Walking into the 2017 NBA draft, the Warriors held not a single pick to their names. And after winning their second NBA title in three years, why would they even need one?
But for the second consecutive year, they walked away with their guy after trading cash for the rights to another NBA prospect.
In 2016, Golden State purchased the rights for $2.6 million to Patrick McCaw from the Milwaukee Bucks, who selected the UNLV guard with the No. 38 overall pick,. A small price in hindsight that landed a rookie who contributed meaningful minutes to a championship season.
This time around, the Warriors made a move for Jordan Bell, a 6-foot-9 power forward out of the University of Oregon.
Similar to McCaw, Bell was selected at No. 38. But he came at a slightly higher cost of $3.5 million, a price Warriors ownership had no problem paying, said general manager Bob Myers:
“I’m lucky to work with great owners that are aggressive and willing to spend. Not a lot of people allow their front office to pursue things like this and spend that kind of money. So I’m fortunate and that’s been the case since I got here.”
Coming out as a junior, the 22-year-old big man looks to be an ideal fit for Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr, and his championship proven system. Bell’s athleticism and knack for attacking the rim seem to be perfect for what the Warriors need from their bigs. Myers said:
“As far as how we think he helps us; athletic, switch screens, finish at the rim and kind of a screen and roll guy… There’s a lot of things we like about him.”
The Long Beach native averaged nearly 11 points per game in 38 appearances as a Duck in the 2016-17 season. He snagged 8.7 rebounds per game, including 2.9 on the offensive end of the floor.
Under the Warriors’ highest rated offense last season, obtaining second chances for that unit will come at a premium. Bell’s athletic ability may be a reason why the defending champions bought out Bell’s rights from Chicago.
Myers said the team is not sure where the newly-acquired big man will be placed relative to positions on the floor:
“For us right now, we have to see what he can do. The NBA is a different game. If he’s a five or a four, I mean, I think we learned our lesson with Draymond Green. We don’t really care what position a player is. We care if they can play basketball.”
The real story coming from this pick is rooted in what Bell’s arrival will mean for big men that are already on the team and the scope of their futures as it pertains to staying in Warriors uniforms.
JaVale McGee will become an unrestricted free agent July 6. The fan favorite, who signed a one-year deal with the team last summer, was able to successfully revitalize his career and simultaneously shed the narrative of being a “Shaqtin-a-Fool” star.
By doing this, McGee will begin a search for a potential payday, up to $15 million per year. This will be out of Golden State’s price range and may very well lead to McGee’s departure after only one season.
On top of McGee, Warriors centers, Zaza Pachulia and David West will also begin their summers as unrestricted free agents.
The pickup of Bell also signals the team’s lack of optimism regarding Kevon Looney, the former first round pick who the Warriors selected 30th overall in 2015. Looney has experienced a slew of injuries that have severely limited his development.
Sources around the team tell SFBay the Warriors have been concerned with Looney’s work ethic and ability to stay in shape throughout the season. Picking Damian Jones in the first round of the 2016 draft sparked speculations surround their doubts, only to subside once Jones was sent to the NBA Developmental League at the beginning of the year.
If Looney does not find a way to prove his worth and step ahead of Jones, and now Bell, on the depth chart, his time in Golden State may soon be over.
Though they’ve already proven their dominance, the Golden State Warriors have made it clear they are still looking to improve and remain hungry. And as the team prepares to officially introduce Bell on Friday afternoon, this hunger was proven with one purchased pick. Myers said:
“Our job is to get better everyday. … It’s never good enough for Joe (Lacob). Gotta keep moving.”
I think that Looney’s had his chance. Unless something drastic happens, he’s done. With more coaching and experience under his belt, Damian Jones should be able to make use of his tremendous physical gifts. Bell looks like a winner. Throw in a savvy veteran or two and the Warriors, who used to be perennially undermanned around the basket, are going to be damn formidable.