Golden State Warriors: Top 20 Draft Picks in History
The Golden State Warriors have had some fantastic draft picks in their history. These are the 20 best to ever be drafted by the franchise.
The Golden State Warriors are an organization that has seen it’s fair share of ups and downs when it comes to succeeding in the NBA. Without a doubt, their success in recent years has topped that of any era of the Golden State franchise, as last years Warriors team finished with the best record in league history.
Long before the Dubs were winning 73 games in a single season, however, fans suffered through a long and painstaking dark age filled with countless coaching changes, glaring front office mistakes, and missed draft picks including a year where they selected Todd Fuller over household names such as Steve Nash, Jermaine O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant.
Year after year, the Warriors continued to be bottom feeders of the NBA standings, and despite all of the swings and misses, there have been a handful of successful draft picks made by the Warriors organization.
Every so often the front office would strike gold. While most fans today don’t remember the days of Tom Gola and Wilt Chamberlain, there has been plenty of Warrior basketball to look forward to whether the team was succeeding or not.
Whether it be Jason Richardson or Patrick O’Bryant, each and every pick that the Warriors have made in their 70 year history have, in one form or another, paved the road to the team that you see today. Here are the top 20 draft picks in Golden State Warriors franchise history.
Vince Carter & Penny Hardaway
Both Vince Carter and Penny Hardaway are thought of as NBA legends. They are not, however, thought of as Warrior legends. That’s because neither of them actually put on a Warriors uniform.
They were both selected by the Golden State franchise, which makes them honorable mentions on our list. While they never tallied a single stat for the Dubs, they both went on to have very successful careers, and will always have “drafted by the Golden State Warriors” next to their names.
Carter was drafted by the Warriors in the 1998 NBA Draft with the 5th overall pick but was immediately traded to the Raptors for the 4th overall selection, Antawn Jamison. Carter as we all know, returned to Oakland a few years later and put on perhaps the greatest dunk contest performance the world has ever seen. Maybe that was his way of showing Golden State what they missed out on.
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was drafted 3rd overall by the Dubs in 1993 and he too was traded on draft night for the rights to first overall pick, Chris Webber. Hardaway dealt with injuries throughout his NBA tenure but still holds impressive numbers of 15.2 points and five assists per game for his career, including a few 20+ PPG seasons with the Orlando Magic.
20. Gilbert Arenas
Agent 0 was drafted by the Warriors with the 31st overall pick in the 2nd round of the 2001 NBA Draft. While Arenas is known much more for his time with the Wizards, he did spend two seasons in a Warriors uniform, where in his second year he averaged 18.3 points per game, and won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
The next year as a free agent, Arenas decided to sign with the Washington Wizards where he would spend the next 7 years of his career earning three All-Star nods, two All-NBA Third Team honors, and an All-NBA Second Team spot in 2007.
While his time with Golden State was short lived, he did have a small impact including a 41 point performance against his future team in 2003. He’s another one of those picks the Warriors had that they really didn’t get enjoy long enough of.
Whether it’s the way the franchise was at the time or for other reasons, Arenas was a talented player that should have spent more seasons with Golden State. He along with several others make for great trivia questions about great players that once wore a uniform for the Warriors.
19. Harrison Barnes
Now, I know what you are thinking here. How could Harrison Barnes be a top 20 draft pick in franchise history? Look a little closer, and you will see why.
Sure, Barnes stabbed a proverbial knife into the hearts of every Warriors fan with his combined 15 points, nine rebounds, and two assists in the final three games of last years NBA Finals. Sure, he did shoot 15.6 percent from the field and 20 percent from behind the arc in those final three historic games which ultimately led to the perhaps greatest collapse and most shocking upset in professional sports history.
Yes, Harrison Barnes did all of that, but once you get past it, you realize Barnes meant a lot to this franchise during his four years in blue & gold.
Barnes averaged 16.1 points per game in the postseason his rookie year, otherwise known as “the birth of playoff Barnes.” Harrison had a shaky sophomore season, but bounced back in 2014 and contributed nicely pouring in over 40 percent of his three point attempts. He’s no slouch ladies and gentleman, and as we know he was a key factor in the Warriors “Death Lineup” which helped lead them to their first NBA championship in 40 years, and while you may hate to admit it, Barnes had a lot to do with that ring.
