OAKLAND (CBS / AP) — Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob and new general manager Bob Myers had to take a red-eye flight to New York earlier this week to get a last-minute look at Harrison Barnes before the NBA draft.
Barnes is coming to the Bay Area now.
The Warriors selected the North Carolina small forward with the No. 7 overall pick Thursday night, giving the franchise a potent player at a position that desperately needs depth. Myers said as soon as Portland passed on Barnes at six, “My phone almost blew up with people wanting this pick and wanting this player.”
Just Sunday night, Myers and Lacob hopped on a last-minute flight to New York to meet Barnes and Connecticut’s Andre Drummond, who was drafted ninth by Detroit. They scrounged up a trainer at a local basketball gym and squeezed in a quick lunch at Carnegie Deli before heading back the next morning.
“It’s not something I was happy to do,” Myers said. “But something that I felt, as a Warriors fan, was necessary. Getting on a plane and not sleeping for 48 hours was well worth the trip.”
The Warriors also took Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli with the 30th and final pick of the first round, then grabbed Michigan State forward Draymond Green 35th and Ognjen Kuzmic of Bosnia 52nd overall.
“Bigger is always better,” Lacob said.
Only Barnes is expected to provide an immediate boost.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore, still only 20 years old, led the Tar Heels with 17.1 points per game and also grabbed 5.2 rebounds. Considered the top overall recruit when he left his high school in Ames, Iowa, Barnes has been signing autographs since the ninth grade.
Now he hopes all that experience with expectations serves him well in the NBA.
“It helped me a great deal in terms of the spotlight,” Barnes said. “It almost kind of groomed me in a way growing up in the media.”
While he started slow at North Carolina, Barnes rallied to become the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Rookie of the Year in 2011.
Barnes shot 35.8 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore and earned First-Team All-ACC honors. He scored at least 20 points 13 times and in double figures in 64 of 75 college games.
There could be a spot for Barnes in Golden State’s rotation right away.
The Warriors finished 23-43 last season after injuries and trades overwhelmed the roster. The only starter whose future is uncertain is small forward Dorell Wright, who is heading into the final year of his contract and has struggled in rookie coach Mark Jackson’s system.
Myers said he expects Wright and Barnes to compete for the starting spot.
Drafting Barnes also was a turnaround from last season when the Warriors took Klay Thompson with the 11th overall pick, even though the team already had Ellis in the backcourt. Thompson, the former Washington State shooting guard, is expected to start next season after a standout rookie campaign.
Size was the theme for Golden State all night.
The 6-foot-11, 255-pound Ezeli set Vanderbilt’s record with 204 career blocked shots, breaking the mark of 157 set by Will Perdue. The Nigerian native moved to the United States in 2004 — only a 90-minute drive northeast in Sacramento—and couldn’t be more thrilled to come back to California.
“I will run through a wall,” Ezeli said in his excitement.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Green gives Golden State another layer
of toughness that the franchise also wanted to add. The Big Ten Player of the Year and first-team All-American finished with the most rebounds (1,096) and second-most blocks (117) in Spartans history.
Kuzmic may not be heading to the United States just yet. Myers had said the team would likely develop a player in Europe if it kept all four of its picks, and he expects Kuzmic to stay there for at least one more season—and probably more. The 22-year-old 7-footer has played for Clinicas Rincon in Spain’s second-tier league for only one season.
Expectations will be higher for Golden State this fall than they have been in years.
The Warriors, with only one playoff appearance since 1994, will finally have a starting lineup that has a legitimate chance to make the playoffs—if healthy. Health, however, is a huge concern.
Andrew Bogut, the 2005 No. 1 overall pick and best center the franchise has had in at least a decade, fractured his left ankle Jan. 25 with Milwaukee and sat out the rest of the season when he was acquired in a trade for star guard Monta Ellis. Point guard Stephen Curry repeatedly sprained his surgically repaired right ankle last season while playing only 26 games. And power forward David Lee missed the final eight games, undergoing surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle.
All are expected back by training camp.
That put the pressure on draft night even more this year knowing even one right choice—especially at No. 7 — could make all the difference next season.
Myers had been sweating out the situation so much he called Lacob driving home about 12:30 a.m. Thursday. Lacob answered, and both had the same thought.
“If Barnes could be there,” Myers said he told Lacob, “how great would that be?”
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)