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Draft history Part I of ???: on trading picks

With the draft lottery still a little more than a week away, it is too early to really recommend a 'draft strategy', but it is not too early to look at what becomes of various picks. In this multi-part pre-draft assessment, we'll look at various aspects of the draft, including trading picks, drafting for need vs. talent vs. tossing a dart at a board with a bunch of names on it and hoping for the best.

Part 1: Trade up, trade down? A little history on the perils and potential windfalls of swapping picks.

In 1993, as most know, the Warriors traded up from #3 to take the #1 overall pick, Chris Webber. The lure of the franchise big man loomed large though and Golden State ponied up big to get him. In a 'deep draft', with a potential 'franchise players' still on the board after Webber, this move still cost the Warriors the rights to Anfernee Hardaway and three future first round picks. (Note: a similar deal will not happen this year, even if the Warriors did wind up with the cursed #3 pick. The Marcus Williams deal means that our 2011 through 2013 picks are off limits as the conditions on that conditional pick mean that one of those picks might be spoken for, complicating future trades.) While the short term rewards looked promising, the long term penalty for this trade stung. Webber lasted one year with the Warriors before bringing about the Apocalypse, or perhaps it was Armageddon. I get my catastrophic metaphors confused from time to time.

Perhaps as a franchise, their institutional memory was short, as anecdotal history suggested that such a move and such a price could backfire. In 1980, the Warriors also held the third pick and wanted to move up to get the seldom available franchise center. Joe Barry Carroll, a nimble, Final-Four tested All American out of Purdue seemed to be that center, someone who could match up against Kareem and Lakers. The Warriors sent away Robert Parish, a serviceable seven footer perceived as having motivation problems who would eventually become a Hall of Famer and the pick that would eventually become Kevin McHale. Perhaps the 'motivation problems' were inherent to the position of Warriors' center and not Parish. Joe Barley Cares was not a terrible player, but his career never warranted the steep price and never made them regular playoff contenders (one appearance in his time with the team). Carroll, now apparently an investment advisor, would likely admit that this gamble did not work out as planned for the Oakland squad.

This is not to say that standing pat at #3 is a better option for the Warriors. When that happens, the Warriors have wound up with one of the many underwhelming “next Larry Birds” in Mike Dunleavy Jr. and the infamous Chris Washburn. Dunleavy was a rather average player with no charisma who never lived up to expectations. Washburn once sued CBS for portraying him as a drug addict at NCState in their made for TV movie about the career of Jimmy Valvano. Chris claims he was not addicted to crack until he made it to the NBA.

Such moves assume of course that the Warriors move up in the lottery. More likely though is that we will wind up picking 7th, 8th, or very remotely, 9th or 10th. In 1999 draft, GSW sent their #10 pick to ATL for Mookie Blaylock and the #21 pick. Mookie will be remembered for being a total bust of an acquisition in Oakland. It is a shame that he isn't better remembered for lending his name to the early incarnation of the band aka Pearl Jam. [If anyone remembers the early days of the “Rock and Jock” basketball competitions, you would also remember that Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament was a pretty good ball player. He was a star on his state tourney qualifying HS team with aspirations of playing at the college level. If his play on the mixed pro/celebrity squad was an indication, that dream wasn't the least bit unrealistic. If only he'd committed himself to it...I guess he'll have to console himself with the untold millions he's made as a rock star.] As bad as it was, the Warriors thought they were getting a legitimate above average starter for the pick swap. Indiana then swapped their pick at 26 (Vonteego Cummings) to move up 5 spots and take ours (Jeff Foster) paying the price of a future protected 1st rounder (to become Troy Murphy).

This history suggests that the price to move is usually reasonably high, though some moves seem less costly as an initial investment. To trade picks with Toronto in '98, GSW only had to part with cash and what little credibility they had as an NBA franchise when for several years Vince Carter looked like the real deal while Antawn Jamison looked like a tweener forward who could score, rebound and, try as he might, failed to defend anyone.

Ok, so that's what happens when the Warriors swap places in the draft. It is not the most encouraging history, but not all teams have been so cursed. None other than Don Nelson engineered a draft-day swindle, trading the rights to Robert “Tractor” Traylor to Milwaukee for Dirk Nowitzki, taken a few picks later. Something else went Dallas' way too, but it matters little. It was lopsided enough without anything else. Another great swindle: In 1987 Seattle traded the rights to Scottie Pippen to Chicago for Olden Polynice. Olden was a serviceable utility center for more than a decade and a half with an apparent desire to go into law enforcement. Seviceable centers aren't abundant, but without crunching the numbers, my gut says that Chicago got the better of this one.

Comment starter: Can any good come of trading our pick regardless of where we do wind up drafting? Are we doomed, cursed or has it just been a run of bad luck? Maybe we're due to be on the receiving end of a great swindle for a change.

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