With an upcoming companion piece on Ryan Anderson and his chances with the Nets
I suggested in mid-June, not long before the draft, that it may be better for Sheldon High product DeMarcus Nelson to not get picked, as much of an ego blow as it may be. Rather than go to the team that selected him, probably late in the second round, he could choose a preferred location, the best system to fit his athletic game, and the roster with the greatest need for a backcourt defender.
That's the Warriors. That's the Warriors in almost every way -- Northern California, speedball, and definitely desperate for defenders.
It could be a nice little story. Well-liked guy, born in Oakland, played three seasons at Vallejo High before transferring to Sheldon for his senior year. Maybe help rescue the Warriors in the wake of the Monta Ellis ankle injury and the playoff appearance in 2007 and near miss in '08 that is looking more like an outsider's chance in '09.
Or it could be a massive letdown waiting to happen.
Ideal situation or not, it doesn't change the reality that Nelson is on the bubble, even as the second-best defender in the backcourt (behind swingman Stephen Jackson), even with Ellis expected to miss months, even with a level of toughness and a heart the Warriors love. His offense is just not good enough, and most anyone who isn't at least a decent shooter from the perimeter is going to have a hard time playing for Don Nelson.
DeMarcus Nelson says he doesn't consider himself a longshot to make the team. Maybe it's great confidence. Maybe it's misreading the situation. But the Warriors place him firmly on the bubble.
The Don Nelson interview:
Question: How does DeMarcus fit into the team as you begin training camp?
Answer: I don't know. He's got an outside chance to make it.
Q: Do you see him strictly as a shooting guard?
A: No. I would hope that he can be somewhere between a point and a shooting guard. I'm not sure. He's not really a great shooter. He does some good things. He guards and he has great size, is athletic and a lot of things, but I wouldn't call him a shooter.
Q: How much better does he need to get as a point guard to have a better chance?
A: He's got a lot of improvement to make. I don't even know what he played in college. He was probably more of a combo guard, wasn't he?
Nellie is good with blunt.
There's also reason for believing: DeMarcus is friends with Matt Barnes. Both Sacramento products, both stars in high school who played at star-power colleges (Nelson at Duke, Barnes at UCLA), both guys who arrived in Oakland needing to win a spot as opposed to not losing one. Barnes beat long odds and became an important contributor, spending two seasons there before signing with the Suns for 2008-09.
Barnes, who should know, gave Nelson positive reviews that the Warriors would give him a real chance to earn something, and the running system was obviously a fit.
The roster is at 17. Surviving two cuts is not unrealistic in a camp with Dion Dowell and Rob Kurz. If DeMarcus, the Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Duke, puts the clamps on a lot of opponents in the exhibition games, his chances of seeing opening night in Oakland get a lot better.