Beware the youth

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Having won their second championship in three seasons, the Golden State Warriors have clearly reaped the benefits that come with building a powerhouse through the draft.

With Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson at the helm, the Warriors transformed themselves from a laughingstock into Showtime 2.0.

Curry, the two-time MVP who will shatter every conceivable shooting record when it’s all said and done, was drafted.

Green, a defensive player with one of the highest basketball IQs on both sides of the court, was drafted.

Thompson, an elite 3&D player often tasked with defending the opposition’s best guard and the second-best shooter in the world, was drafted.

Golden State’s front office stuck with its youth in the face of lucrative deals for All-Star power forwards over the years, and now the franchise is poised to dominate the league for years to come.

As the undisputed best team in the league, the Warriors’ have had to alter their approach in maintaining a championship team from year to year.

Curry, Thompson and Harrison Barnes, a key piece in Golden State’s first championship run back in 2015, were all drafted in the lottery. Unless they trade a member of their current core, which is highly unlikely and borderline an impossibility, the Warriors won’t have a lottery pick for quite some time.

The Warriors have added highly skilled veterans who can play within Golden State’s golden democracy of unselfish basketball, but the franchise has remained adamant in building another core through the draft despite the considerably lower selections.

Golden State has had success drafting in the late-first and second rounds in the past two decades and Executive of the Year Bob Myers is continuing that approach as Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and company hit the mid-to-late 30s.

Headlining the second wave of Golden State’s youth movement is guard Patrick McCaw out of UNLV. Despite limited playing time and a limited roll on a championship squad in his first season with the Dubs, McCaw proved why he had earned the Jerry West seal of approval after the Warriors acquired him in a trade on draft night.

McCaw, as a rookie surrounded by some of the NBA’s best, was often timid when he was on the floor during his first year. The 21-year-old was hesitant to shoot even when left wide open and often deferred ball handling privileges to his superiors while on the floor, registering the second-lowest usage rate among rookies at 11.9%.

While there were instances in which McCaw looked like a baby deer searching for his footing, there were also moments in which he shed his rookie status and embraced the aggressiveness of a wolf.

Amidst a blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets on the road, McCaw flashed a glimmer of his potential, dropping a career-high 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. McCaw didn’t rely on his jumper, but rather relentlessly attacked and converted at the rim with defenders in his face.

The rookie also displayed incredible composure and produced when called upon during Golden State’s playoff run. McCaw slid into the starting lineup for Games 2 and 3 in the first round against the Portland Trail Blazers while Kevin Durant dealt with a calf injury.

The UNLV-product didn’t miss a beat, averaging 10.0/5.0/3.0 (points, rebounds, assists) in those two games while putting up 11/5/5 with three steals and a block during Game 3. McCaw also posted 18 points in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.

Yet McCaw’s biggest contribution of the postseason wouldn’t show up in the box score as the rookie was tasked with guarding Kyrie Irving in Game 5 of the Finals. After getting cooked in their showdown, McCaw stopped Irving when he once again attacked; McCaw would be called for a foul, but replays show he made no contact.

McCaw’s defense at UNLV translated well to the NBA as there were plenty of instances in which the young guard locked down a defender on the perimeter or stripped a ball handler, oftentimes looking like a young version of Iguodala.

Soon to complement McCaw’s perimeter defense on the floor will be the inside presence of Oregon’s Jordan Bell, a defensive monster who the Warriors acquired on draft night from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for cash considerations.

Bell, a 6’9” über-athletic power forward and the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, has widely been regarded as the perfect player for the Warriors to acquire of anyone outside of the lottery and his defense has been compared to that of Green.

Like Green, he is slightly undersized for a big, but has tremendous strength which he can use to hold his own. Bell averaged 3.1 blocks and 1.8 steals per 40 minutes while holding down the paint and perimeter as a junior for the Ducks.

The power forward does not enter the league as an incredibly diverse offensive player, but carved out a niche for himself in college by inhaling 4.0 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes with OREB percentage (Offensive Rebound Percentage) of 12.4 percent. Bell nearly willed the Ducks to a championship appearance during the NCAA tournament, averaging 12.6/13.2/1.6 per game while swatting three shots a game.

Potentially accompanying Bell down in the paint is center Damien Jones, who spent most of his season with the Santa Cruz Warriors. In 31 minutes with Santa Cruz on 26.4 minutes per game, Jones posted 11.3/7.2/1.1 while rejecting 2.1 shots per game.

Much like Bell, Jones is an explosive athlete for his size and moves very well despite the 6’11” frame and has flashed his defensive potential in the paint.

With this trio of youngsters waiting in the wings who will receive playing time on a championship contender, the Warriors are not just built for the present, but for the future as well.

Justice delos Santos is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jdelossantos510