After the Warriors lost Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals in Houston, a cadre of team executives, plus one unexpected guest, hopped a private plane for Chicago, where the NBA Draft Combine was taking place.
Owner Joe Lacob headlined the party. Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Rockets — Golden State’s Conference Finals’ opponent — was the surprise guest, per a New York Times report
It was May 16. The Warriors were in the midst of what proved to be their fiercest series of the championship run. Lacob, who takes the draft as seriously as any owner in the sport, had scouting business to attend to.
“This is really fun,” Lacob told ESPN 2 as he sat on the TV set.
It was Lacob’s second trip to the combine. He sat in on the interviews at an event that provides the Warriors with a golden opportunity to study up on the low-profile prospects they’ve become famous for selecting late in drafts.
During Lacob’s reign, the Warriors have made a habit of purchasing second-round picks. Most notably, they landed Jordan Bell and Patrick McCaw in 2017 and 2016, respectively. Less successfully, the Warriors sprung for Nemanja Nedovic in 2013 and Jeremy Tyler in 2011.
They’re poised to do so again on Thursday night when this summer’s draft arrives.
Lacob’s Warriors hold the No. 28 pick. The combine is a showcase frequented largely by prospects pegged to be drafted at No. 20 and later.
“Those are the players that are here to some extent,” Lacob explained. “And that’s where we are — 28. Maybe we’ll buy a second-round pick again. I’m very aggressive with respective to those, as you know.”
At the club’s exit interview, president of basketball operations and general manager Bob Myers explained how he approaches the draft. With the big four of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson — plus Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston — all locked up, money is tight. Help is needed.
A new Warrior will have his chance to make his mark immediately.
“We’re looking for a guy that can play, which is a little unusual,” Myers said. “We’re going to need to have guys who can go out there and give us minutes. Who that guy will be, I don’t really know.”
Head coach Steve Kerr is not heavily involved in the draft process. He leaves that to Myers and his scouts.
“There’s really not a major commitment like there is for Bob and the management side with free agency and the draft,” Kerr said. “I’m going to be relaxing quite a bit the next few months. I’m looking forward to it.”
Kerr was in the building for the pre-draft workouts and he’ll be there on draft day. The head coach echoed Myers, predicting that No. 28 will be important in the season to come.
“They think that we’re going to get an impact player,” Kerr said. “And I have a feeling that I’m going to play that guy and give him a chance next year, given the state of our team. It’s exciting.”
Friday’s workout at the team’s headquarters offered hints at who could be selected. The Warriors need wings and bigs, which is why they took a look at West Virginia shooting guard Daxter Miles Jr. and shooting guard LiAngelo Ball, middle child of basketball’s most outspoken family, and briefly of UCLA.
Also on hand were power forwards Nuni Omot and Duncan Robinson of Baylor and Michigan, respectively, and center Nana Foulland of Bucknell.
Ball, whose father, LaVar, Kerr famously blasted as the “Kardashian of the NBA,” easily cuts the highest profile of the bunch.
Ball is far from a big-time prospect. In December, ESPN super reporter Adrian Wojnarowski declared via Twitter that the guard had “no chance” of getting drafted.
Ball is keeping an open mind heading into the draft.
“I don’t know what teams are looking at me right now,” Ball told reporters. “But I’m looking forward to the draft and seeing what lies ahead of me.”
His inclusion in the workout suggests that the Warriors are once again doing their due diligence on the sleepers, summer-league prospects, future G-Leaguers and second-round steals.
Larry Harris, the team’s assistant GM/director of player personnel, is the official with most hands-on role in finding those guys — the next Bell or McCaw.
His boss, Lacob, has also been busy helping out with the project. Those are just the type of assets that Lacob loves to collect.
“We think it’s very, very important,” Lacob said. “I’m actually encouraged by what I’ve seen. There’s a number of players that I think could help.”