So, throw away your distain for the Black Falcon, because without him, the Warriors may still be without a Larry O’Brien trophy since 1975.
18. Guy Rodgers
Most people reading this will have never watched a single second of Guy Rodgers live, and if someone claims to have seen him, they are either lying or your grandfather.
While many Warriors fans have just heard the name, Guy was a staple of the Warriors organization during it’s formative years in Philadelphia. Rodgers was drafted by the Warriors in 1958 with a territorial pick which allowed teams to select college players from their area, so fans of certain teams could keep rooting for local players.
Rodgers played with the Dubs for 8 seasons and moved with the team to San Francisco in 1962. The point guard averaged 12.8 points, 8.3 assists, and 5.1 rebounds during his time with the Warriors and made three of his four All-Star appearances with the organization.
A franchise transitioning from one city to the next can be a difficult period of time. Having a steady presence to make that transition easier is key. Rodgers did a lot for this franchise and there’s a reason that many elder Golden State fans hold him in high regard.
It’s important to pay respect to those who came before and Rodgers was one of those guys. Long before the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and others were getting All-Star nods, Rodgers was in the spotlight for Golden State.
17. Tom Gola
Like Guy Rodgers, Tom Gola is another Warrior legend who helped lay the building blocks for what the franchise is today. Gola played seven seasons for the Warriors franchise holding career averages of 11.3 points and 4.2 assists per game, however, his best years came with the Dubs as Blue Man Hoop’s Carlos Murillo explains:
He was an All-Star four years in a row and an All-NBA Second Team member (oddly enough, in a year that he wasn’t an All-Star). He helped the Warriors win the championship in 1956. He retired in 1959 after suffering a knee injury for a brief moment. But he returned to the team and helped them make a run at another championship until they ran into the powerhouse Boston Celtics.
His play and willingness to sacrifice made him one of the most important players during a special time of Warriors basketball. He is one of two Warriors to record three consecutive triple-doubles.
While Gola may not be a household name for even Warriors fans, there is no denying his impact on the Golden State organization. In those times it wasn’t easy to just come back from an injury and it was a death sentence to a career in many cases.
Gola’s determination in many ways symbolizes the spirit of the Warriors. He was one in every sense of the term and helped establish a foundation for the franchise. Basketball is a team game and he was a team player.
He was rewarded appropriately during his time in the league and made the most of it. Once again, he is a player the older fans remember and think of dearly. The franchise is where it’s in part to the work of guys like him.
16. Robert Parish
Robert Parish is better known for his Hall of Fame career with the Celtics, but many Warriors fans do not know that he was a Warrior before then. It’s where his career began and he got the chance to make a name for himself.
Parish was drafted 8th overall by Golden State in the 1976 NBA Draft and improved each of his four years with the franchise. Parish averaged 13.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game with the Dubs.
The Celtics traded the rights to the first overall pick in 1980 (Joe Barry Carroll) to the Warriors in exchange for Parish, and from that point forward, “The Chief” never looked back. Parish went on to win four NBA titles with Boston, earned 9 All-Star appearances and became the NBA’s all-time leader in games played (1,611).
In hindsight, this was one of the worst trades in franchise history. The thought of acquiring the No. 1 overall pick was certainly tough to pass up but they gave up one of the greats for it. It didn’t end up working out and it ultimately cost the franchise.
Still, this is one of the best draft picks they have ever made and Warriors fans won’t forget it. They’ll remember the fact they traded him when they shouldn’t have but it doesn’t change the fact it’s a good pick.
15. Purvis Short
Purvis Short was selected by Golden State with the 5th pick of the 1978 NBA Draft. Despite averaging 28 points per game in the 1984-85 season, and having multiple years of 20+ PPG scoring, Purvis failed to make a single All-Star team during his 12 year NBA career and as Jim Barnett puts it, Short is “one of the best players to never make an All-Star team.”
Short was in the same draft class as Hall of Famer Larry Bird, but the interesting part about that relationship is that Bird was selected just one spot after Short. This is one of many example’s where the Warrior organization missed out on a franchise alerting selection, but who knows where they would be now had they landed on some of those picks.
