The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors may go down as the most talented team in NBA history. Their roster composition was the stuff of basketball dreams, a perfect combination of complementary skills and personalities. That doesn’t mean they were perfect. Sure, you had to squint a little bit, but if you looked hard enough, you could see room for improvement.
Way down near the end of the bench, past the veteran contributors that included a savvy David West and surprisingly effective JaVale McGee, the Warriors had some underwhelming frontcourt youth. First-round pick Kevon Looney didn’t bring much to the table, and James Michael McAdoo may have been worse. Again, it’s not as if the Warriors needed much from the end of their roster, but at least opponents could take comfort in seeing some chink in the armor. The Warriors were deep, but they weren’t that deep. Guess what? Now, they are.
During this year’s draft—a draft in which the Warriors had zero picks—they somehow managed to come away winners. They acquired 38th overall pick Jordan Bell from the Chicago Bulls for cash considerations, a universally-praised move for a player who seemed to be a perfect fit for Golden State’s roster and aspirations. At 22 years old, Bell was considered by many to be the most NBA-ready defender in the entire draft. He had plenty of question marks around his offensive game, but on a team like the Warriors, who cares?
Since draft night, Bell has consistently made the Warriors look smart for adding him to the mix. He made an immediate impact during the Las Vegas Summer League, including a Draymond-esque “5x5” game in which he recorded five points, six blocks, five steals, five assists, and 11 rebounds. During another outing, he set a summer league record with 16 rebounds.
Bell’s preseason was no less impressive. In the finale against Sacramento, he earned his first start while Draymond was sidelined. He responded with 10 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks in 24 minutes. Again, we saw shades of Draymond in the stat sheet, and the comparisons don’t stop there. Bell is undersized for a big man, but he plays with a relentless competitiveness and makes the most of his athleticism.
Ever since Draymond took the league by storm after earning regular minutes for the Warriors, other teams have been scrambling to find an heir to his unprecedented versatility—to find the next Draymond Green. It’s a fool’s errand, of course. Green is more than a versatile second-round pick who can cover every position. He’s a future Hall-of-Famer who is extremely skilled, intelligent, and arguably the most important player on the best team ever assembled.
Nevertheless, the search for a clone continues. How cruel would it be for the rest of the league if Draymond’s current team has found what everyone else is looking for in the form of Jordan Bell? And on top of that, he’s nothing but a luxury to the Warriors at this point. He can sit back and watch Green and teammate Andre Iguodala to see how defense and versatility can be truly maximized in the NBA.
I’m not sure how long he’ll be sitting, though. Steve Kerr has already mentioned that he’ll play during “certain matchups” while acknowledging that he’s battling for minutes in an already-loaded rotation. If he doesn’t play much at first, it says more about the embarrassment of riches on Golden State’s roster than it does about Bell’s own ability and maturity. What’s certain is that he’ll make Kerr’s rotation decisions more difficult than the likes of Looney or McAdoo ever could.
Hopefully, Bell observes Draymond closely and follows in the footsteps of his fellow second-round pick. The Warriors could use a Green understudy coming off the bench to cover multiple positions and provide a spark of energy. Green is the heart and soul of this squad. When he’s not playing (and with on-court his antics, his absence is always one move away), the Dubs lose a certain edge. Their identity is compromised. If Bell can help in that department, they’ll be that much more difficult to beat. I’d say that’s worth cash considerations.