Warriors Dynasty Drafting: Jacob Evans, Jordan Bell, Damian Jones and Patrick McCaw (2022 Update)
not great, Bob
All articles in this series are at How the Warriors Extended The Dynasty Through The Draft, an in-depth series For historical interest, I am leaving the original 2020 write-up intact, and have inserted 2022 updates.
2022 UPDATE: In the big picture, our comparisons show that GSW drafted quite well compared to who they could have drafted, and better than any other post-1980s dynasty. However, the nature of the draft is that you’ll get picks that don’t work out. It’s the overall body of work that counts for judging a front office. Criticizing an individual draft is like criticizing a player’s single shot. If it was a good shot, then the result is not as important as the overall shot profile and efficiency.
Despite having just said that, I will now critique the individual draft picks from the point of view of results for the dynasty. I’m covering all four of these picks together as they are collectively in a category of “not good, but not as bad as you’d think”. This doesn’t mean FIRE BOB MYERS. That would be silly. It’s just trying to realistically look at the record.
Damian Jones and Patrick McCaw
Who was a better pick in 2016?
The Warriors picked Damian Jones at #30 and Patrick McCaw at #38. Of the 30 players drafted after Damian Jones, only 5 racked up more Win Shares (not including Pat McCaw).
Here they are, ordered by Win Shares.
Malcolm Brogdon, #36. This dead-eye shooter was the real steal of the draft. He won Rookie of the Year and then posted a 50-40-90 season in 2019. A big miss for the #30 pick.
Ivica Zubac, #32. This big is a passable finisher on offense and a strong shotblocker and rebounder. Underappreciated in LAL, Jerry West fleeced the Lakers and grabbed him for LAC and he has been a steady starter at center for an excellent team. The Warriors would love to have him right now.
Cheick Diallo, #33. A big, plays spot minutes off the bench for NOP and then PHX. Probably not a big upgrade on Damian Jones.
Deyonta Davis, #31. He’s had a bit of a cult following in Dub Nation, but after a promising start in MEM, he ended up in the G-League with the Santa Cruz Warriors, played out a couple of 10-day contracts in ATL and then came back to SCW, where he remains. In comparison, Jones and McCaw haven’t exactly locked in big minutes anywhere, but at least they are still in the NBA. [2022 Update: uh… update on that below.]
Jake Layman, #47. After barely playing for two years, he’s worked his way into a first off the bench type role / spot starter in the last two years. Not a star at offense or defense, but eats minutes well.
Patrick McCaw, #38. Our guy. Regarded as a possible second-round steal at the time, he had occasional moments, including some very promising spot minutes in the 2017 Finals, but wanted a bigger role and forced a trade. Has been a light-minutes bench player since then.
Damian Jones, #30. Our guy again. Athletic flashes, but very injury prone and inconsistent. Barely played for two years, then got dusted off to serve as JaVale McGee lite, which he did adequately until his injury. He was thrust into coming back early from injury into a way too big role in the 2019 Playoffs. His inconsistency led to his being traded to make the D’Angelo Russell sign-and-trade possible.
How did GSW do against the field?
Patrick McCaw had the #24 most Win Shares of his 2015 draft class and #37 highest Value Over Replacement Player. Bleacher Report took him #29 in a 2020 redraft. DraftSite took McCaw at #21.
2022 UPDATE: After 2021-22, McCaw ranks #26 in Win Shares and #48 by VORP.
Damian Jones had the #25 most Win Shares of his 2015 draft class and #15 highest Value Over Replacement Player. In the 2020 redraft, Bleacher Report did not take Jones in the first round, nor did DraftSite.
2022 UPDATE: After 2021-22, Jones ranks #14 in Win Shares and #15 by VORP.
So McCaw was good value at #38, and Damian Jones was probably around expected value for the #30, maybe a bit below.
2022 UPDATE: It took a while, but Damian Jones now looks like a good #30 pick, and McCaw was good enough value that he still looks like a passable pick relative to the options. McCaw’s flaming out of the league will obviously make this pick go down in the stats standings over time.
Pick Grades: Patrick McCaw, (B-, up from a C+ in 2020); Damian Jones, (D, same as 2020)
The McCaw pick was a good one, from the maneuvers to get the second round pick, to picking probably the best player available at #38. However, the grade gets penalized because the team didn’t develop him into a role he could embrace.