Short was no scrub, however. He holds career averages of 17.3 points and 4.3 rebounds, and shot an efficient 47.4 percent from the field for his career. While he was no Larry Bird, he still made a valuable impact on the Warriors, and is a fan favorite among the O.G. Warrior faithful.
Whether it was just simply the vast amount of talent when he played in the league, but Short deserved a lot more in his career. The fact he was drafted one spot before Bird will overshadow his career but it doesn’t change how good of a player he was.
14. Al Attles
Al Attles jersey number is one of six retired by the Golden State franchise. As the 39th overall pick of the Philadelphia Warriors in 1960, many would say the Warriors got quite a steal with their selection. Attles played all 11 of his NBA seasons with the Warriors and while he was never an All-Star, averaging 8.9 points per game for his career, it was his impact after he retired that makes him a Warrior legend.
Attles became one of the first African-American coaches in the NBA when he was named player-coach for the 1969-1970 season, a job he continued until the next season when he made the switch to coaching exclusively. He coached the San Francisco Warriors through their transition to the Golden State team name we know today before finally calling it quits in 1983.
As coach, he was responsible for eight winning seasons including seven straight from 1971-1978. To this day, Attles has more coaching wins than any coach in Warriors franchise history with 557, and most importantly coached the Warriors to their 3rd championship in 1975, their first since 1956.
Attles helped break down barriers and helped pave the way for other African-American coaches in the league. His impact on the league extends far past his playing days and coaching. He’s a Warriors legend in every sense of the term.
13. Latrell Sprewell
Latrell Sprewell may best be remembered around the NBA for choking then coach, P.J. Carlesimo at a Warriors practice in 1998. While it is a stain on his career résumé, Warrior fans know him as much more than that.
Sprewell spent the first six seasons of his career with the Warriors, and was very productive with the team. This former Golden State wing averaged 20.1 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game during his time in blue & gold, was a three-time All-Star, and an All-NBA First Team member in just his second NBA season.
The Warriors have had some bad picks in their franchises and some great picks in their history. This was a great pick and it can’t be ignored the talent that he had. It really felt like he was going to take off even more than he did but it didn’t stop him from setting the tone early about how good he was going to be.
Latrell is a Warrior household name and deservedly so. While his off-the-court issues have kept him in the news at times, his on-court accomplishments need not be overlooked. There is no doubt that Latrell Sprewell is one of the greatest Warrior draft picks of all time.
12. Jason Richardson
In many ways Jason Richardson can be compared to Draymond Green. Both come from Saginaw, Michigan. Both attened Michigan State University, both wear number 23, and both of them played a vital role in a Warriors resurgence while not necessarily being their team’s star player.
Richardson was a valued member of the “We Believe” team that upset the top seeded Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 playoffs. A team stacked with scrappy competitors, J-Rich made sure his last year in a Warriors uniform was a special one.
During his six seasons with the franchise, he averaged 18.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, and was a 2-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion. Warriors fans know he was much more than just an athletic wing who dazzled crowds around the NBA with his high-flying acrobatics. Richardson is a Warrior for life.
Richardson was yet another player that probably didn’t end up spend enough time in a Warriors uniform. It’s a reminder that sometimes good things end early before they ever really get started. Golden State acquired the draft rights to Brandan Wright and it didn’t end up as they were hoping it would.
11. Mitch Richmond
While Mitch Richmond only spent three seasons in a Warriors uniform, his contribution to the franchise was much bigger than that. As a valued member of the famed “Run TMC” squad of the late early 90’s, he has become a name even new fans know.
Mitch was the 5th overall pick in the 1988 NBA Draft and the Warriors felt his impact from the moment he stepped on the court. As a rookie, Richmond was the Dubs’ second leading scorer, averaging an eye-popping 22 points per game, which won him the 1989 Rookie of the Year award.
Adding Tim Hardaway the next year didn’t stop Richmond from playing 2nd fiddle in the scoring department yet again. In his three years as a Warrior Mitch averaged 22.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and shot an impressive 48.6 percent from the field.
