Friday Five: Warriors' five best players since 1988

Friday Five: Warriors' five best players since 1988
August 22, 2014, 1:30 pm
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This may come as a surprise to some, but Sprewell at his peak was the best Warriors players since Rick Barry in the 1970s.
Monte Poole

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The emphasis this week is on the stars and superstars who make the NBA what it is, a global force growing by the hour. We're keeping it local. This is Warriors only.

We're listing the five best Warriors to come along in the last quarter century. It's not exactly a team, because we're not filling the five typical starting positions. We're going with the five we think were the best to wear the jersey since 1988-89.

This is not about statistics. The list is 1-through-5, with consideration for length of service in a Warriors jersey.

Welcome to the weekly Friday Five.

1) Latrell Sprewell, 6-5 shooting guard, six years as a Warrior

This may come as a surprise to some, but Sprewell at his peak was the best Warriors players since Rick Barry in the 1970s. We have our reasons.

One, Spree was complete. He was voracious on offense, soaring to the rim and firing 3-pointers, and a ferocious defender. Two, he was (initially) a devoted team player. He was no Michael Jordan – nobody was – but at least the equal of Scottie Pippen.

Sprewell, taken 24th overall in the 1992 draft, was a three-time All-Star – and the only Warriors guard ever to be named All-NBA first team. Yes, he was a different kind of cat and his time with the franchise ended with despicable behavior. But deserves to be atop this list.

2) Stephen Curry, 6-foot-3 point guard, five years as a Warrior

Curry last season made his first All-Star team and did so as a starter. The seventh player taken in the 2009 draft, he battled some injuries early but has been pretty healthy over the past two seasons and continues to improve. He could pass Sprewell.

[RELATED: Curry: Timing made Jackson's dismissal 'hard to deal with']

Curry is a star on the verge of superstar territory partly because he's an outstanding playmaker but mostly because he's the most creatively accurate shooter in the league. There are reasons he's certain to be chosen for to the Team USA roster.

Moreover, Curry owns a unique distinction on the All-Warriors team because he alone is, without question, one of the most entertaining players in the NBA. Players around in the league wouldn't even try to argue.

3) Baron Davis, 6-3 point guard, 3[1/2] years as a Warrior

Of all the players on this team, BD comes closest to performing a one-man turnaround. He came relatively cheap in a trade (February 2005) because he was disgruntled and perceived, justifiably, as damaged goods. He turned out to be a steal.

In Davis' first full season, the Warriors won 34 games. In his second, they won 42, snapped a 13-year playoff drought pulled an historic first-round upset. In his third, the Warriors won 48 games (but somehow missed the playoffs), achieving successive winning seasons for the first time in 16 years. We Believe.

BD brought credibility to a franchise without it. He was, considering his starless supporting cast, the team's most dynamic catalyst since Rick Barry in the 1970s.

4) Chris Mullin, 6-7 small forward, 13 seasons (two stints) as a Warrior

Mullin arrived as the seventh player taken in the 1985 draft, a heralded All-America from the playgrounds of New York by way of St. John's. He was a disappointment, pudgy and ponderous but with a nice jumper. He was an alcoholic.

After a month in rehab, he emerged lean and focused and quick enough to be slick enough to become the all-time Warriors leader in steals. His jumper only got better.

A five-time All-Star and a member of the original Dream Team, Mullin played angles on defense but was a complete small forward on offense. He could drive left or right, shoot with both hands and make the blind pass. He was a middle-class man's Rick Barry, and Barry ranks behind only Wilt Chamberlain as the greatest Warrior ever.

5) Tim Hardaway, 6-foot point guard, seven years (six seasons) as a Warrior

The "T'' in Run-TMC wasn't much of a defender. But Hardaway was absolutely fearless and a multidimensional offensive force, draining timely 3-pointers, feeding teammates for easy layups and dunks, and destroying defenders with his killer crossover, originally known as the UTEP Two-Step from his collegiate days.

[RELATED: Richmond's induction reminds us of what might have been]

Mitch Richmond recently described Hardaway as a guy who came in as a rookie (14th overall pick in 1989) and immediately seized the role of team leader. He did it with ridiculous skills and unvarnished bravado.

Hardaway was a three-time All-Star as a Warrior and the ringleader of one of the most entertaining squads in franchise history. Only legendary Oscar Robertson surpassed the 5,000-points/2,500 assists mark faster.

For those howling about the absence of Monta Ellis or David Lee or Chris Webber or Mitch Richmond, their exclusions are simple. Webber played only one year. Lee and Ellis, while clearly stars, don't outshine the others.

Richmond? He played only three years, and played alongside Hardaway and Mullin. He lost a narrow decision to Sprewell, arguably his equal as a two-way player.