It is a bit surprising to see a team that has so vigorously kept its nose above the cellar of the Western Conference trade market for the better part of the past 20 years make such drastic changes.
And yet in the past 48-plus hours, the Warriors made three transactions with three different teams, sending away four different players and acquiring two players and two draft picks in return.
Oh, and on the court, the Dubs have won one game and lost another.
Whew. What a crazy past couple of days.
A quick summation reveals—Golden State sent its best player (Monta Ellis), best interior defender (sophomore Ekpe Udoh), a center who’s likely out for the season (Kwame Brown), and a player who they only recently acquired (Stephen Jackson) for a soon-to-be 32-year-old small forward (Richard Jefferson), a center who’s likely out for the season (Andrew Bogut), a soon-to-be-retired backup point guard (T.J. Ford) and a first and second-round draft pick in the 2012 NBA Lottery.
Quite a lot of action for a team that is currently four games under .500 and is holding down the 13th spot in the Western Conference. There hasn’t been that much activity from a losing professional sports team since…their neighboring Oakland Athletics circa two months ago.
The revamped Warriors front office, consisting of new Owner Joe Lacob, General Manager Larry Riley and uber-advisor Jerry West, have stated all along in their short tenure together that they want the Warriors to return to league legitimacy, with the end result being, of course, regular postseason berths and contention for an NBA title.
As proof of how serious they are about their lofty goals and high expectations, the Warriors, of all teams, were one of the few teams whispered throughout the preseason and season as possible suitors for trade-market commodities Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.
Yes, the Golden State Warriors! The same franchise that has not had an All-Star since choke-gate was mentioned as the potential landing spot for two different All-NBA players.
Obviously, even involvement in the rumor mills suggests that the new Warriors regime is dedicated to turning this team around—and fast. Certainly the organization has made more effort in the past few months toward building a winning team than in the previous several years combined.
And the biggest example of how serious they are about taking those necessary steps is the dealing of the team’s best all-around player over the past seven seasons—Monta Ellis.
Much to the dismay of Warrior fans, the Dubs had to make this deal.
The players had become entirely distracted by the gossip surrounding the team’s interest in moving either Ellis or Stephen Curry—or both. In pulling the trigger on this semi-blockbuster trade, the Warriors get a big man, something they have coveted ever since Chris Webber’s short-lived series nearly 20 years ago.
In fact, the set of swaps has their general manager so giddy and excited about the direction the team is headed, he’s starting to become slightly delirious.
During the team’s Thursday announcement of the multitude of transactions, Riley commented that that current roster is a “playoff roster.” According to ibabuzz.com, Riley went on to say that the “roster has improved by leaps and bounds,” and that the team is ready to “grab the brass ring.”
It is assumed, of course, that he meant the NBA championship ring—not a regular season participation award ring or an eighth-seed-in-the-playoffs ring. The Warriors truly believe they have a postseason-worthy roster—of course, the asterisk disclaims that it would have to be in 2013.
When the dust settles from the trade buzz, Warriors fans will scratch their collective heads and come to realize that all the hocus-pocus wheeling and dealing means the team has settled on next season for their ambition to return to the playoffs.
After all, the players who the Warriors acquired include a broken center, Bogut, who may or may not return this season after sustaining an ankle fracture in January. Meanwhile, Ford, who has a history of injuries throughout his entire basketball career, announced his retirement last Monday, after sustaining another fright to his surgically-repaired neck.
The only healthy body the Dubs attained is Jefferson, an ordinary player who has averaged 16 points and five rebounds in his 10-year career.
Is he really the difference maker on the perimeter the Warriors have hoped for? Really?
Nothing exactly jumps out about Jefferson. He’s a likeable teammate who regularly plays hard within whichever system he’s played for. But he’s not a leader or playmaker that comes with the playoff experience he brings to the team.
Oh, and the Dubs already have a wing player in Dorell Wright. By picking up Jefferson and the $10.2 million left on his contract next season, did the Warriors just acquire a sixth man in exchange for Ellis?
Obviously the real gem of the exchanges is Bogut. But, again, he’s probably not coming back into form until next season, unless the Warriors make the playoffs this season.
Let’s remember that Bogut has not had a healthy career in the NBA, having missed over 100 games in six-plus seasons with Milwaukee. The Dubs are taking a big risk on obtaining a big (injury-prone) man. Of course, that risk is for next year. Not this one.
Though management and head coach Mark Jackson will never give up on reaching the postseason this year—which they shouldn’t—it’s pretty much solidified that the Dubs will not climb back into the playoff picture in the next few weeks. Not without Bogut, not without Ellis, not without their (former) best defender, Udoh, and not without a healthy Stephen Curry, who has missed several games nursing a recurring ankle injury.
Make no mistake—Golden State did what it had to do in order to shake up the makeup of the team. It’s impressive enough that they splashed around in the deep end of the trade pool to make such aggressive transactions. It cannot be easy to trade the face of the franchise in Ellis, and a tremendous fan favorite.
But, be realistic—the Warriors are not shooting for the playoffs this season. With all that they’ve done in the past week, it’s clear that their goal is to be relevant in 2013.
Warriors fans will have to be patient. Again.
Follow me on Twitter: @nathanieljue
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