In Mitch’s last year on the team, the 1991 Warriors would see their deepest playoff run until 2007, and during that span Golden State would make the playoffs just twice.
“Playing with that team it was probably one of the funnest teams that people recognized the Bay Area about,” Richmond said ahead of a first round matchup with the Houston Rockets last postseason. “After we got our butt kicked, I knew they were going to change something.”
The next season, Richmond was traded to the Kings for rights to rookie Billy Owens. Mitch went on to have a very successful tenure with the Kings, earning six straight All-Star appearances from 1993-1998 including All-Star game MVP in 1995.
While he was part of a flash in the pan of Warrior success, his contribution to the franchise remains great, and deserves a spot as one of the greatest Warriors of all-time.
10. Tim Hardaway
Speaking of Run TMC, the next player on our list started his career during one of the best times in team history. Hardaway was drafted 14th overall in the 1989 Draft. Like Mitch, Tim made his presence felt from the jump earning NBA All-Rookie First Team honors in 1990.
After averaging nearly 15 points in his rookie season, Hardaway saw his scoring output spike in the coming years, averaging 22.9, and 23.4 in the next two seasons, respectfully. Hardaway made the Western Conference All-Star team three-straight years as a Warrior from1991-1993.
Hardaway was perhaps best known for his nasty crossover, nicknamed the “UTEP Two-Step” after his four-year stay at the University of Texas at El Paso. Hardaway would become the second fastest player in league history to reach 5,000 points and 2,500 assists behind Oscar Robinson before being dealt to the Miami Heat mid-way through the 1995-1996 season.
The Run TMC era is arguably one of the most fun eras in Warriors basketball. Hardaway made himself a legend in that era and he’s forever a favorite in Golden State because of it. His highlights still play over in the heads of Warriors fans everywhere.
9. Monta Ellis
Monta Ellis was the Stephen Curry of the Warriors before any Warrior fan knew who Stephen Curry was. Year in and year out, Monta was the lone ray of light for the Golden State organization, surrounded largely by dark clouds.
While he is no Mitch Richmond or Tim Hardaway on the court, the reason this draft choice is so ranked so highly is because of the value the Warriors got from him. Ellis was picked in the 2nd round with the 40th overall selection of the 2005 NBA draft. The Warriors got excellent value from Ellis in his years with the Warriors where he averaged 19.5 points and six assists during his six and a half year tenure with the team. Ellis was one of four players from his draft class to forgo college and be drafted straight out of high school, the final year the NBA allowed that.
While never earning an All-Star appearance, Ellis dazzled the fans inside Oracle Arena on a regular basis and was the one player fans could hold on to and say to themselves, “at least we have Monta.”
Ellis represents the precursor to the dominate Warriors we know today. Monta gave us a taste of success, serving as arguably the best player on that magical “We Believe” team. He will always have a spot in the hearts of Dub Nation.
8. Klay Thompson
While there may be some Warrior legends you could argue should be ahead of Klay Thompson on this list, there is no arguing that he has done some things that those guys could never dream of doing. Scoring 37 points in a single quarter on 13-for-13 from the field including 9-for-9 from deep is a feat that maybe 5 players in the history of the league could have made happen, but Klay is in the history books as the only one to ever do so.
Thompson was drafted by the Warriors with the 11th overall pick in 2011, a reason why he wears number 11 on the court, and while guys like Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard were still on the board when Klay was selected, Golden State has not regretted their decision to take the 6’7″ wing out of Washington State.
In Klay’s rookie season, he saw just one start before the departure of starting shooting guard Monta Ellis in March, and in that span averaged just 17.2 minutes per game. Once Ellis was shipped out, Klay saw his minutes spike to over 34 a game.
What makes Klay so high on our list is his ability to catch fire at any given second (see video above). Klay is number two in franchise history in made 3-point field goals behind his backcourt mate, and is fourth in team history in 3-point field goal percentage.
Klay has seen a healthy improvement in his game from year-to-year. Coming into the league he was known as a ‘three-and-D” guy who couldn’t put the ball on the floor and create a shot for himself. While that still isn’t his bread and butter, he has rounded out his game to become one of the deadliest offensive players in the league today.
