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Sunday January 17th, 2021 8:04AM

Warriors GM Myers faces draft challenges like no other year

By The Associated Press
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Bob Myers hears the chatter about everything riding on Golden State's draft pick at No. 2 overall.

About all the pressure on his shoulders to find just the right player to join Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, star forward Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. Someone who will make an instant impact and immediately help the Warriors return to contention and respectability following a last-place finish.

All the social media speculation, oh yes, the Warriors' general manager is aware of the intrigue. Might they possibly trade away their pick for flexibility to build another super team, or will they choose to use it?

“I read all that stuff, too. I was like, ‘I feel the weight,’” Myers joked on a recent Zoom call. "I feel like every year, everything you do is make-or-break, trade, draft, I don’t know. But you can’t really think like that. You’ve got to operate not out of fear. So, hopefully we get it right, and if you don’t, you deal with that. That’s the life I chose. ... Maybe I should feel more pressure. Pressure is an interesting thing. If I screw it up, I probably blame myself more than Twitter can do it or you, I suppose, or anyone."

In the midst of a pandemic, Golden State couldn't bring players in to work out at Chase Center, have them examined by team medical personnel on site or take a prospective pick to dinner at a fine Bay Area restaurant.

That doesn't mean Myers couldn't find a bit of a reason to smile after securing the second selection in Wednesday's draft.

“I joked a little bit, but all you have to like is two guys,” Myers said.

Yet this is an unfamiliar place for Myers and the Warriors, who floundered last season without Thompson the entire way and two-time MVP Curry for almost all of it. They had to rely largely on youth after five straight runs to the NBA Finals.

The challenge of evaluating prospects is far more daunting given that the coronavirus shut down sports last spring and knocked out the NCAA Tournament — key games for NBA scouts to identify talent and potential fits for their franchises.

For Myers, the process of identifying players and developing a draft board happened right away. That began even before Golden State found out its position, because the Warriors knew they would have a high pick after a disappointing season as they played their first year at new Chase Center in San Francisco.

They finished 15-50 for the NBA’s worst record, with Thompson out recovering from ACL surgery on his left knee and Curry nursing a broken left hand and missing more than four months. Two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant departed in free agency to join the Brooklyn Nets.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had more time or more runway to figure that part out,” Myers said of placing names on the board.

“But now we know what pick we have, so whether that means more virtual contact with certain players, whether that means more meetings probably internally, more film, we’ll be able to focus more, the gap between the fifth pick and the first or second pick, it certainly narrows your scope. If we had the fifth pick, I think you’re looking at a much broader range of guys.”

With so many fewer games to watch players because of COVID-19, Myers credits everyone from agents to scouts and executives and players and their colleges for doing their best, because “it makes for a lot of unknowns. It makes for a lot of variables that we’re not accustomed to dealing with.”

The Warriors were on track to use all of their allowed 10 pre-draft visits, which can include a meal (socially distanced and safely done, of course).

Not having had the NCAA Tournament doesn't necessarily mean much, if you ask coach Steve Kerr.

“There have been guys who've had great runs in the NCAA Tournament who maybe got drafted higher,” Kerr said. “I know James Harden had a tough go in the NCAA Tournament with ASU and didn't play particularly well and the guy's one of the greatest players in the history of the game, so it goes both ways. You take that with a grain of salt. I think the hardest part this year is just not having the volume of games that you'd like to see. Some of these guys were limited to just a handful of games on tape, so it makes for a very difficult evaluation.”

Again, Myers is keeping the mood as light as can be despite the obstacles.

“I’m open to suggestions. Who should we draft? I’m open," he said. "Should I put on a suit?”

___

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