A Look Back at Some of the Best Draft Picks in Warriors History
The NBA Draft by its very nature is a risky endeavor. No matter how much film study, no matter how many times a scout sees a prospect play, there is always at least some uncertainty when selecting players who are teenagers or not too far removed from being one. But sometimes that risk pays off and the following is a reverse chronological look at some of the top draft picks in Warriors history.
Before we get started, let’s lay down a few ground rules. First, only players in the franchise’s West Coast history (since 1962) are eligible. So that rules out Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Arizin, Tom Gola and others. Also, we’re ruling out anybody who played in the NBA this past season, as the stories of those players are still being told. So we’ll have to wait until Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and others retire before we consider adding them to this list.
Players considered for this list had to have been either drafted by the Warriors or acquired by the Dubs on the night of their draft, and played at least their first NBA game with the Warriors. So Anfernee Hardaway, drafted by the Warriors in 1993, is ineligible, but Chris Webber, who the Warriors acquired in a deal that sent Hardaway to Orlando, makes the cut. Draft position was taken into account, so the players listed below aren’t necessarily meant to be the best players drafted by the Warriors, just some of the top draft picks by the team. And as you’ll see, some of these players went on to enjoy greater successes on teams other than the Warriors.
Lastly, this is completely subjective and based on the opinions of warriors.com staff members. Let us know if you think other players should be added to this list in the comments below …
Gilbert Arenas – 2001 NBA Draft: 2nd Pick of 2nd Round (30th Pick Overall)
Gilbert Arenas proved to be one of the top steals of the 2001 NBA Draft. Selected two picks after Tony Parker, Arenas started 30 games as a Warriors rookie and won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award in 2003 with averages of 18.3 points and 6.3 assists. After two seasons with the Warriors, Arenas signed a free agent contract with the Wizards that Golden State could not match at the time due to NBA rules (The Gilbert Arenas Provision has since been adopted into the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement to help over-the-cap teams re-sign restricted free agents who were not selected in the first round). Arenas was selected as an All-Star for three straight seasons beginning in 2005, but he suffered a knee injury in April of 2007 and only played more than 35 games in one of his last five NBA seasons.
Chris Webber – 1993 NBA Draft: 1st Pick of 1st Round
Although not technically a Warriors draft pick, Chris Webber makes his way to this space because he was acquired by the Warriors on his draft night. The first selection in 1993, Webber earned Rookie of the Year honors and helped lead the Warriors to the NBA Playoffs. A superb passer and ball handler for a big man, Webber went on to be a five-time All-Star, averaging more than 20 points in nine-straight seasons with Washington and Sacramento. Although hampered by injuries late in his career, Webber still averaged 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists over 15 NBA seasons.
Latrell Sprewell – 1992 NBA Draft: 24th Pick of 1st Round
Although his Warriors tenure ended in nightmare fashion, Latrell Sprewell turned in some quality seasons for the Warriors. Three of Sprewell’s four All-Star selections came while he was with the Warriors, and he and Shaquille O’Neal are the only players from the 1992 draft class to be selected to an All-NBA team. After his Warriors career ended with a near season-long suspension, Sprewell returned to the NBA in 1999 and helped lead the Knicks to the NBA Finals. A slashing guard with a smooth 3-point touch, Sprewell averaged 18.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists over 13 seasons with the Warriors, Knicks and Timberwolves.
Tim Hardaway – 1989 NBA Draft: 14th Pick of 1st Round
A Bay Area fan favorite for most of the 1990s, Tim Hardaway earned first-team All-Rookie honors in 1990 and was an All-Star in three of his six seasons with the Warriors. One of the best guards in franchise history, Hardaway was known for his crossover dribble ("UTEP Two-step"). He was part of the popular Run TMC trio with Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond, often leading the break in the Warriors’ up-tempo attack. Hardaway averaged 17.7 points and 8.2 assists over 13 NBA seasons, including three more All-NBA selections with Miami in the late 1990s.
Mitch Richmond – 1988 NBA Draft: 5th Pick of 1st Round
The “M” in the Warriors’ popular Run TMC trio, Mitch Richmond certainly had a knack to score the basketball. Richmond’s smooth shooting stroke fit right in to the Warriors up-tempo attack and he averaged more than 22 points in each of his three seasons with the Warriors. Nicknamed ‘Rock’ for his tough play, Richmond was the the 1988-89 NBA Rookie of the Year. He was an NBA All-Star in six straight seasons, all while playing with the Sacramento Kings. Richmond will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame this summer along with the next player mentioned on this list.
