On Thursday, June 28th, the Warriors selected Harrison Barnes with the seventh overall pick in the NBA Draft, Festus Ezeli with the 30th pick, Draymond Green with the 35th pick, and Ognjen Kuzmic with the 52nd pick. Barnes is a 6’8″ small forward from the University of North Carolina, Ezeli is a 6’11” center from Vanderbilt, Green is a 6’7″ forward from Michigan State, and Kuzmic is a 7’0″ center from Clinicas Rincon of the Spanish LEB Gold League and a native of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Barnes was expected to be drafted earlier than the seventh pick, potentially as high as the number two pick, so the fact that he was still available was astounding to the Warriors. Barnes played in 71 games during his two years at UNC, and he averaged 16.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steals in 31.0 minutes per game, while shooting 43.1% from the field, 73.4% from the free-throw line, and 34.9% from three-point range. Barnes rebounds well for his position, is a consistent shooter, and is improving on defense and ball handling. One of his most admirable qualities though is his excellent character. Barnes is only 20 years old and he’s already proven to be a hard worker and extremely humble and thankful. In the introductory press conference on Monday, Green even said about Barnes, “We’re actually blessed to have a guy like Harrison, who only did two years at school, but probably is one of the most mature guys in the draft. You don’t get that often.” Before the draft, Barnes displayed his maturity when he said in video about his preparation for the draft, “If all I’m remembered by is being a basketball player, then I didn’t do my job. Being a basketball player is more than just being on the court. Here you are given a great situation, and it’s your duty to also give back and be a role model for young kids.”
Ezeli played all four seasons at Vanderbilt, and he broke the university’s all-time record in blocks as he recorded 204 blocks in his career. Ezeli’s junior season was his best season when he averaged 13.0 points and 6.3 rebounds while he set another single-season school record with 2.6 blocks per game. During his senior season, Ezeli sprained his MCL and PCL in his right knee, so he wasn’t able to produce at the level he had hoped for. Despite this setback, Ezeli’s character is quite admirable as well. Warriors general manager, Bob Myers, said about Ezeli, “I will tell you that after five or ten minutes with Festus, you’re going to walk away impressed… Festus, all that he’s gone through and all that he’s accomplished, academically, athletically, it’s bar none, so we’re thrilled.” Ezeli was born in Nigeria and came over to the U.S. to live with his uncle in Sacramento after he graduated from high school at the age of 14. He came in pursuit of a medical degree, but he quickly developed a love for basketball.
Green was expected to be selected in the late first round of the draft, but miraculously and unexpectedly, the Warriors were able to select him with the 35th overall pick. He had a fantastic senior season averaging 16.2 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game. Like Ezeli, Green also spent four years at Michigan State and finished as the school’s all-time leading rebounder with 1,096, ranked 17th in career scoring with 1,517 points, second in career blocks with 117, and second in career steals with 180 in 145 games. At the introductory press conference, Green described his years at Michigan State. “I stayed four years, I think that really helped me out a lot mature mentally, but also helped me a lot physically as well.”
Kuzmic averaged 10.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks, shooting 53.7% from the field over 37 games with Clinicas Rincon last season. During the 2010-2011 season, Kuzmic averaged 10.6 points 7.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 14 games with the KK Celik Zenica in Bosnia’s top league, D1. He is thought of as a project, and he is planning on staying in Europe to improve upon his game. The Warriors hope that he can join the team in a few seasons.
Besides Kuzmic, since his future is uncertain, the Warriors’ three draft picks demonstrate a clear “culture change” by the Warriors towards a more high character, hard-working team. Bob Myers said about the Warriors’ three draft picks this year, “We feel like in this draft, like any type of employment, we hired three great people that are very skilled at their profession but also great character people.” Barnes could challenge Dorell Wright for the starting small forward spot, unless Wright is traded in the offseason. Ezeli is expected to challenge, but, ultimately, back up Bogut, and Green is expected to come off the bench as well. Whether these draft picks will truly help the Warriors in their areas of need and whether their play will result in wins is the real question. All three players have immense potential and, as some NBA analysts have said, could become better pros than they were college players. It all remains to be seen.