The Golden State Warriors walked away from the 2012 NBA draft having had three players they liked fall into their lap. North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, a projected top-five pick, was there for the taking at No. 7. Vanderbilt big man Festus Ezeli, whom the Warriors liked but didn’t think would be available, wound up still on the board at No. 30.
Then with the 35th pick, the Warriors selected Michigan State’s Draymond Green, who was expected to be a mid- to late-first-round pick.
“We’re thrilled,” said Warriors general manager Bob Myers, who with the No. 52 pick drafted 7-foot Bosnian center Ognjen Kuzmic, who probably will continue playing in Spain next season. “We think we’ve got some great players, some great character players. We couldn’t be happier.”
The Warriors went into the draft facing a host of options. They were looking at taking an elite guard, Syracuse’s Dion Waiters, or Connecticut freshman center Andre Drummond, the player with arguably the most upside. The Warriors also had options to trade their pick.
But as the draft began unfolding, the options fell away. Once the Portland Trail Blazers selected Oakland’s own Damian Lillard, a point guard out of Weber State, Myers said several teams immediately contacted him.
“My phone almost blew up with people wanting our pick, wanting our player,” Myers said. “(Barnes has) got great value, and he fits what we need.”
The Warriors happily selected Barnes – a 6-foot-8, 228-pound small forward – with the No. 7 pick. He was only available because of a couple of surprising selections early in the draft.
The Cavaliers failed in their reported bids to trade up to No. 2 and draft Florida’s Bradley Beal, a shooting guard they hoped to pair with Kyrie Irving. But at No. 4, instead of selecting Barnes or Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, the Cavaliers went after the second-best shooting guard in the draft: Waiters.
After Robinson went to Sacramento and Lillard to Portland, that left the Warriors choosing between Barnes and Drummond.
Drummond, an athletic 7-footer, is a project with the bust potential. The Warriors opted for Barnes.
Barnes has nice size and respectable athleticism to go with a good midrange jumper. He’s considered one of the more NBA-ready players in the draft.
“Harrison Barnes just gets the job done,” Myers said. “He produces. He’s played at a high level for the last two years, and he’s had a magnifying glass on him. That isn’t easy.”
Barnes will compete with Brandon Rush, who is a restricted free agent, and incumbent starter Dorell Wright, who might be traded before training camp.
“Right now my role is wide open,” Barnes said. “I’m coming in and doing whatever the team needs. Rebounding. Scoring. If the team needs toughness . . . I’m definitely trying to come in and establish my role.”
Ezeli, a 6-foot-11, 264-pound center from Nigeria, has great size and excellent shot-blocking ability. He certainly fills the Warriors’ desire for toughness.
“I will run through a wall. I will work as hard as I can,” said Ezeli, a Sacramento resident. “Whatever they ask me to do, I will try my best to do it. . . . “I’ll be the tough guy if that’s what they need me to be.”
The cherry on top came at No. 35. Somehow, a first-team All-American and the Big Ten Player of the Year was still available.
At 6-foot-7, 236-pounder, Green is undersized for a power forward and doesn’t have the skills or athleticism to be a full-time small forward.
Still, Green rebounds well, dribbles and passes well enough to play point forward, and he is known for coming through in the clutch.
“I’m not the first guy to slide out of the 20s into the 30s, and I’m not going to be last,” he said. “When I realized I would still be sitting there, I knew I would end up with a team that really wanted me. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
(c)2012 Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)
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