The 2011 NBA Draft is in the books after Thursday night's festivities in Newark, New Jersey. It wasn't the most star studded of drafts, but there was still plenty of intrigue and interest around the event in the wake of this year's scintillating NBA season and playoffs. There seems to be mixed reaction to how the Golden State Warriors fared. SB Nation's Tom Ziller hated the Warriors' selections and gave Larry Riley and Jerry West's a 'D' grade. Chad Ford of ESPN was a bit more kind, handing out a 'B' for the Warriors draft, primarily beacuse of the potential of the team's two second round picks, Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Tyler.
Ziller's main criticism was that despite being an undeniably great shooter, Thompson still doesn't help address the Warriors' biggest flaw: defensive ineptitude. Well, Thompson may not be a lockdown defender in any sense of the word, but at 6'7" and 202 pounds, he's not cut from the same cloth as Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, two undersized, guards who struggle guarding the league's bigger and more talented 1 and 2 guards.
What I haven't heard anybody really discuss though is how Mark Jackson may very well institute a more deliberate, half-court brand of basketball than has been played by the Warriors in recent memory. Of course, the team will still run so long as it is constructed the way it is. But having played for Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy in New York, there's no question that Jackson is going to put a much stronger emphasis on playing quality, team defense. And he'll go about doing that partly by slowing things down offensively. At least I think he will.
If so, Thompson doesn't become 'just another scorer' like Ziller and others seem to believe. He becomes an integral, half court asset that can do some things offensively that Ellis and Curry can't do as effectively -- namely, get his shot off in a variety of ways outside of simple isolation plays or transition opportunities. Thompson is hands-down the best pick-and-roll shooting guard in this year's draft. I know that had to be attractive to West, Riley and Jackson when determining just how valuable Thompson might be in a new-look Warriors system. He shoots well spotting up as well as coming off screens, so I think his game is going to allow Golden State to recalibrate its style a bit this next few years in a way that leads to better defensive efficiency while not totally compromising its ability to score in bunches. We'll see.
Changing gears, let's hear from Thompson, who joined Into The Night With Tony Bruno on Thursday night after being drafted 11th overall (interview begins at 30:40 mark). In the brief chat, Thompson talked about whether he had any sense that he'd be taken by GS so high in the first round, his solid basketball pedigree as Mychael Thompson's son, whether he's had a chance to talk to new head coach Mark Jackson, being excited to play in his native California, and when he first thought that his game might be NBA-ready.
If he felt the Warriors at number 11 were a realistic landing spot:
"I thought I’d be in that area and I thought this was a perfect fit for me just with the style of play the Warriors play and the new direction that this organization is going, I think I can be a great asset to this team. Being a California kid I couldn’t be more excited to move back home."
What message Mark Jackson gave him after being drafted:
"I talked to him briefly after I got drafted. He just told me to enjoy this process and enjoy the night. We didn’t really talk basketball, we just talked about what was going through my mind. He was grateful to have me here. I was just happy to talk to him and get his blessings. I knew he thought highly of me. I’m very excited to get to know the guys up there and the whole organization."
When he felt he was ready to be an NBA player:
"Probably coming into this year. I felt like I was ready and I felt like I was one of the better players in the Pac-10, if not the country, at my position. I just felt like I knew I could come in and make some noise this year in the Pac-10. Each year at Washington State I added a new dimension to my game and I felt like I was finally ready to make that jump for my dreams. It’s crazy how they can find you nowadays. Even being in Pullman I got a lot of love from GM’s and scouts. I’m very grateful that they made that trip out. It’s not an easy trip and I just really appreciated that."