Every year, many teams improve, but making the leap from a good team to a great team is arguably the hardest feat to accomplish. The Warriors, who improved their win total over last season’s by 16 games, have reached the pinnacle that so many teams are unable to attain. The roster is a collection of talent that meshed together beautifully and formed a team that is considered one of the favorites to win the title. The transformation wasn’t simply a product of good fortune; it was a series of calculated moves that catapulted the 2014/15 Warriors into the conversation about the best teams of all time.
Golden State hired Bob Myers to be the assistant GM in April of 2011. While he didn’t have full control of the front office yet, he played a part in the 2012 trade that netted Andrew Bogut, according to Antonio Gonzalez of the Associated Press. Trading a fan favorite in Monta Ellis for an injury-prone center wasn’t an easy choice, but it was necessary in order to add a defensive anchor and give Stephen Curry more reign within the offense. Golden State promoted Myers to GM in April of 2012 and the ensuing year would set the table for this season’s championship run.
Myers’ first draft as the GM was a success. Golden State picked Harrison Barnes with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Barnes hasn’t lived up to the superstar hype that surrounded him when he first committed to North Carolina, but the forward has turned into a solid two-way player and an important contributor for the team. With the last pick in the first round, the Warriors selected Festus Ezeli out of Vanderbilt. The center has progressed during his first three seasons in the league and looks like he will have a decent career in the NBA, something that is not a given for players selected that late in the draft.
Second-round pick Draymond Green was Myers’ most impressive selection. Many teams saw Green as a man without a position in the NBA, someone who was not big enough to play power forward and not swift enough to guard small forwards. Myers just saw a winner. “Draymond, look at his resume,” Myers said during the team’s post draft press conference. “He went to one of the top colleges in the country and all he did was produce and win.” Green has evolved into one of best defenders in the league and has become an integral part of the Warriors’ success.
Some even believe Green will earn a maximum salary contract when he becomes a restricted free agent this offseason. If that happens without the team trading away any of its core players, Green will be one of five Warriors players who will make more than MVP candidate Stephen Curry during the 2015/16 season. Myers signed Curry to a four-year, $44MM extension in 2012. The pact was considered a high-risk, high reward move for Golden State because of Curry’s injury history. By signing Curry to the extension before the 2012/13 season rather than letting him hit restricted free agency and potentially sign a maximum-salary contract, the team saved nearly $17MM, which allowed Golden State to allocate its resources into improvements around the point guard.
During the 2013 offseason, Myers added Andre Iguodala in a three-way deal with the Nuggets and Jazz. It was a surprising move at the time considering the Warriors’ lack of cap space. Golden State sent Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush to the Jazz along with two future first-round picks. Given the current market for first-round picks, it may seem like a steep price to pay, but Iguodala has been a key contributor and those picks will likely be toward the back end of the first round, so there’s not much of a chance they’ll turn into players of significant value.
Adding a veteran player to push the team toward championship contention is necessary for most clubs looking to take that next step. However, sometimes it’s the move that a franchise doesn’t make that becomes the reason it succeeds. The 1992/93 Rockets nearly traded Hakeem Olajuwon to the Heat but ultimately decided to stand pat. Houston would win two NBA championships in the ensuing years. In 2009, the Warriors almost traded Curry to the Suns for Amar’e Stoudemire. Golden State decided to keep the No. 7 overall pick and ended up with a superstar to build around. Last offseason, the Warriors were in talks with the Wolves about trading for Kevin Love. Initially, it seemed like Curry’s backcourt mate would be headed to Minnesota, but the front office said Klay Thompson was off the table and the deal never happened. Thompson and Curry turned into arguably the league’s best backcourt and the team has been hitting on all cylinders since.
Myers was faced with another tough decision during the 2014 offseason. Coach Mark Jackson reportedly clashed with upper management, but he took the team from lottery-bound to playoff-bound and was well-respected by his players. Replacing Jackson after a 51-win campaign was a risky proposition. Myers tapping Steve Kerr, who did not have any NBA coaching experience, as the next coach may have been a riskier move. Kerr, who has innovated with the team and is a candidate for the Coach of the Year Award, has proved Myers right.
The Warriors rank first in defensive efficiency and second in offensive efficiency this season and the roster construction of the team can be credited for the success. Myers has surrounded his superstar, Curry, with the supporting cast needed to win a championship. He should take home the Executive of the Year honor this season, but the award isn’t just for the moves in the past year. It’s recognition for all of the moves that he has made and the passion he exhibits for his position. “My love for the NBA started with this team,” Myers said when he was promoted to GM. “It’s more than just a job.” Myers has excelled and his dedication has given Warriors the ammunition necessary to win the 15 playoff games still standing between them and the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
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