It's impossible to understand the optimism about the 2012-13 season among Golden State Warriors fans without understanding the years of disappointment that fans have suffered through while the franchise has made Secaucus, New Jersey its second home over the years.
So it might actually be hard to choose a single player for SB Nation-NBA's network-wide theme this week: a "tribute" to the player who has been the most disappointing in franchise history.
As mentioned in the post about best trades ever, Bill Simmons' Grantland piece from earlier this year documenting the myriad of moves the Golden State Warriors have made over the years to increasingly annoy their fan base is a pretty good "cheat sheet" for identifying candidates for the biggest disappointment in franchise history.
The challenge for Warriors fans might be how you define disappointment: biggest negative impact on the team? Worst player? Biggest failure to meet expectations? Most overpaid? Ending an exciting era? Warriors history is so full of examples - and permutations of those examples - that it's hard to even narrow it down, but the following are a few examples that immediately jump to mind.
Joe Barry Carroll, C, 1980-1984/1985-Dec 1987
Acquired: June 10, 1980 (via draft/trade)
Whenever you talk about the biggest busts in Warriors' history, Carroll's name will inevitably come up. And taken on his own merits, that's a bit overstated - Carroll was actually a player statistically and if you dare look back at this history of Warriors centers, well, he still ranks among the best in decades.
The problem: the Warriors gave up Robert Parrish and the rights to the draft pick that would become Kevin McHale in order to get "Joe Barely Cares". When my dad first explained that to me to indoctrinate me into the world of Warriors incompetence as he realized my interest in the franchise was growing, I immediately filed it away as equivalent to hardship stories like walking 3 miles uphill both ways in the snow to school and back when he was young.
Chris Washburn, C, 1986 - Dec. 1987
Acquired: June 17, 1986 (via draft)
Whereas Carroll ranks as a massive disappointment in large part because of what the Warriors gave up for him, Washburn ranks as one of the worst draft picks in franchise history not only because the team traded him for a player you've probably not heard of but also because the opportunity cost in the 1986 NBA Draft included five future NBA All-Stars and multiple players who ended up being productive contributors in the league, including current Warriors assistant Pete Myers and Dell Curry, whose son ended up being a pretty good ball player whose value I need not explain to you.
Washburn, in contrast, ended up banned from the league for life.
Washburn was among the biggest walking examples of unrealized upside well before the run of disappointing high school prospects early in this century and, regularly considered one of the biggest draft busts of all-time, it's hard not to include him in the discussion of biggest disappointments in franchise history here. Given who else was available in that draft, one could easily argue this was franchise-changing blown opportunity for the Warriors in a way that some of the other disappointments weren't.
Chris Webber for Tom Gugliotta for Donyell Marshall
Webber acquired 1993 (via trade/draft)
Gugilotta acquired 1994 (via trade involving Webber)
Marshall acquired 1995 (via trade for Gugliotta)
If there's any single chain of events that embodies the Warriors' descent into irrelevancy that has led to a lone playoff berth in 18 seasons, this would probably have to be it.
The way the Webber situation turned out was certainly disappointing on its own - though tempered by the fact that his rookie year was unquestionably a high point in franchise history - and Gugliotta's unproductive tenure here was made worse by the fact that he ended up becoming an All-Star performer for the Minnesota Timberwolves a couple of seasons after being shipped away for Donyell Marshall. Then there's Donyell Marshall, who was a part-time starter during the worst stretch of seasons in franchise history (1997-2000).
To be fair, the Webber - Gugliotta trade also got the Warriors back the 1996, 1998, and 2000 picks that they had traded away to the Orlando Magic in the Penny Hardaway deal; that 1998 pick ended up being Antawn Jamison, who ended up being a bright spot in years of darkness. Nevertheless, this series of events always stands out as one of the most disappointing in my years as a fan because it represents the history of mismanagement at multiple levels of the franchise over multiple regimes and might be considered the prime example of the misfortune that led to the pre-Y2K Dark Ages.
Joe Smith, F, 1995-Feb. 1998
Acquired June 28, 1995 (via draft)
While many people would point to the selection of Adonal Foyle or Todd Fuller as primary examples of the Warriors making the safe draft pick instead of going for guys with the highest upside, Joe Smith might epitomize that because there were multiple options that probably could have turned out to be more productive.
But the last time the Warriors held all the cards in a NBA Draft was 1995 and Smith is another player who might stand out as disappointing in the memories of some fans because the other four legitimate candidates for the #1 pick ended up being All-Stars and significant contributors to playoff and/or championship teams teams (Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, and Kevin Garnett were the next four picks after Smith).
Although Smith was by no means as unproductive as some of the other players who might be considered among the most disappointing in franchise history, he might best represent the Warriors' longstanding inability to make the "right" choice in drafts even moreso than he represents the franchise's insistence on the safe pick during the Dark Ages.
Erick Dampier, C, 1997-2004
Acquired August 12, 1997 (via trade involving Chris Mullin)
When you trade a player whose jersey ends up in the rafters, it's really difficult for the player received in return to be anything but disappointing.
But Dampier was another player who was acquired just prior to the Dark Ages, ended up starting for the entirety of the five-year period in which the team failed to muster more than 21 wins in a season, and had a rather large long-term contract to boot. Previous ownership gained a reputation for being cheap and the one time they spent was on a guy who ended up not earning it.
The Warriors eventually managed to dump him on the Dallas Mavericks and, fittingly, he was a liability against in the first round of the 2007 NBA Playoffs when the We Believe Warriors upset the Mavs. And maybe in that sense, Dampier ultimately ended up helping the team a bit.
Mike Dunleavy, Jr., F, 2002- Jan. 2007
Acquired June 26, 2002 (via draft)
Simmons sort of glossed over this one and perhaps Dunleavy doesn't compare to the others in terms of harm to the franchise.
But Dunleavy was yet another guy who the Warriors selected over a young player with upside (Amar'e Stoudemire) and a solid player who has ended up being an All-Star (Caron Butler) and another more productive player at the same position (Tayshaun Prince); he was yet another "safe" pick who kept the Warriors safely in the lottery. Although he has been a solid player in his career post-Warriors, his production never matched the promise of his draft position.
Part of what makes this one really disappointing for me is that I not only wanted Butler in the 2002 draft, but I also wanted Danny Granger in the 2005 draft; it's not difficult to argue that the Warriors' steadfast support of Dunleavy was why they passed on Granger in favor of Ike Diogu in 2005.
Brandan Wright, F, 2007- Feb. 2011
Acquired June 28, 2007 (via draft/trade)
Wright is yet another draft pick who looks worse as much due to the circumstances surrounding his selection as his actual production,
Wright was the upside move that so many people had been clamoring for over the years; athletic, long, and young, Wright had potential. But the fact that he was involved in the first move made to break up the "We Believe" Warriors made him a concrete embodiment of further disappointment, almost as if the team was trolling its fans after a successful season, reminding us that to be a Warriors fan is not just to be disappointed but to know that disappointment is lurking around the corner even at the franchise's highest points.
Who do you think was the biggest disappointment in Golden State Warriors' history? Vote in the poll below and leave your thoughts - including omissions from his list - in the comments.