Can you imagine if the Golden State Warriors hadn’t drafted Klay Thompson, or if the San Antonio Spurs hadn’t drafted Kawhi Leonard?
It almost happened, according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who on Tuesday revealed that both teams tried to trade up for Jonas Valanciunas in the 2011 draft that produced Thompson and Leonard, two of the best players in the league.
Via The Vertical:
Five and half years ago, a call had come into [Bob] Myers inside the Warriors’ facility. Within 48 hours of the 2011 draft, the San Antonio Spurs had flown in Thompson for a clandestine workout and meeting with Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford.
Myers had known the Spurs were aggressively pushing for a trade into the Toronto Raptors’ fifth spot to draft Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas, a move the Warriors wanted to make themselves. Short of that deal, Myers had a sneaking suspicion that the Spurs were moving toward a Plan B: cutting a deal to bound over the Warriors’ 11th overall pick and take Thompson.
Golden State believed this, too: At No. 10, the Milwaukee Bucks wanted to draft Thompson as well.
“Consensus was hard with our group,” Myers once told me, “but we had it with drafting Klay.”
History changed course on draft night, when the Bucks traded out of No. 10 and the Sacramento Kings moved into the spot – wanting Jimmer Fredette.
Before long, the Spurs were finalizing a deal to get to No. 15 for their own franchise-changing player: Kawhi Leonard.
Valanciunas ended up being selected with the fifth pick by the Raptors. He is a good player and potentially an All-Star down the road, but he is nowhere near the type of superstar players that Thompson and Leonard have become.
Thompson, a two-time All-Star and NBA champion, is arguably the best shooting guard in the NBA right now. Meanwhile, Leonard is the best two-player in the league after winning Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back years.
Safe to say the Spurs and Warriors are happy they weren’t successful in trading up for Valanciunas. The players they got instead are doing better than expected.