The Golden State Warriors made a lot of noise in trading away top scorer Monta Ellis and the raw but improving Ekpe Udoh in exchange for oft-injured Andrew Bogut—a true center missing from their lineup for years.
Obviously opposed to the trade, fans then responded by making even louder noise as they hailed boos down upon owner Joe Lacob throughout a recent halftime ceremony to retire Chris Mullin's No. 17 jersey.
The Warriors are 5-16 since the deal—losers of three straight and 11 of their last 13—and things aren't looking up, either, as both David Lee (strained groin) and Stephen Curry (sprained ankle) are likely shelved for the remainder of this season.
So, why do fans remain optimistic about the team's future? No, ignorance is not the correct answer.
The Warriors' first-round pick in this year's draft is top-seven protected—it is only retained if they finish with one of the bottom seven records in the entire NBA. Anything better and the pick goes to the Utah Jazz (part of a 2008 trade).
The team's current downward spiral, if continued, could land them the much-needed top-seven pick and a chance to select the missing piece to the playoff puzzle. Here are four players the Warriors must target in the upcoming draft.
PF Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Regarded as the lone superstar in this year's draft, Davis sits atop every franchise's wish list. For obvious reasons (aside from a wicked unibrow), the kid can dominate a game in more ways than one—highlighted by his six-point (1-10 field goals), 16 rebound, five assist and six block performance in the NCAA championship game.
Should he declare for the draft (he will), he will be the clear No. 1 pick. The Warriors can then hope they enter and win the lottery.
SF Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
Barnes in the NBA will be much like the Barnes in college; a good (not great) player with an all-around solid game. He can shoot, handle the ball, slash to the basket and defend the perimeter.
Barnes' biggest asset, however, is his high-basketball IQ. Plus, he fits a need at the small forward position.
PG/SG Damian Lillard, Weber State
Another guard!? I can hear the head-scratching, screams and expletives all the way over here. Get it all out of your system before I explain.
All done? Oh, a couple more minutes, okay.
Lillard can provide exactly that. This season, he absolutely filled up the stat sheet by averaging 24.5 points, five rebounds, four assists and 1.5 steals per game. And with Curry's ankle problems, it would be wise to have a reliable backup.
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
Though I'm not completely sold on him yet, the potential is undeniable.
Kidd-Gilchrist is a bit undersized at 6'6", but his 7-foot wingspan and athleticism allow him to play much bigger. He has all the tools of a shutdown defender and can rebound with the best of him.
This addition, along with the others listed, would instantly improve the team's playoff and championship hopes.