2022 UPDATE: Patrick McCaw is a bit forgotten today, so I’ll explain his story for newer fans. In his day, he was viewed as the skinny wing of the future, roughly similar to how we view Moses Moody today.
To clarify “the maneuvers”: on draft night, GSW traded $2.4M to MIL for the pick, as GSW did not have a 2nd round pick of its own.
As a rookie, McCaw actually had playoff games with major minutes. While Durant was injured, in the 2017 first round vs POR, he started Game 2 and 3, racking up 34 min and 28 min. He still played 19 min in Game 4 after KD returned. He came back to play big minutes against the Spurs in the WCF in Game 2 onward, playing 26, 11 and 17 min. He got minor playing time in the Finals and had a couple of memorable finishes.
Andre Iguodala said at the parade that McCaw would take over his job. But that offseason, GSW brought in free agent Nick Young to compete with him for minutes, which deeply frustrated McCaw, as we learned later. McCaw seemed to regress in 2017-18 with his 3P% going down the tubes. Then right before the 2018 playoffs, he took a scary fall which put him out of commission for most of the playoffs. He did make it back, but never got more than garbage minutes.
In the 2018 summer offseason, he shocked everyone by declining to sign GSW’s qualifying offer, hoping to get a major role and contract elsewhere. This turned out to be a career-destroying miscalculation and he never got offered the contract or minutes he was dreaming of. He later publicly regretted his exit.
He hung on with TOR for a while, even getting garbage minutes in the cursed 2019 Finals against GSW, but now he’s out of the league. He was last seen with the Delaware Blue Coats of the NBA G League.
In 2020, I was pretty irritated with McCaw. With time, I’ve mellowed about how he self-destructively left. Researching this write-up made me appreciate how many solid playoff minutes he gave the team as a rookie. Objectively speaking, he was the best player available, and he made significant contributions to a championship playoff run.
Pretty good for the #38 pick. So I’m bumping the grade up to a B-.
Added: More on McCaw’s Departure
I forgot the exact unfolding until now… McCaw declined the Warriors’ offer and then got a big non-guaranteed offer from CLE which GSW couldn’t match. Then CLE cut McCaw, which was so suspicious, the NBA did an investigation.
Following the 2017-18 season, McCaw became a restricted free agent, giving the Warriors the right to match any deal he signed with another team. The two sides remained at a stalemate until Dec. 28, when Cleveland signed him to a fully non-guaranteed two-year, $6 million offer sheet. With Golden State declining to match a deal that would have cost them approximately $11 million in luxury tax penalties, McCaw became a member of the Cavs. But after appearing in just three games, the 23-year-old guard was then waived by Cleveland, allowing him to hit unrestricted free agency before his deal became fully guaranteed. "The whole thing was kind of strange," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters on Tuesday, per The Associated Press. "I don't know that there's been a totally non-guaranteed offer sheet before."
We’ll never know what McCaw agent Duffy gave back in the back room deal, or if CLE was happy to just screw GSW. But either way, McCaw horribly miscalculated, despite the clever trick.
The Damian Jones pick is less defensible at #30. The Warriors got very limited value out of him, they missed on two players they would love to have today (Brogdon, Zubac), and even Diallo or Layman could be giving solid minutes-eating off the bench. But this was an intentional gamble, as GSW pursued a strategy of drafting for players with high upside who fell in the draft due to injury concerns (see Looney, Kevon).
2022 UPDATE: Damian Jones has slowly worked himself into being a decent role player, bouncing around between ATL, PHO, LAL and finally SAC where he stuck as a role player on a bad team. In July 2022, he joined LAL and will compete for the starting center job.
However, Jones didn’t make these improvements with GSW, so we are keeping the D grade.
Who was a better pick in 2017?
The Warriors picked Jordan Bell at #38. They famously bought the pick from the Bulls for Cash Considerations™. I was one of the very first on the Bell Bandwagon, living and dying with my irrational good feeling.
Emergency Jordan Bell Memorial Post: Irrationally Good Feelings. More Jordan Bell analysis videos than you can shake a stick at.
The players drafted after Bell, ordered by Win Shares:
Monte Morris, #51. Spent most of year 1 in the G-League, but ended up as a very solid PG off the bench for DEN.