7. Paul Arizin
There is likely very few people reading this who have seen Paul Arizin play, but if you were lucky enough to have seen this 6’4″ forward from Philadelphia, you would know what makes him not only a Warrior great, but an NBA great.
Arizin was at the forefront of revolutionizing the game of basketball into the game we know today with the inclusion of the jump shot into the mainstream. Another player drafted by the Warriors using the good ol’ territorial selection, the Philly native played for his hometown team for each of his ten seasons. Although he missed two full seasons to serve in the Korean War, Arizin is still 3rd in points scored in Warriors franchise history.
Arizin made the All-Star team every single year that he suited up including All-Star MVP in 1952, and among a host of other honors was a two-time NBA scoring champion. Arizin also helped lead the Warriors to their 2nd title in 1956, a year where he was the team’s leading scorer.
Arizin holds career averages of 22.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in over 700 games. Paul was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978 and was named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players in 1996.
6. Draymond Green
If we wanted to make a list strictly off of draft value and not factor in actual skill level, Draymond Green may be number one. 34 players were picked ahead of Green in the 2012 Draft including Kendall Marshall, Fab Melo, Tony Wroten, and Jeffery Taylor, none of which are currently signed to an NBA roster. Even the Warriors passed on Green twice in favor of Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, both formidable players but neither of which are of Draymond’s caliber.
Green’s career got off to a bit of a slow start, starting just 13 games combined in his first two seasons. An injury to starting power forward David Lee early in the 2014-2015 season opened the door for Draymond to snag a starting roll, and once he did, he never gave it back.
In each of Green’s five full seasons, he has dramatically improved in nearly every aspect of his game. He shot 20.9 percent from three his rookie season. Last year he striped close to 40 percent of his long balls, the highest of his career. He also upped his scoring average year-after-year, scoring 2.9 points per game his rookie season, to 14 last year. The most eye-popping part of Draymond’s game is his ability to be such a key playmaker for the Dubs. Last season he led the team in assists at 7.4 per game, and is doing so again this year dishing an average 7.4 helpers yet again. Oh, and by the way, he’s a power forward.
Draymond’s game however, does not revolve around the offensive side of the floor. In fact, playmaking may be his second best trait behind defense. He has finished runner-up in the Defensive Player of the Year award for two-straight seasons, one of which he actually earned more first place votes than winner Kawhi Leonard.
Draymond may not always fill up the stat sheet, but one thing you can expect every time he steps out on the floor is passion, unmatched energy, and hustle.
5. Chris Mullin
It’s hard to argue that any Warrior represents the organization better than Chris Mullin. The franchise leader in both games played and steals, Mullin was the chief of the famed Run TMC squad.
In a very successful 16 year career, 13 of which were played with Golden State, Mullin finished with five All-Star nods, and a very impressive 18.2 points per game on 50.9 percent shooting. From 1988-1993, Mullin averaged 25.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, nearly two steals, and shot an impactful 52.3 percent from the field.
“When God made a basketball player, he just carved Chris Mullin out and said ‘this is a player,’” Magic Johnson once said of Mully. The New York native was part of two Olympic teams, including the famed “Dream Team” group who took home gold in Barcelona in 1992.
The Warriors picked Mullin with the 7th overall selection of the 1985 NBA Draft, and very quickly he became the Warriors most deadly weapon. Game after game, Mullin dazzled Oracle Arena crowds, as he would go off for nearly 40 points seemingly every week.
There is no doubt that the selection of Chris Mullin changed the direction of the Warriors franchise forever. Mullin was the leader of one of the most successful eras in Warrior history, a very good reason why his number 17 jersey will forever hang in the rafters of their arena.
4. Nate Thurmond
Nate Thurmond was one of the most dominant centers in the NBA during an era when big men reigned supreme. The 3rd overall selection in the 1963 draft by the San Francisco Warriors, little was known about what kind of impact the 6’11” giant would have on this franchise.
Known as the “Warriors legend & ambassador,” Thurmond was one of the greatest rebounders in the history of the game. Averaging 15 boards per game for his career, and 22 during the 1967-68 season, Thurmond was a monster on the glass. He is also 11th in NBA history for rebounds, pulling in more than Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’neal, and Charles Barkley, all known for their nose for the ball.
