Before the Warriors traded Monta Ellis to the Bucks, they were in contention for a playoff spot. They had a good deal of momentum, but could not have challenged OKC or San Antonio even if they had snuck into that seventh or eighth spot.
So Golden State's brass made the smart decision, trading assured mediocrity in the present for the chance at something special in the future. In return for Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown, they got an injured Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson (who they turned into Richard Jefferson).
With Bogut sidelined and Stephen Curry's ankle still an issue, it was understood that the Warriors' playoff chances were in the gutter after the trade deadline. However, there was suddenly an incentive to not win as much as possible.
Due to a stipulation from a previous trade, the Dubs' 2012 draft pick is only protected up to No. 7. If it ends up being eight or lower, it will go to the Utah Jazz. Golden State could do a lot with a high draft pick, including addressing holes at backup SG, backup PF or starting SF. If obtained, it might prove extremely beneficial.
After playing mostly poor basketball since the trade deadline, the Warriors are currently 21-32, with only 13 games remaining in this shortened season. Officially, they're not allowed to tank, nor discuss tanking as a viable strategy. Additionally, there are eight obstacles standing in their way to loserdom.
Here they are:
The Pistons have quietly been one of the better bad teams in the league this year. They just beat the Wizards, and now sit at 21-33. It's possible—but unlikely—they will have a better record than the Warriors when the final standings are set.
The Pistons are in the bottom three teams in the league in points, rebounds and assists per game, but their middling defense has kept them from being a complete and utter disaster. Their point differential sits at minus-five, and seven of their final 12 games are against team above .500, including the Heat, Bulls and Pacers.
They have their work cut out for them.
The Raptors are currently 20-35, good for 11th place in the West. They're in the bottom 10 teams in the league in points per game and rebounds per game, and their point differential is more than minus-three.
At 19-35, the Kings are just below the Warriors in the Western Conference standings, but 2.5 games under their Northern California rivals.
The Kings have seen a lot of turmoil this year, facing the firing of Paul Westphal and the ongoing battle to either build a new arena in Sac-Town or move the team to greener pastures.
Through all that, they have managed to compile a tremendously bad point differential (almost minus-six), thanks in large part to their 30th-in-the-league defense, in which they allow 104 points per game.
Needless to say, their season will not end well.
What can I say about New Jersey that hasn't already been said?
They're currently 19-37, good for 12th in a very top-loaded Eastern Conference. They have a star in Deron Williams, but depending on who you ask, their secoond-best player right now is either Kris Humphries or rookie MarShon Brooks. (Pause for dramatic head shake and "tsk" sound).
The Nets' point differential is almost minus-six, and they're in the bottom 10 in every statistical category that matters. Their final stretch of games will have them see Philly (thrice), Boston, Miami and two teams clawing for playoff spots, the Knicks and Bucks.
Without motivation, which they haven't seemed to have for much of the season, I see them racking up more wins than losses in that stretch.
Back in February, it seemed like the Cavs would be able to challenge for a playoff spot in the East. They were playing great team ball with Kyrie Irving at the helm, and Antawn Jamison was having a bit of a late-career renaissance.
February seems like years ago.
In April, Cleveland is 17-35, and they've amassed an average point differential that has soared over minus-6.5. They have difficulty scoring the ball, and don't have a reliable playmaker besides the aforementioned rookie Irving.
The Cavs are in the midst of a nine-game losing streak, which could continue if they don't step up their game. They have a good deal of winnable games in their home stretch, and could conceivably go .500 in their final 14.
The NBA-owned Hornets have been hit by injuries all year, and have never really gelled as a team. This is a big part of the reason the team's scoring has been so anemic (89 points per game on 45 percent shooting).
NOLA only has three players who have hit the 50-game threshold: Marco Belinelli, Greivis Vasquez and Al-Farouq Aminu. All of their most dynamic playmakers have missed significant time, and they even flirted with trading Chris Kaman before the trade deadline.
As it stands, this was essentially a throwaway season for New Orleans anyway. They got a number of tradeable assets in the deal that sent Chris Paul to the Clippers, and will look to make a splash in the offseason to attract a new owner.
With a record of 14-40, the Hornets are a lock for a very high draft pick as well. Eight of their final 12 games are against teams with records over .500, but that hardly matters.
Since that knucklehead JaVale McGee was shipped to Denver for Nene, the Wiz have not made nearly as many headlines for the futility of their attempts at playing basketball, but it hasn't gotten much better in the nation's capital.
Washington is 12-43, including 2-11 since the deadline. Their opponents outscore them by seven points per game, and they assist the ball fewer than 27 other teams, despite playing at a respectable pace. It would certainly help if they weren't shooting 32 percent from the three-point line as a team.
The Wiz have a light schedule remaining compared to the other teams I've listed so far, but we do get to see them face the Heat twice. That should be fun to watch.
The look on His Airness' face tells the story.
The Bobcats are past horrible. They're a joke. In fact, I'd say the team Anthony Davis plays for now is better than the team he will almost certainly be playing for after July.
At 7-45, Charlotte has taken futility to new heights. They don't rebound, they can't pass the ball, and they're getting outscored by an average of 13 points per game. They shoot the rock at 41.5 percent, and haven't won in nine games.
It would be a waste of time to list their last few games of the season. No one will be watching anyway.
Most of the teams on this list are completely out of reach for the Warriors. It feels weird to talk about losing games as a goal, but even so, the Dubs are set to not reach it, in yet another disappointment.
As stated earlier, Golden State is a slightly respectable 21-32 with 13 games remaining. Their point differential is the lowest of the teams I've listed, at almost minus-two. They shoot the ball at a high percentage, but rebound at a low one. They rarely turn the ball over, and are seventh in the league in assists. However, they commit more than 21 fouls a game, and their defense leaves much to be desired. All these stats come together to produce one thing in Oakland: mediocrity.
Unfortunately, the Warriors need to be worse than mediocre to secure that top-seven pick they so desperately desire. They face the Hornets once in an otherwise packed homestretch, and their tough schedule could help them out some, but with the unpredictability of the teams below them, it simply doesn't seem worth it to tank.
Play to win Warriors. Give your fans something to cheer for in the waning days of this disappointing season.