Thomas Bryant, #42. This big also spent year 1 in the G-League and then got dumped by the Lakers, I believe as part of the LeBron Capital Incorporated buyout and purge. He’s now a significant rotation player for WAS flashing some stretch-5 potential.
[UPDATE 2022: In the last two seasons, his playing time took a complete nose-dive and he’s been a benchwarmer.
Dilly writes: Thomas Bryant was stuck at the end of the Wizards bench because he tore his ACL so didn't play for big chunks of 2 seasons & just began playing again last season.
As of July 2022, he’s joined LAL on a one-year and will compete for the starting center job.]
Jordan Bell, #38. Our guy. Spectacular cult hero with crucial contributions in the 2018 HOU series and some spot minutes in the 2019 Finals, but overall a role player with minor impact after he got in Steve Kerr’s doghouse.
Sterling Brown, #46. Plays spot minutes as a bench wing for MIL. 3-and-D potential.
Damyean Dotson, #44. Bench player playing 16 MPG for the woeful NYK.
Dillon Brooks, #45. Decent defending 3-and-D who’s started for MEM ever since his rookie year, except for Year 2 when he was injured.
Dillon Brooks is the one person that I think could have made a bigger contribution to the GSW title runs and is the only player I’d take over Bell. GSW was focused on getting the bigs of the future back then (drafting Looney, Jones, and Bell) so Brooks was probably not on their radar, despite the fact they must have seen fellow Oregon Duck Brooks on every college video clip they scouted of Bell. Too bad.
2022 UPDATE: I believe this judgment aged really well, despite Dillon’s becoming Dub Nation Public Enemy #1 in the 2022 Playoffs.
Morris and Bryant have turned into solid players, but went straight from the draft into the G-League. GSW was playing to win the trophy every year and couldn’t wait for a project to mature like that. (On the other hand, GSW took flyers on Looney and Damian Jones, whom they knew would lose a lot of time healing from injury, so… shrug…)
How did GSW do against the field?
Jordan Bell had the #17 most Win Shares of his 2015 draft class and the #11 highest Value Over Replacement Player.
Bleacher Report took him #30 in a 2020 redraft. DraftSite took Bell at #24.
Solid value for the #38 pick.
2022 UPDATE. After 2021-22, Bell was #25 in Win Shares and #19 in VORP. Despite his falling out of the league, he’s still a good pick in aggregate production, though of course his value will decline the longer he’s out of the league.
Pick Grade: Jordan Bell, B- (2020 and 2022)
The Jordan Bell pick was a good one, from the maneuvers to get the second round pick, to picking arguably the best player available at #38 (outside of Dillon Brooks). He made notable contributions in the 2018 Playoffs and also to the liquor company Hennessy’s financial results after the 2018 parade.
2022 UPDATE. As a rookie, Bell played important minutes against HOU, logging 10, 18, 14, 21, 16 min games, and in the Finals, he also chipped in 13, 11, 12, 18 min games.
However, he got in Kerr’s doghouse the following season apparently for some public issues that were seemingly minor and silly but probably reflected much more serious behind-the-scenes discipline issues.
He was mostly a DNP in the 2019 Playoffs (outside of the POR series where he got double-digit minutes each game) despite GSW being down to a bare minimum of roster players who could move.
GSW did make a qualifying offer, but Bell declined it and signed with MIN, looking for more minutes and a bigger role sooner.
The grade gets dinged because the team didn’t develop him into a role he could embrace. Yes, this is almost word-for-word what I wrote about Patrick McCaw. Make of that what you will.
2022 UPDATE: Since 2020, Jordan Bell has bounced around various teams and the G-League (MIN, MEM, WAS, back to GSW for a return cameo, CHI). He hasn’t added to his value, but we’ll always be grateful for his contributions, which were good for a second rounder. Notice that he still ranks high in statistical contributions for his draft class. Even after being out of the league for a couple of years, he STILL ranks #34 in minutes played.
Who was a better pick in 2018?
The Warriors picked Jacob Evans at #28. It was the wrong pick.
He was imagined as a three-and-D-ish shooting guard, but his jumper developed a hitch late in his college career, and in the NBA, he completely lost confidence in his shot.
This season [2019-2020], GSW tried to retool him as a Rajon Rondo style no-shot point guard defender, and there were a few signs of life. But finally GSW ended the experiment, in the mad scramble to get under the luxury tax mid-season, and traded Evans.
