Travis Schlenk became general manager of the Atlanta Hawks in March, but before that, he spent more than a decade with the Golden State Warriors. He arrived prior to the 2004-05 season as a video scout and worked his way up to assistant general manager, reporting to general manger Bob Myers and assisting in day-to-day basketball operations.
Thus, Schlenk, as much as anyone, knows exactly how the Warriors became the juggernaut of the NBA.
So, how was it done?
“Dumb luck I guess is the easy answer,” Schlenk joked on CBS Sports Radio’s Reiter Than You. “No, when I first started in the front office there, it took seven years from that time to when we won our first championship. So you start by getting the right characters in the locker room. You obviously have to get lucky in the draft, which, we were able to get guys like Steph and Klay and Draymond sprinkled seven to 11 all the way to 35.”
Indeed, Curry was the seventh overall pick in 2009, Thompson went 11th in 2011, and Green went 35th in 2012. That trio led the Warriors to the NBA title in 2015, a record 73 wins in 2016, and another NBA title in 2017, this after going 16-1 in the postseason.
“It takes a little bit of luck in the draft because it’s not an exact science,” Schlenk said. “What really started to change the franchise around is when the new ownership group – Joe Lacob and Peter Guber and their group – bought it. We went from a team that was selling draft picks to a team that was buying draft picks. When you have an ownership group that’s invested and willing to put the money in, that really is the building block of a franchise.”
With Curry, Thompson, Green, and Kevin Durant all in their 20s, there’s no telling what this group can accomplish together. But with two titles in three years – and with more seemingly on the way – could the Warriors go down as one of the best teams or dynasties in NBA history?
In a word, yes.
“I grew up in the era of Jordan,” Schlenk said, conflicted. “It’s hard for me, as a young man, to think that somebody’s better than that team because those were the teams for me – just like when you talk to people that talk about the Celtics of the ’80s, the Lakers of the late-80s. But I think as time goes by and you look at what this group’s accomplished to this point – and probably what they’re going to accomplish in the next few years – it’s going to be hard to say that they’re certainly not at the top or the top team. They’re going to put up unbelievable statistics for the next few years.”