By Justin Taylor
This is it. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. The day we worked our tails off for all season long. It wasn’t easy but now it’s time to see if our hard work and dedication to losing will pay off in the end. This where the mediocre get separated from the terrible and the terrible separate from the atrocious. Tomorrow, ladies and gentlemen, is the annual big game in Bay Area basketball that I refer to as the Golden State Superbowl. It’s not as if anyone reading is wondering what I’m talking about but for anyone outside the Bay, this is (in my best Marv Albert voice) the NBA Draft Lottery!
At this time every year I’m overcome with excitement and embarrassment all in one breath. On one hand it gives you a sense of optimism that this could be our year. On the other hand it’s just another example of how pathetic our team is every single season. If the ping pong balls bounce our way it’ll give Jerry West, Bob Myers and Joe Lacob a real asset to work with whether it be through the draft or through trade. If we get another bad bounce those three will have their work cut out for them as they fill the roster, sell tickets and do it all without getting booed out of their own building.
The last time we struck it rich it turned out to be fools gold
This is the time where all of the tanking pays off, at least in theory. First off, not all NBA Drafts are created equal. For every Akeem (as Hakeem was known on draft day), Shaquille, C-Webb and LeBron there is a Pervis Ellison, Michael Olowokandi or Joe Smith (aka Soft Serve). This draft falls somewhere in the middle of those examples and for 12 of the 14 lottery teams it probably wasn’t worth tanking games for. This is not the LeBron draft where three of the top five picks were superstars (Chris Bosh was never a superstar) nor is it a remake of 1984 where three of the 20 greatest players of all time came off the board in the first five picks (Olajuwon, Jordan and Barkley). In my mind there is one grand prize in this draft and a bunch of blue ribbons.
If you’ve got a shot at the Unibrow (Anthony Davis) and your team sucks, you tank. The Charlotte Bobcats went above and beyond to give themselves every opportunity to land the one “guaranteed” star in this draft. The Unibrow isn’t Tim Duncan, Patrick Ewing or Hakeem Olajuwon but it’s safe to say he’s no Joe Smith, Kwame Brown or Andrea Bargnani. Since there is only one guy I expect to be a star coming out this year I am calling this the UniWow Draft, which would make tomorrow’s lottery the UniWow Sweepstakes for everyone but the Warriors (because I’ve already established it’s our Superbowl).
Outside of Davis you’ve got Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (a potential all star with a high ceiling but a long way to go to get there), Thomas Robinson (probably the most physically ready prospect of the three) and a substantial drop thereafter. Andre Drummond is a huge man and athletic freak who has yet to pair skills with those physical gifts. He offers the biggest boom or bust potential since he could be a David Robinson type or a DJ Mbenga. Perry Jones invokes names like Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph on a regular basis and I don’t see Warrior fans clamoring for another dose of that medicine. Those last two round out the guys where the reward could potentially outweigh the risk. Based on this assessment of the 2012 NBA draft (one star and four potential all stars) I’ll repeat my original statement that this draft wasn’t worth the tank job for most of the teams involved. I see a lot of really good rotation guys with ten-year careers helping good teams but you don’t tank for solid role players.
The Warriors situation was obviously different. Our choice was to add a top seven pick to next year’s squad by tanking or give away the number eight pick. No grey area there, just facts. Unless we jump to the top three tomorrow I’m not overly impressed with any of the options available at our slot. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t rooting for losses and am not clutching my lucky Chris Mullin (the seventh pick in 1985) bobblehead as I hope for lightning to strike or for the order to stay as is. If I rooted for a less cursed franchise I’d probably be really confident about keeping our pick right now but I don’t and I’m not. Saying we have a 12% chance of moving up and a 75% chance of staying put feels more like a 0% chance of improving and a 50/50 coin flip away from giving our pick to the Jazz.
Last time we really tanked we ended up with this guy instead of Yao Ming
If we do keep our pick I don’t think that it will yield an elite player who will come in and make an immediate impact but that’s not exactly what I’m crossing my fingers for. That would require a lot of dominoes to fall in exactly the right spot and at this point the basketball gods have given no indication that’s on the horizon. Below I’m outlining what I’d like to see happen on draft day in all possible scenarios.
Jump to number 1: Sign the Unibrow as soon as you win the lottery and don’t look back. As an added precaution I’d also wrap him in bubble wrap and lock him in a padded room until training camp starts. Leave nothing to chance. Speaking of leaving nothing to chance, I wouldn’t make any other major moves until the season starts, our current core is healthy and you have a solid idea of how Uni stacks up against NBA competition right now. At that point the Rush and McGuire re-signings fill out the roster and we are starting to look like contenders. If he pans out as expected I’d actually look to move Curry in a package for Rajon Rondo to make Uni, Lee and Bogut more effective on offense while making us one of the best defensive teams in the league. That’s getting way too far ahead of myself so lets look at the other scenarios.
Jump to number 2: Draft Kidd-Gilchrist and follow that up by trading Dick Jefferson and Dorrell Wright to anyone with some magic beans to spare. You’d still want to resign Rush and McGuire for depth, shooting and versatility but you would have your small forward of the future if not the present.
Jump to number 3: I think I’d be torn between Robinson and Drummond because you get into the classic argument of ceiling vs. NBA ready. Robinson will contribute in the defense and rebounding departments immediately while Drummond could end up the best player in the draft or good for nothing but six fouls in a worst-case scenario. This is where Jerry West’s scouting and intuition will be put to its biggest test in Golden State. Before we go on the clock I would expect the selection to be shopped heavily. I think the team would be better if you moved Biedrins, Wright and the pick to Philly for Andre Iguodala but I’d listen to arguments against it.
Stay at number 7: Shop till you drop young Bob Myers. Unless the Logo says he really likes someone who will be on the board at that point I’m looking at every single option available. The trades won’t be nearly as sweet and would require more risk then they would with the second or third picks but believe it or not I’ve got a few thoughts on that…
Trade #1: Biedrins, Wright, the Udoh trade exception, the #7, #35 and #52 picks to Atlanta for Joe Johnson and Zaza Pachulia. Sounds crazy but it saves the Hawks almost $40 million dollars. I’d be vary weary of those last two years on Johnson’s contract but it makes us the best shooting, most balanced offense in the entire league if they go for it.
Trade #2: Richard Jefferson and Dorell Wright or the Udoh trade exception (whichever they prefer) plus the #7 pick and the second rounders for Rudy Gay. Again, it might sound crazy but it saves another small market team $20 million after signing the pick.
You can see the common theme of any trade involving the seventh pick involves a lot of risk in terms of dollars but one thing that Lacober hasn’t been since arriving is cheap. They may be ridiculously big talkers but they are also big spenders looking to make a splash while trying to give half of the fan base a reason to stay on board as they threaten to leave Oakland. I’ll have more on that soon but until then, come on lucky number 7!