Why the Golden State Warriors Should Sign Aaron Craft

By Mike Young on July 21, 2014 at 10:45a
Yo, Golden State. You should really, really sign Aaron Craft.

After going undrafted a month ago, Aaron Craft's chances of making an NBA roster seemed improbable, but his stint with the Golden State Warriors' summer league team completely reversed that notion. 

There's no guarantee he will appear at Warriors' training camp in the fall, but they would be wise to extend that invite. Craft has already cleared one of the biggest hurdles for any undrafted player by winning over Golden State's coaching staff. Even before the Warriors hired him, former TNT and CBS basketball analyst Steve Kerr was a Craft admirer: 

Perhaps it was a calculated move by Craft's agent, Lance Young, to push for a spot on the Warriors' summer league team. Since Craft arrived, Kerr has been consistent and, at times, borderline outlandish with his praise for the former Buckeye point guard: 

Usually, terms such as "winner," "grit" and "hustle" are reserved for overachieving, white players on the football field. People scoff when those adjectives are used by broadcasters and journalists, but, when it's coming from an NBA head coach, that's when Craft can truly take pride in those words. Wide-scale criticism of Craft largely stems from the hyperbole, but he brushes it aside.

"There was a lot of stuff, a lot of ideas thrown out there – I’m white, I’m short, other people can do what I do. Things like that," Craft told ESPN.com. "For me, if anything, it could have taken some pressure off my teammates. I felt comfortable handling it and dealing with it." 

Criticism was warranted due to the lack of improvement with his jump-shot mechanics. In his freshman season at Ohio State, Craft hit 38 percent of his three-point attempts. By the end of his senior season, that dipped below 31 percent. The lack of floor spacing by the rest of his team didn't help, but neither did Craft's constant attempts to overhaul his jumper. 

Since graduation, Craft has continued to work on those flaws.

"The biggest thing I’m trying to show is there have been improvements since the last time they saw me," he told our Kyle Rowland, before the NBA Draft combine. "I’m more than willing to put in the work, the time and the effort needed. I’m going to enjoy the process because this is the game of basketball, and, it turns out, you tend to play a little better that way."

With the Warriors, Craft hit three of his nine long-range attempts. More importantly, he's learning from a guy who is the most efficient three-point shooter in NBA history. As with many first-year head coaches, Kerr is leading the summer league squad and implementing his system with some of the team's young players.

Golden State did not have a pick in this year's draft, so the only players on their roster who also competed in the summer league were Festus Ezeli, Ognjen Kuzmic and Nemanja Nedovic. Of that group, Nedovic is the only point guard. So, as far as experience within Kerr's system, Craft is on equal footing with him.

Beyond Nedovic, Stephen Curry and the newly-signed Shaun Livingston are the point guards on their roster. Obviously, Craft isn't competing with Curry – the best pure shooter in the NBA – or the 6-foot-7-inch Livingston, who played 26 minutes per game for the Brooklyn Nets last season. Nedovic's spot, however, is tenuous. 

As the Mercury News' Tim Kawakami wrote, the Warriors have not been impressed by Nedovic and will be forced to make a decision on his $1.15 million option for the 2015-16 season by the beginning of this year. With Klay Thompson's new deal, the team potentially exercising options on Ezeli and Harrison Barnes, plus $56.1 million committed to five other players, Golden State has limited financial flexibility. If they waive Nedovic and sign Craft, they could save approximately $500,000. Craft's potential contract wouldn't be fully guaranteed, so they could save even more. 

Finances aren't the only reasons why Craft would be preferable to Nedovic:

A small sample size here, but Craft's 80.5 defensive rating – an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions – and his 5.57 steal percentage – the amount of opponent possessions that ended in a steal while he was on the floor – were among the 10 best in the Las Vegas summer league. As a team, the Warriors' plus-minus with Craft on the floor was plus-34, and negative-31 with him on the bench. 

He is still turnover prone, but Craft wouldn't be that much of a downgrade from Nedovic in that area. According to Kawakami, "NBA talent evaluators looked at Nedovic this summer and still don’t see any single stand-out facet in his game and still see a lot of horrible ones." That's the worst endorsement you can possibly get while trying to prove your worth to an NBA team.

Ideally, neither Craft nor Nedovic would be a factor with this year's Warriors. If that's the case, they can shed the hassle of dealing with Nedovic, and let Craft develop with the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State's D-League squad. As Craft told ESPN, his approach to the game separates him from players in a similar position. That's something even an accomplished star, such as Curry, can learn from Craft.

"If I’m going to make it," Craft said, "I have to be better shape than pretty much any guy on the floor."


Comments Show All Comments

KBonay's picture

Obviously for the Lady Warrior Fans #Swoon

+8 HS
AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

I will instantaneously be a lady warrior fan. Or any lady (insert team who signs him ) fan. #myswoonisfierce

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

+6 HS
Mortc15's picture

Glad to hear that he's at least getting a chance to compete for a roster spot. Hopefully, he can improve a bit more on his jump shot and turnovers and make the roster as the 3rd point guard. 


