The Warriors have had a disastrous off-season marked by a signing that proves that revenge is not the best strategy for a professional basketball team. When Baron Davis was lured to the Clippers by more money than his knees will likely support — a gift in disguise to many financially savvy Warriors fans — GM Chris Mullin’s response was to blindly sign the Clippers’ second best free agent, Corey Maggette. The phrase “the Clippers’ second best free agent” would typically be enough to send any competent GM running, but Mullin reverted to his old ways and threw money at a player with little long term potential and no clear fit on the team. What makes this even more pronounced is that it appears the Warriors were largely bidding against themselves, as no evidence of a deal larger than the $5.6m Mid-Level Exception has surfaced, and there was no reason to pay a premium for a redundant player at the NBA’s least valuable position.
Don Nelson acknowledged this by stating that poor (for now) Monta Ellis would be left to man the point by himself. No one would claim that this is an ideal situation for the club, and the only way the Warriors can possibly add a point guard is through a free agent signing or trade. The Warriors are virtually assured of another lottery birth in the 2009 NBA draft, but to even sniff at competitiveness they will need another guard who can defend and handle the ball against the best guards in the West.
The free agents left to be signed include Shaun Livingston – damaged goods already coveted by the Phoenix Suns, Sebastian Telfair – who will likely return to the T-Wolves after a decent season, and Louis Williams – a restricted free agent who doesn’t fit next to Ellis anyways. None of these options does look particularly good right now.
Any viable trade idea largely hinges on Al Harrington, the player on the Warriors most suited for departure. Unless the team decides to part with one of its more valuable pieces, (Brendan Wright, Stephen Jackson, etc), we’ll have to deal with an NBA team in a pretty lousy position. Teams that might be potential destinations for Harrington include the Knicks, who don’t have a PG to return to us (but a Harrington for Rose/Balkman trade passes the laugh test), and Dallas, whose testy front office relations with the Warriors’ brass might preclude any negotiations, also have no PG prospects to return to the Warriors. The last possible match is the newly named OKC Thunder, who could be looking to dump either Luke Ridnour or Earl Watson (likely Ridnour), and could be enticed to throw in another contract just to make salaries match. In essence, the best the Warriors can reasonably hope for in a current Harrington-centered deal is a largely useless player with an expiring contract or a backup PG (possibly with another slight contributor).
Needless to say, these options don’t look so good. Chris Mullin might find another team willing to deal for Harrington, especially considering that it is his job. However, the Warriors won’t be able to add a starting point guard who fits the team’s needs without parting with a player that it actually wants for either the short or long term.
More likely than not, the Warriors are in the position of cutting their nose to spite their face. Unless a miracle appears and we can trade Harrington for a PG, we’ll have to part with talent to get the PG we need to be competitive. Given the talent of the West, and the overwhelming likelihood that we will not make the playoffs anyways, sitting on our hands may be our best option at this point. Unfortunately, if we take this route, we’re likely consigned to a year of frustrating medicority, of the sort that marked the majority of the last decade of Warriors basketball. But in the end, its better to do nothing than to make a terrible move motivated by desperation rather than clear headed thinking. Here’s looking at you, Corey.