A seven-time All-Star, Thurmond missed out on winning a ring with the 1975 championship squad as he was traded just before the season began. While he was never able to add an NBA title to his résumé, that should not discount the fact that he was one of the greatest NBA players to ever suit up.
Nate passed away in July of 2016, and to commemorate his impact on the franchise, the Warriors have been sporting a number 42 patch on their uniforms all season long, a constant reminder of the incredible value he brought to the organization.
Thurmond is the Warriors franchise leader in minutes played, rebounds, and defensive win shares.
3. Rick Barry
As we get closer to crowning the best draft pick in Warriors history, there is a solid argument for everyone in the top five of this list to own that spot. Rick Barry is no exception. Barry is synonymous with the Warriors organization.
The 1975 NBA Finals MVP, Barry had two stints with the franchise from 1965-67, and again from 1972-78. Barry averaged a career-high 35.6 points in just his 2nd NBA season, and earned an All-Star spot in each of his first 12 seasons that he played (was legally barred from playing in the ABA in 1967).
While Barry is regarded as one of the best players in NBA history, he may be best known for his underhanded free throw style. While unorthodox, he shot nearly 90 percent from the charity stripe for his career, including seven seasons shooting over the 90 percent clip.
The 2nd overall selection in the 1965 NBA Draft by the Warriors, Barry averaged 25.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 2.3 steals per game, the latter a franchise record.
To this day Barry is the 2nd leading scorer in Warrior history, and on the offensive end he could do it all. His number 24 jersey will forever hang in whatever arena the Warriors call home. There is no doubt that Rick changed the organization forever.
2. Wilt Chamberlain
When you look at stats of Wilt Chamberlain’s career, you say to yourself, “this has got to be the best player in NBA history.” Wilt is the NBA’s all-time leader in rebounds, averaging an astonishing 22.9 for his career.
Wilt was also a virtuous scorer, averaging 30.1 points for his career, and in his 3rd season in the NBA, averaged a league record 50.4 points per game. The Philadelphia Warriors were lucky enough to draft the 7’1″ big man and former Harlem Globetrotter.
Wilt spent the first six seasons of his 14-year NBA career with the Warriors’ organization, where he was an All-Star each season wearing blue & gold. For his career Chamberlain made the All-Star team all but one year.
Chamberlain’s crowning moment however, came on March 2nd of 1962. In just his 3rd season with the Warriors, Wilt dropped an NBA record 100 points in a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks. While there is no video evidence of the game itself, we will always have the iconic photo of Wilt holding up a piece of white paper with his scoring total hand written in black ink.
Wilt will always be known as one of the greatest players in league history. In an era dominated by big men, Wilt was the cream of the crop, and will live in Warrior lore as on of the greatest draft picks in NBA history.
1. Stephen Curry
It makes sense that the two-time reigning MVP, and the only unanimous MVP in league history, Stephen Curry, would top our list of best Warrior draft picks ever. After a very productive career at Davidson College, Curry fell into the Warriors lap with the 7th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
From the moment he entered the league he was a known sharpshooter just like his Dad. But what was unknown was how dominate he would come to be just a few short years later. Last season, en route to leading the Warriors to an NBA record 73-9 season, Steph posted arguably the greatest offensive season the NBA has ever seen. Last year Curry posted the eighth best player efficiency rating in league history at 31.46, just 0.36 less than Wilt’s record mark in 1962-63.
Curry shattered his own league record for three’s made last year by sinking an awe-inspiring 402 long balls. To put that in perspective, his previous record was 286.
For his career, Steph has averaged modest per game numbers, but it is his shooting percentages that really set him out from the pack. For his career, Curry shoots 47.6 percent from the field, 44 percent from three, and 90.3 percent from the line.
Steph Curry is a transcendent player, who in the past few years has single handedly changed the way the game is thought of and played. He has managed to expand defenses out beyond 40 feet due to his ability to stripe a shot the second he steps onto the hardwood. There is no doubt that Steph is the single greatest draft pick the Golden State Warriors have ever selected, and he is far from finished.