+2 HS
coolhand850's picture

I still can not believe Deshaun Thomas could not help any NBA team, coming off the bench??? I wish Cleveland would pick him up! Go Craft!

mfelten's picture

For league minimum, any team should want him as their 15th man simply to make your starters face his defense in practice.

+30 HS
Baroclinicity's picture

Absolutely.  Great comment.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

+2 HS
CTBuckeye's picture

Great point - I'm sure Kerr sees a little of himself in Craft as well.  Not the shooting part of course, but a specialized player than can make others around him better, both in practice and during games.

"Because we couldn't go for three"

+3 HS
Shangheyed's picture

No Doubt... was thinking the same thing...

I believe with him solely focused on Hoops his shot will improve, he has always been a student athlete focusing on both academics and basketball.  Pre-Med is no joke classes... 100% focused on hoops... My money is on Craft getting better and fast.

vitaminB's picture

Shooting in the balls of heart craft....bang bang....he is a warrior.  (I've been awake for over 36 hours)  Staff Duty sucks.

+4 HS
NitroBuck's picture

Like the Patty Smyth reference...old school.

Ferio.  Tego.

+2 HS
vitaminB's picture

It's poorly constructed, but I feel like there is something there.

+4 HS
BuckeyeChief's picture

LMAO, I am fighting for orders right now...

"2014 National Champions...deal with it!!!"

NitroBuck's picture

Get 'em Aaron!

Ferio.  Tego.

+1 HS
jeremytwoface's picture

#SWOON #ManCrush

I always thought there was a spot on some roster for him just for his defensive efforts alone. 

And when we win the game, we'll buy a keg of boooooooooze!! And we'll drink to old Ohio 'till we wobble in our shoes.

+1 HS
Fogt13's picture

Craft is the man! I didnt think he had NBA tallent but I hope he gets a shot. He is a smart enough  kid though that if this falls through he will end up just fine.

Go Buckeyes! Go Bengals! Go Reds!
My true love will always be Rosie

+1 HS
toad1204's picture

AC much like KG is both underrated in his craft.  They'll both make it good pro's just need to do a little refining to their respective games. 

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

Burritos Noches's picture

Not sure if like him sporting the Blue and Gold... but if it pleases our demi-god Aaron Craft than it shall be so.

"3 yards and a cloud of dust" - Woody "Pow Right In The Kisser" Hayes

+4 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Warriors will be even better if Aaron signs. So happy for his future. He is one Buckeye that will be fun to watch.

+1 HS
Buckeye1004's picture

I'm just glad he's getting a chance.  After what he did for us, it's good to see he is getting at least a shot at the next level.  And knowing (not personally) Craft, he'll make the most of it.  Good Luck Aaron!

+1 HS
CincyBucks's picture

If only hecould shoot the ball. God bless Aaron craft. 


+2 HS
Fly Patterns's picture

Can someone clarify how this works?  when do teams have to "pick up" someone from Summer League?  And once a team does that, do they have to sign the player to a contract or does the player have to make the team all over again in the Fall?

j12harris's picture

Mike Young,   Racism  " reserved for White Football Players


ibuck's picture

and let Craft develop with the Santa Cruz Warriors

Living in Santa Cruz while chasing your dream would be sweet!

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

PasadenaBuckeye626's picture

People say he cannot shoot, but I watched the NBA draft and the scouting report on every player was that they cannot shoot.  

Go Bucks!

+1 HS
Michael Citro's picture

I demand a photoshop in which Aaron Craft replaces Patty Smyth on this album cover:

Mike Young's picture

Craaaaaaftt come out to plaaaayyyy-yayy

Shangheyed's picture

Maybe Craft should grow his hair...

Brutus's picture

I work in Oakland and live in the east bay.  I could really get behind Craft in a Warriors uniform. If he makes the roster, I will run out the same day and buy my The City shirt (which is kind of sweet already).

2002osubuck's picture

All I know is when Craft played with Sullinger, he ran the team really well and got all the right guys the ball. I think he might actually do better in the NBA because he just has to play good D and distribute the ball to the shooters. If that 5'6" guy, Barea or whatever, played for the Mavs during their title run then Craft can.

+1 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Indeed can fast become a nice second PG option, and a defensive stopper... will not hurt you, put him in to protect the lead or on spot defensive duities resting your starter... and is a winner asset to your bench and your basketball locker room culture.  

What is the reason for him not making a roster shooting?   I think shooting seems to be a problem with a lot of pros in their first few years in the league...and is the skill-set that can be most improved.  Your not going to suddenly develop defensive stopper ability or mentality... your not going to suddenly become a good passer always finding the open man... shooting CAN be improved. 

Fingers crossed.... selfishly, I would love to see him play more.... wouldn't it be awesome to see him in Boston with Sully again... and Turner!  Thad5   2.0

BuckeyeDevil's picture

As a Findlay resident with a daughter who attends Liberty Benton where Aaron played, I am hoping that he earns a spot on the team.