Nash. They would have been more explosive, bigger, and better defenders, but the ball wouldn’t have flowed as freely or as easily on the break. I doubt they would have been the classic Nelson team that Dirk and Nash grew up to be, but they a team with Marion might have had a better chance in the playoffs (as occurred when a Marion-like player Josh Howard finally joined the equation). I’m not criticizing Nelson for the trade, since this is entirely hindsight, but it’s worth weighing the risk/reward of trading the pick compared against what it could have become.

2000 — Etan Thomas — With an established team and a late first round pick, Nelson once again returned to his big man quest. As with Run TMC, Nelson had three spots locked down at this point. Thomas never played a game for Nellie in Dallas, so it’s hard to say what he was intended to bring to the team. It’s worth considering, however, that when Nelson isn’t shy about drafting big men. Of course, with his track record, maybe he should be.

2001 — Mavs pick traded to Magic (for Courtney Alexander) — With an established Mavs team, Nelson appeared to no longer have much need for rookies. The 01 pick was basically given away for Alexander, who was a total bust.

2002 — Mavs pick traded to Nuggets (for Nick Van Exel, Avery Johnson, etc) — The 02 pick was part of a much larger trade, made for both talent and cap reasons. Van Exel and Johnson both played major roles in the Mavs final push, providing the type of veteran leadership Nelson likely wanted. When Nelson and Riley claim they want to add veterans to the squad, don’t be shocked if it ends up being something like this deal.

2003 — Josh Howard — A long, versatile four-year collegiate swingman was too much for Nelson to pass up. You can make an argument that Nelson hasn’t drafted a bad player 6-7 or under during this entire period. With Howard, Nelson got an ideal mix-and-match (at least for him): mid-sized player capable of playing larger than his measurements thanks to slashing athleticism. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Warriors ended up looking for a Howard-like player in this draft, or even entered the discussion with the Mavs to obtain the genuine article.

2004 — Mavs pick traded to Celtics (for Antoine Walker and Tony Delk) – Another traded pick with the Mavs struggling to add pieces to get them over the hump. The pick ultimately became Delonte West. By this stage, Nelson’s focus on reaching the next level appeared not to include any youngsters other than Howard. It would be Johnson that would ultimately take this collection of talent to the finals, but the roster was Nelson’s.

What does this history tell us about the Nelson/Riley pick next week? Here’s what jumps out at me:

* Nelson appears to draft for need, not best player available. With the exception of the Richmond pick, all of Nelson’s picks go to fill one of the two weakest spots on his roster (and the Richmond pick is explainable by Mullin’s ability to slide to small forward). If the trend holds this year, Nelson will draft a point guard — assuming he thinks that’s the team’s greatest need. There’s the off chance that the Warriors have Ellis penciled in as a point guard, Randolph as their small forward of the future, and Wright pegged as a bust. Under this questionable view of reality, the position of need is power forward, which at least gives the Hill rumors a whiff of probability.

* College experience and maturity matter. The demographics of the draft have changed over the year, but Nelson appears to have steered clear of younger players with the exception of Sprewell. Although Nelson was the coach that originally liberated both Ellis and Biedrins from Montgomery’s restrictive, hierarchical system, his player rotations for the past two years have suggested a steadily decreasing tolerance for the youthful indiscretions that come from giving 19 or 20 year olds consistent minutes. CJ Watson, meanwhile, older and well-seasoned in college, had no problem landing a consistent role during his rookie and sophomore campaigns. If Nelson has the option of drafting a young, unproven stud and a steady, proven collegiate veteran, I’m putting my money on the old guy.

* Draft, what draft? When his final years in Dallas rolled around, Nelson was barely drafting talent — choosing just to trade for instant assistance. Granted, those Dallas teams could legitimately claim to be one player away, making the instant gratification a smart one. I get worried, however, when Riley starts rolling out the same talking points about the Warriors simply being one veteran away. Nelson’s coaching last year suggested his “win now” instinct is as strong as ever. Mix that in which a decreasing tolerance for youngsters, and you have a man who only kept his draft pick for 2 of his last 6 seasons in Dallas. Those trades were mixed bags, suggesting that Nelson might be better at finding diamonds in the rough than evaluating what known commodities his teams need to succeed. The Warriors aren’t as bad off as the Dallas team Nelson originally resurrected by wheeling and dealing picks, but they may be equally strapped for tradeable resources given contracts (Crawford, Maggette, Jackson), fan favorites (Randolph, Turiaf, Biedrins) and players considered to be propped up by Nelson’s system (Morrow, Azubuike, Watson). That leaves our pick and a few scattered youngsters (Wright and Belinelli) to facilitate a trade.

Applying the above logic to this draft, the murmurs about Hill and Curry make more sense. Both are relative old men as college juniors and fill needs under the various alternative realities in which Warriors’ brass may currently be operating. Holiday and Jennings may drop a bit on the Ws’ draft board due to inexperience, and Evans takes a double hit for being young and playing at the swing spot, a relatively stacked position in Riley and Nelson’s own recent assessments. Of course, if there’s any fire to the smoke coming out of the Ellis camp, Nelson may be fed up with dealing with youngsters. Although this team is nowhere close to being “one player away,” Nelson may trade his pick plus a youngster or two in order to ease whatever headaches he may perceive as looming.

The good news? Draft day with Nelson is rarely routine. It’s either rewarding (Richmond, Hardaway, Howard), eventful (Van Exel and Walker trades), or both (Webber and Nowitzki trades). Only twice did Nelson walk away completely empty-handed for the long term (Rozier and Thomas). There are plenty of areas where Nelson gets more credit than he deserves, but the draft is the one area where Nelson’s skills may actually be underrated. Now, let’s just all hope that next Thursday isn’t the day that Larry “Big Country” Riley finally breaks with Nelson to exercise some independent GM authority.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:45 am
The old guy has always had an eye for talent, but doesn't always know how to use it or keep it happy by treating it properly. This team is not going to be with Nelson for too much longer anyway, so it all makes no difference
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 10:31 pm
Yeah, I think it's pretty safe to say Nelson doesn't give a stuff about the long term future of this franchise and won't be drafting anyone that needs developing no matter what the potential.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 10:43 pm
migya wrote:The old guy has always had an eye for talent, but doesn't always know how to use it or keep it happy by treating it properly. This team is not going to be with Nelson for too much longer anyway, so it all makes no difference


I hope thats more a statemenot of his age as to his job security, Me thinks a guy like Don Nelson will be coach for as long as he wants. Whilst his not the holder of NBA Championships this guy is remenisence of John Madden that he is a HALL OF FAME Coach.

I think he'll retire on his terms and i have no problem with him trading the draft pick for a VETERAN or even drafting a BASKETBALL COLLEGE Senior, i guess we all want that win now attitude and Don Nelson is the guy to give us that.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:31 am
p4wn06124ff171 wrote:
migya wrote:The old guy has always had an eye for talent, but doesn't always know how to use it or keep it happy by treating it properly. This team is not going to be with Nelson for too much longer anyway, so it all makes no difference


I hope thats more a statemenot of his age as to his job security, Me thinks a guy like Don Nelson will be coach for as long as he wants. Whilst his not the holder of NBA Championships this guy is remenisence of John Madden that he is a HALL OF FAME Coach.

I think he'll retire on his terms and i have no problem with him trading the draft pick for a VETERAN or even drafting a BASKETBALL COLLEGE Senior, i guess we all want that win now attitude and Don Nelson is the guy to give us that.



His age will likely be his limit. Reckon this is his last contract and he'll be out of here
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