The 24-1 Warriors are defending champions and steamrolling toward a possible run at 73 wins. Their assembly as one of the best teams in NBA history seems like fait accompli, that it was just always going to come together, and the Warriors just saw the genius of their players before anyone else.
It turns out a major player in the Warriors becoming the Warriors was ... the Milwaukee Bucks.
No, seriously. The Racine Journal-Times has a fascinating article that breaks down exactly the role that the Bucks played in building the Warriors, and how they could have wound up with the Splash Brothers (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson) -- or at least one of them -- on their own.
Before his workout in Milwaukee, Thompson auditioned for the New York Knicks. Thompson told me at his Bucks’ workout that then Knicks’ director of basketball operations Joseph “Donnie’’ Walsh compared him favorably to Hall of Fame shooting guard Reggie Miller, whom Walsh drafted while general manager for the Indiana Pacers in 1987.
The Bucks had the 11th overall pick and definitely needed a long-range shooter like Thompson. But the Bucks brass of owner Herb Kohl, general manager John Hammond and coach Scott Skiles determined they needed immediate help and coveted an established veteran.
So, the Bucks moved their pick as part of a three-team transaction. The Bucks acquired Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston and the draft rights to Tobias Harris from Charlotte and Beno Udrih from Sacramento. Milwaukee also sent Corey Maggette to Charlotte and John Salmons and draft rights to Jimmer Fredette (who was picked 10th) to Sacramento. Thompson was selected 11th by Golden State.
Just to confirm that for you, none of the players that the Bucks acquired in the trade for their No. 10 pick is still on the team. Jackson is out of the league, Livingston is in ... you guessed it, Golden State, Harris is one of the Magic's best players and Beno Udrih is in Miami.
But wait, there's more!
The Bucks had to get rid of Jackson, who was constantly clashing with Scott Skiles (who's now in Orlando). They had to shake the team up, and Andrew Bogut could never get healthy. So they dealt Jackson and Bogut to ... Golden State, which knew Bogut could still be the rim protector it needed. In return, Milwaukee got Monta Ellis (who was later traded to Dallas and then signed in Indiana), Kwame Brown (out of the league) and Ekpe Udoh (same).
Here's the kicker.
If the Bucks hadn't been so conservative, they would have instead acquired (Stephen) Curry, whom the Bucks scouting department was enamored with when he entered the 2009 draft and was taken as the seventh overall selection by Golden State.
Unlike some teams, the Bucks scouting department wasn’t overly concerned that Curry played at a small college -- Davidson -- and that he was a so-called ‘’tweener’’ as a 6-foot-3 guard.
But the Bucks were concerned about Curry's ankles. He underwent surgery on his right ankle to repair torn ligaments in May of 2011. The following March, he had season-ending surgery on the same ankle.
So, with Curry having ankle issues and with Ellis seemingly entering the prime of a potentially-great career, the Bucks opted for Ellis, who was a huge fan favorite in the Bay Area.
There, naturally, is some debate over whether or not Curry was actually available. Now, of course, Golden State would likely say they never entertained the idea and always knew Curry would be great, even if they didn't know he would be come the human inferno he is now. Likewise, the Bucks have reason to say "we could have had Curry" to show the kinds of moves they can make. Instead, it just reinforces how bad this series of moves, starting with trading the pick that could have been Thompson, was.
After all, everyone knows that if you could have gotten Curry, you should have. I mean, that trade was a universal win for the Warriors that everyone lauded.
Almost everyone ...
This is in the "losers" section in my column on winners and losers from that season's trade deadline:
Golden State Warriors This is a hugely risky move. Taking on Jackson's contract ties up a lot of money, and they still have a high payroll. It could work out. Stephen Curry-Jackson-Dorrell Wright-David Lee-Bogut is a pretty good starting five. But Curry and Bogut have injury questions, Jackson is getting older, and that's a lot of money. The Warriors have turned towards the future but still needs a lot to go right for them.
Well, then. I guess you could say a lot did go right for them ... not that they're fortunate.
The Bucks basically built the Warriors, with a little help from Denver's inability to re-sign Andre Iguodala and Steve Kerr being interested in coaching. They passed on Thompson to trade for Stephen Jackson, which gave Golden State Thompson at No. 11 (hat-tip to the Kings and their terrible drafting, though), and then gave the Warriors the rim protector in Andrew Bogut just to get rid of Jackson, and took Ellis instead of Curry. Even with the Warriors' smallball, they still need Bogut for defense and he was a huge part of their success last year and this season. All thanks to Milwaukee. Funny how these things trickle down.