2020 NBA Draft: Warriors to see generational change since 2012 lottery pick

Marcus White
·4 min read

How draft prospects have evolved since Dubs' last lotto pick originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Three NBA championships, two Steph Curry MVPs and a 3-point revolution later, the Warriors will pick in the top 14 of the NBA draft for the first time since 2012.

So much has changed in the NBA, basketball and beyond since Golden State drafted Harrison Barnes with the No. 7 overall selection that year, with the Warriors' dynastic run driving most of it in the former two areas. The Warriors established a new blueprint and paradigm for success during five straight NBA Finals appearances from 2015 through '19, but the composition of this year's lottery picks should feel very familiar to a front office holding the No. 2 overall selection on Nov. 18, even if it hasn't picked in the top 14 since the first Obama administration.

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The one-and-done revolution was well underway, as Warriors general manager and president of basketball operations Bob Myers noted in a video conference call with reporters earlier this week, even though Barnes wasn't an outlier as a sophomore drafted in the top 10. Freshman Anthony Davis, the No. 1 pick, was one of five big men taken in the lottery that year.

Every top pick since then has been a freshman. In the intervening seven drafts between 2012 and '20, an average of 5.4 big men have gone in the lottery.

The Warriors' fingerprints have been present in the lottery during that time in other ways, from a lack of 3-point shooting causing prospects (regardless of position, in some cases) to fall down draft boards, to the Atlanta Hawks -- run by former Golden State executive Travis Schlenk -- trading up in 2018 to select an undersized point guard with a knack for knocking down 3-pointers. As Monte Poole noted earlier this week, 'tweeners like Draymond Green are valued, not villainized, in the era of position-less basketball. 

Myers' first draft as general manager was in 2012. He has added another title and a few rings since then, serving as the architect of the Warriors' ascension into the league's elite. Myers saw the other side of the draft as an agent for years prior to joining Golden State's front office, and the difference he notices in today's prospects lies off the court.

"Kids are growing up fast now, just kind of societally, just their interests, their breadth of knowledge," Myers said. "Maybe that's social media, maybe that's the internet. But a lot of these kids are really impressive, a lot of these young men I should say, and it's great."

Think about it. "The Social Network" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture almost a year-and-a-half before the Warriors drafted Barnes, seen by critics as a harsh portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Now, with the social network seemingly gaining disruptive political potential by the minute, the film might not have been harsh enough.

Instagram was in its infancy when Barnes became a Warrior. Vine didn't exist, let alone Tik Tok. Twitter was a thing, but Brian Witt hadn't even invented the "Splash Brothers" moniker yet.

The Warriors were picking millennials in 2012. Now, they're drafting zoomers, few of whom are old enough to know of -- let alone have seen -- Golden State's turn-of-the-millennium mediocrity.

That's not to say Gen Z is destined to disrupt the Warriors' championship culture. Far from it, considering the challenges this year's prospects already have faced. The same coronavirus pandemic that halted their last collegiate -- and, in some cases, overseas -- seasons before the draft also completely disrupted their pre-draft preparations, introducing what Myers termed "a whole lot of unknowns."

"It's tough for these players," Myers said. "A lot of them haven't played in eight months. It's hard for them to stay in game shape. A lot of them did the best they could and are in good shape, but like I said, it's not ideal."

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The first 14 picks of the 2020 draft could unfold in much the same way as '12. Perhaps a one-and-done big man (James Wiseman) goes No. 1, followed by a pair of 19-year-old guards -- LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards, rather than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal. For all the game has changed, just one fewer big was picked among the lottery selections in James Ham's latest mock draft for NBC Sports Bay Area than was the case eight years ago.

But this draft class is a full generation removed from the last time the Warriors picked in the lottery, currently walking a pandemic-paved path to the professional ranks unlike anything their predecessors experienced and, hopefully, anything their successors will. Golden State must pick from this crop at an inflection point in the franchise's history, needing to chart a new course back to the league's upper echelon.

If all goes according to plan, the Warriors won't pick this high again until another generation (or two) too young to remember these circumstances comes of age.