Patrick McCaw grows into NBA shoes

Patrick McCaw is a changed man.

Last year, the shy, skinny, 20-year old looked nervous in the halls of his college team fielding questions from reporters after his first NBA action.

This year the skinny, 21-year-old gregariously chatted with an ever-growing horde of reporters like he had just sank a game-winner after his first Summer League game.

He hadn’t. His 3-point shot rimmed out as time expired.

But that didn’t stunt his confidence:

“Oh for sure I thought that was in. I was thinking of a celebration [laughs], but clearly that didn’t happen.”

And who can blame the kid. When you come off a rookie season where you start 20 games and average 15 minutes per contest for the NBA champions as a second-round pick, your confidence would surely be boosted. Well, that, and seeing action in every Finals game and not looking overmatched at all.

His play throughout the course of the season gave the Warriors organization all the confidence to hypothetically lose key contributors in free agency without missing a beat.

They would eventually retain Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, but that wasn’t a guarantee until Kevin Durant took a pay cut.

Warriors GM Bob Myers said that without Durant taking less money they would probably have had to choose between Iguodala and Livingston, which would have been less than ideal. But having the versatility of McCaw would have kept it from being catastrophic.

Now with both of them back, McCaw can slide into whatever role he’s comfortable with, most likely taking those Ian Clark minutes as the de facto point guard on the second unit next to new signee Nick Young.

But don’t be shocked if he eats some of Livington or Iguodala’s minutes and possibly close some games alongside Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. He made a few cameos in that lineup during the season but had a few hiccups not looking for his shot at all, especially after all the attention was drawn away.

That’s understandable when you’re a rookie and you aren’t sure you should be taking shots away from some of the best shooters of all-time:

“I’m playing with arguably the best shooters ever to play the game, so when I get catches and I’m wide open, I’m not sure if I should shoot it or not. But I’m definitely getting more comfortable … When start asserting myself early, that’s when my shot starts falling. When I kind of wait and my shots aren’t falling, I stop shooting.”

But McCaw doesn’t look like that kid anymore. In his NBA Summer League debut, he led the Warriors with 25 points on 10-of-20 shots and five 3-pointers and was the antithesis of bashful. He shot 4-of-7 from behind the arc in the first half alone — the most he attempted in any single game last season was six, and the most he ever made was three.

All the buzz about the incoming draft class made McCaw want to show out he says:

“Coming out the Summer League everybody’s talking about all the top picks and things like that. I’m coming to show that I’ve got a year under my belt and I’ve grown as a basketball player. To be able to show guys I’ve been getting better, that’s all I want to do.”

He’s done just that. He’s in the top 12 in scoring of prospects who have played in all three games in Vegas averaging 18 points per gamemore than top picks Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball averaged combined.

And even when he wasn’t playing his best, scoring just nine points in the second game and missing two key free throws that could have won the third game, he’s still able to stay confident and even have some fun on Twitter.

Last year after his first Summer League game, after he missed a game-winning floater, McCaw coyly boarded the team bus out of the arena. This year, after missing a total of two game-winners he swaggered out of the tunnel, dapping up every security guard in reach.

He’s a different guy.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.