Sarunas Marciulionis – 1987 NBA Draft: 13th Pick of 6th Round (127th Pick Overall)
One of the first European players to find sustained success in the NBA, Sarunas Marciulionis helped pave the way for the internationalization of the NBA. Originally the Warriors’ sixth-round pick in the 1987 NBA Draft, the Lithuanian-born guard joined the club in 1989 and played four of his first seven NBA seasons with Golden State. At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Marciulionis was a hardnosed player with a physically punishing style of play. He was the runner-up for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award for the 1991-92 season in which he averaged 18.9 points and 3.4 assists while shooting 53.8 percent from the field, and averaged double figures in scoring in five out of his seven NBA seasons. Marciulionis, who also enjoyed great successes in international competition, will be inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this summer.
Chris Mullin – 1985 NBA Draft: 7th Pick of 1st Round
The one-time face of the Warriors, Chris Mullin was a five-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA selection and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. The 2011 inductee to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame played 13 of his 16 NBA seasons with the Warriors and averaged 25-plus points for five straight years (1988-89 to 1992-93). One of six Warriors in franchise history to have his number retired, the smooth-shooting lefty was a cornerstone of the club’s popular Run TMC trio in the early 1990s.
Robert Parish – 1976 NBA Draft: 8th Pick of 1st Round
Long before LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces, there was another “Big Three” in the NBA. And although Robert Parish enjoyed most of his NBA success alongside Larry Bird and Kevin McHale in Boston, the nine-time NBA All-Star and winner of four NBA Championships enjoyed four very solid seasons with the Warriors. “The Chief” averaged 17.1 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks over his final two seasons by the Bay, and he went on to be inducted in Hall of Fame in 2003, seven years after he was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Phil Smith – 1974 NBA Draft: 11th Pick of 2nd Round (29th Pick Overall)
The Warriors got tremendous value out of their second round pick in 1974. As a rookie, San Francisco native Phil Smith contributed to the Warriors’ 1975 Championship season and he went on to average 15.1 points and 3.9 assists over nine NBA seasons. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard was a two-time All-Star and was also an All-NBA and All-Defensive Team selection in 1976.
Jamaal Wilkes – 1974 NBA Draft: 11th Pick of 1st Round
The consummate team player, Jamaal Wilkes seemed to win wherever he went. He was a part of two championship teams at UCLA and was the 1975 Rookie of the Year during the Warriors’ Championship season. Wilkes was always one to do the “little things” to help teams win, earning Second Team All-Defensive recognition in both 1975-76 and 1976-77. Although the 6-foot-6 forward’s behind-the-head jumpshot was unconventional, it was quite reliable, and he averaged 17.7 points over 12 NBA seasons that featured three All-Star selections and four NBA titles. Wilkes was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
Rick Barry – 1965 NBA Draft: 2nd Pick of 1st Round
In addition to being one of the best players in Warriors history, Rick Barry is one of the best players in basketball history. A 1987 inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, Barry was also named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of all time in 1996. He played eight seasons with the Warriors, averaging 25.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists. After winning NBA Rookie of the Year honors in 1966, Barry led the Warriors to the NBA Finals in both 1967 and 1975. He earned MVP honors in the 1975 NBA Finals when the Warriors swept the heavily favored Washington Bullets for the franchise’s only championship in West Coast history.
Nate Thurmond – 1963 NBA Draft: 3rd Pick of 1st Round
One of the best big men in NBA history, Nate Thurmond was a seven-time All-Star and five-time All-Defensive Team selection. He ranks fifth all-time with a career average of 15.0 rebounds per game and he twice pulled down more than 20 boards a game for an entire season. He averaged 17.4 points and 16.9 rebounds over 11 seasons with the Warriors, two of which resulted in trips to the NBA Finals (1964 & 1967). Thurmond was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985 and named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.
Other Top Warriors Draft Picks: Larry Smith (1980: 24th pick), Purvis Short (1978: 5th pick), Gus Williams (1975: 20th pick); Clyde Lee (1966: 3rd pick).