It’s a scene that would have been easy to imagine a year ago at this time: MVP chants raining down from the Chase Center for a star performance as the Golden State Warriors won their first game in their new building. It played out exactly that way on Monday, only this time within an unthinkable context that made for a surreal situation in the light of present day.
The chants weren’t for Stephen Curry, who is out up to three months with a broken hand. They weren’t for Kevin Durant, who has signed with the Brooklyn Nets, or for Klay Thompson, who is out with a torn ACL. They weren’t for Draymond Green (torn finger ligament), D’Angelo Russell (sprained ankle), or even Kevon Looney (neuropathic issue), who were all sidelined with separate injuries.
No, the Golden State Warriors won their first game in their $1B arena off a breakout performance from ... Eric Paschall. It came with strong supporting efforts from Ky Bowman, Jordan Poole, and Damion Lee. This is the Warriors’ new reality.
Few NBA fans would have been able to identify those names a year ago, but they’re deeply familiar to people who follow college basketball. This is how the new Warriors did in college to earn their place in the league.
How did the Warriors get him? Drafted with the No. 41 selection in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Paschall has been an early season revelation for the Warriors, scoring at least 20 points in three of his first seven games and giving Steve Kerr a versatile offensive forward with shooting range beyond the three-point arc and the strength to finish inside.
None of this is new to those who watched Villanova over the last few years. After starting his career at Fordham, Paschall transferred to Nova and sat out the season as the Wildcats won the 2016 national title on Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater vs. UNC. When he gained eligibility, Paschall immediately became one of the program’s most dependable and productive players.
Paschall started every game for the team during its charmed run to the national championship in the 2017-18 season. Nova was absolutely loaded that year, with national player of the year Jalen Brunson (now of the Mavericks) and three first-round draft picks in the lineup: Mikal Bridges (Suns), Donte DiVincenzo (Milwaukee Bucks), and Omari Spellman (Warriors). It’s no wonder Paschall didn’t get much pub with so much talent around him, but he did play a key role for what might be the best college team of the decade.
Paschall stuck around another year after the rest of Villanova’s core had fled for the NBA, and averaged 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Though he was clearly a powerful athlete at 6’7, 255 pounds with shooting touch and a championship pedigree, scouts doubted how his offense would translate to the highest level and his ability to hold his own defensively.
It doesn’t look like a problem anymore. Paschall looks like a true rookie gem for the Warriors.
How did the Warriors get him? Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2019.
In his first two games as a starter in place of the injured Curry, Ky Bowman dropped 16 points against Charlotte and then 19 points against Portland. It was an eye-opening start to his Warriors career, and it had NBA fans wondering allowed where the hell he came from.
The answer is Boston College, where Bowman was a starter all threes years in school and a second-team All-ACC guard last year. Given all the great players who annually come through that conference, Bowman already looks battled tested as he takes the spotlight in Golden State.
Bowman had plenty of signature moments throughout his college career. He dropped a 30-point near triple-double to key an upset of Marvin Bagley’s Duke team as a sophomore, he scored 37 against Florida State and 44 against Hartford as a junior, and he hit one of the wilder buzzer-beaters of last season.
The fact Bowman is still only on a two-way contract makes his strong start in Golden State even more impressive. For as long as he gets the opportunity, expect Bowman to keep putting up numbers offensively.
How did the Warriors get him? Signed a two-way contract in 2018.
The Warriors faced accusations of nepotism when they signed Lee as an undrafted free agent last year. That’s because Lee is married to Sydel Curry, the younger sister of Stephen.
He’s proving this season that he deserves to be in the league on his own merit: Lee has already scored 23 points against the Pelicans, scored 16 against the Spurs, put up 13 points against the Hornets, and added 18 points to the Warriors’ win against the Trail Blazers.
Lee had a proven track record as a bucket-getter in college. He graduated from Drexel, where he became an all-conference player and spent four years as a starter. Lee decided to grad transfer to Louisville during his final season of eligibility. All he did there was lead the Cardinals in scoring on a team that included Donovan Mitchell as a freshman.
Lee never got a chance to play in the NCAA tournament because Louisville banned itself from the postseason following sex scandal allegations. He went undrafted in 2016, but caught on in the G League, and played 15 games from the Hawks last season before signing with the Warriors.
Lee remains on a two-way contract with Warriors.
How did the Warriors get him? Drafted with the No. 28 pick in the 2018 draft.
Why did Golden State select Poole at the end of the first round? Well ...
Bob Myers on Jordan Poole: "Draymond said he likes him."— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) June 21, 2019
Poole had flashes of brilliance during his two years at Michigan, but never fully put it together. Part of that was simply because Michigan was stacked with talent during his two years under John Beilein. Part of it was because Poole’s shot selection and disciple on both ends left a lot to be desired.
Beilein described Poole as having an “overdose of swag” after his signature college moment: a deep buzzer-beater to send Michigan to the Sweet 16 during his freshman year. They would run all the way to the national title before losing to Villanova.
Poole has scored in double-figures three times already, including scoring 20 against the Spurs. The 20-year-old will be a developmental prospect going forward for Golden State.
How bad have things gotten for the Warriors? They had to cancel practice because they didn’t want to burn the number of days Lee and Bowman are allowed to be with the team as two-way players.
One of the reasons the Warriors didn’t practice yesterday was so they wouldn’t have to count a day against the 45-day limits for two-way guys Ky Bowman and Damion Lee.— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) November 6, 2019
The Warriors are fading fast and should be one of the NBA’s worst teams this season. If nothing else, at least Golden State’s nightmare season has given a few young players the chance to prove themselves at the NBA level.