The Warriors Summer League team, while consisting of only one first round draft pick (Nemanja Nedovic), does sport a few big-name college studs hoping to impress NBA GM’s in their first game of the summer on Friday.
Aaron Craft, the closest thing to a household name on the Dubs roster, was the starting point guard for Ohio State the past four years, and is best known as a defensive stopper. Craft garnered Big Ten All-Defensive Team honors all four years, winning the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year twice (2012, 2014); after his senior season he was named the NABC Defensive Player of the Year, an award voted on by college coaches from across the nation.
Craft and Nedovic should split time at point guard, but expect Nedovic to get the majority of minutes running the offense. The Serbian guard didn’t get much playing time with the Warriors last season, and Steve Kerr (coaching his first competitive game ever) will want to give him experience running the offense in case he needs to give Steph Curry and Shaun Livingston a rest during the regular season.
But of all the non-contract players on the roster, Craft has the best chance of making an NBA roster. Sure, his jump shot gives Ray Allen nightmares (he shot just 30 percent from three for his career), but he’s a proven floor leader and his defense alone should garner him time somewhere in the league.
Another point guard on the roster, and one of the biggest Youtube sensations ever to come out of the Bay Area, is 5’ 7’’ Kiwi Gardner. Gardner attended Manteca High School before transferring to a prep school for his senior year, and although he never attained the same success in college he earned in high school, he played for the D-League Santa Cruz Warriors last year, averaging 7 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Gardner may not see a ton of minutes, thanks to Craft and Nedovic, but he’s proven that it takes no longer than a few seconds for him to put up a highlight reel.
The only reason anyone outside of Indiana knows the name Christian Watford is because of this:
With one shot, Watford blemished Kentucky’s perfect season — a team that would go on to win the National Championship and have four first-round draft picks (including #1 overall Anthony Davis) later that year. Watford himself helped resurrect a dead-in-the-water Indiana program, helping the Hoosiers go from a probationary team banned from postseason play to once again viewed as a national powerhouse. The big man averaged 13 points/game for his career, and developed his outside touch to the tune of 48 percent from beyond-the-arc on over three attempts per game.
Watford might show what Kerr would do with a big man capable of stepping out beyond the arc, which would be doubly interesting should the Warriors land Kevin Love. Will Kerr rely heavily on the pick-and-roll system the Warriors used so frequently in the past? Or will we see glimpses of the Triangle, a system Kerr has said he would incorporate into the regular season offense.
While it would be foolish to read too much into what offensive system Kerr uses Friday – after all, it is July – it’s never too early to get excited about Warriors basketball.