2022 UPDATE: since this came up on the comments, here is a bit more detail. Wiggins ($27.5m) and Russell ($27.3m) could have been traded straight up (if teams are over the cap, you have to get within 25% of salary to allow a trade), hence it was not necessary to include Evans and Spellman in their trade. In fact this was not desired by MIN and they later attached a 2nd rounder to get rid of them. GSW insisted on putting them into the trade as part of the move to get under the tax.
Of the 32 players drafted after Jacob Evans, a whopping 14 players have played more NBA minutes than Evans (247 minutes): Bruce Brown, Jalen Brunson, Mitchell Robinson, Rodions Kurucs, Devonte' Graham, Omari Spellman, Élie Okobo, De'Anthony Melton, Hamidou Diallo, Jevon Carter, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Keita Bates-Diop, Shake Milton, and Isaac Bonga.
Here are the players drafted after him with more than 1,000 NBA minutes ordered by Win Shares. Fifteen players taken after Evans had more Win Shares. The list is so long, and Evans had so little impact, that I’m only going to look at four of them.
Mitchell Robinson, #36. An energy big who finishes strong, he’s already one of the top shot-blockers in the league (#2 last year, #6 this year), and he’s also elite at steals for a big. He terrorizes the offensive boards as well. He fouls a lot and his defensive rebounding is average (must be all the shot block attempts), but it’s easy to imagine him starting for GSW right now.
Jalen Brunson, #33. Backup point guard for DAL, so-so shooting, below-average assist rate, but he can get to the rim. Probably better than his numbers, as he was stuck in a minutes crunch between Doncic and J.J. Barea sucking up all his time.
2022 UPDATE: Interesting to see how I viewed these players two years ago. Brunson, just signed a $104m free agent mega-contract (disclaimer: Knicks) and Mitchell Robinson’s reputation has dimmed (disclaimer: Knicks).
Bruce Brown, #42. Starting combo guard for DET, a good defender with a shaky shot.
2022 UPDATE: Bruce Brown evolved into an excellent small 3-and-D guy with BRK. He signed with DEN this summer for 2 yrs / $13m.
Omari Spellman, #30. Hey, we know this guy! And we got him this season, and played him a lot more minutes than Evans.
2022 UPDATE: Omari fell out of the league after GSW traded him to MIN. He first played in the G-League for a while, and in summer 2021, signed to play in the Korean Basketball League for what I hope is a big paycheck.
Devonte' Graham. Etc.
How did GSW do against the field?
Jacob Evans had the #40 most Win Shares of his 2015 draft class and the #48 highest Value Over Replacement Player.
Bleacher Report did not take him in the first round in a 2020 redraft. DraftSite took Evans at #28, which I find quite shocking and probably a typo.
2022 UPDATE: Jacob Evans now has the #57 most Win Shares of his 2015 draft class and the #50 highest Value Over Replacement Player.
A very bad return for the #28 pick.
Pick Grade: Jacob Evans, F. (2020 & 2022)
Okay, no need to belabor this one. This is the only complete misfire draft pick. GSW only got garbage-time minutes out of Evans.
Honestly, the alternatives weren’t stars (unless you count Mitchell Robinson), so the pain could have been a lot worse.
But there were plenty of positive contributors to be had, and the Five Finals run ended with the Warriors painfully weak on the bench.
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Generously seems like there are 3-5 NBA players/yr from draft position 26+, meaning that if one only has one pick, and a late 1st rounder at that, the expected value is to hit every 7-11 picks. Add in a couple of high second round picks and maybe the expected value is to hit every 6-9 years. I’d say at worst Bob is above average.
The McCaw situation was a huge lose-lose. What a waste. I'm surprised that the Cavs didn't get investigated/disciplined for their role in that one, as it seems like they were just in it to hurt the Ws.
Bell is a waste of a different kind -- a promising young athlete who didn't seem to have the head/character for the game. Actually, maybe they're not so dissimilar. It's too bad; I still think he could play and contribute under different circumstances.
Jones was what he was: a project who didn't really pan out for the Ws but eventually made himself into an NBA player. Good for him.
In retrospect, the Warriors FO has drafted pretty well. It's almost like Bob Myers knows what he's doing.