Despite No. 1 Pick, Clippers Still Right in Baron Davis Deal


Just three hours before the NBA’s Trade Deadline on February 24th, the Clippers ridded themselves of Baron Davis and his contract, as they shipped the veteran to Cleveland for All-Star point guard Mo Williams and small forward Jamario Moon. In order to get the Cavs to bite on the swap, the Clips handed over their first round pick in this week’s NBA Draft, as incentive to take on the rest of the Baron Davis salary.

Fast forward to May 17, when the NBA’s Annual Draft Lottery was held in Secaucus, New Jersey. Much to the surprise of mathematicians and NBA executives alike, the Clippers’ pick won the entire lottery, giving the Cleveland Cavaliers two of the top four picks. The shocking pick had the eighth best shot at winning, a miniscule 0.028 percent.

For the Clippers the deadline deal hinged mainly on the need to cut ties with Baron Davis’s salary and not the draft, as Davis is still owed $28 million over the next two seasons. GM Neil Olshey ultimately decided to risk the draft pick in favor the salary dump, and at the time of the trade, was adamant that the that the lack depth in the draft made the trade a simple one.

"“The drill is, as always, is ‘Is the player you’re getting back more valuable than the potential you could get in the draft?'” said Clippers general manager Neil Olshey. “Our analysis at this point in February is that it was more valuable to get a 28-year-old All-Star point guard that we have for the next few years, cap flexibility to make sure we take care of business and re-sign DeAndre Jordan and have flexibility to take care of Eric Gordon as well, as opposed to speculating on another kid that’s 19 years old with one year of college experience. And I’m not that high on the draft to begin with this year.”"

Olshey didn’t know then that the he would have had the chance of picking Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, whom the Cavaliers are expected select first on Thursday. This begs the question, is dumping the Baron Davis salary worth losing a consensus No. 1 pick, in Irving? Of course.

Mo Williams(above right) has already proven himself in the NBA to play at a high level. The 2009 Eastern Conference All-Star ran the Cavaliers offense alongside LeBron James, and has been a consistent contributor in the league since 2006. Any proven commodity outweighs an uncertainty, especially when Kyrie Irving missed most of Duke’s season with a leg injury. Also, with the impending lockout and the salary cup in a possible flux, the Clippers are better served spending using their payroll on players like Williams, than a combination of an unmotivated and overpaid Baron Davis, and a first year man, in Irving.

Secondly, with the rise of Blake Griffin, the Clippers have suddenly become an attractive landing spot. With a little more cap space to work with, Olshey can focus more on addition through free agency as well as the rumored trade that would bring Andre Iguodala to the Clippers in exchange for Chris Kamen. Iguodala would mesh well in Los Angeles, creating room for Griffin by playing as a swingman, as he can play both the two and the three positions, with the ability to score.

Lastly, as Olshey alluded to in February, dealing Davis allows the Clippers to prepare for the long term. Locking up guard Eric Gordon needs to be a priority. In his third year in the league, Gordon averaged 22 points despite being hampered by injury, and can be the sidekick to Griffin for years to come, assuming that both still have a good deal of progression to come. The Davis contract certainly wouldn’t help out with the re-upping youngsters Gordon and Jordan. And given Davis’s lack of effort and fitness as a Clipper, the Clippers need to move forward with the producers that they have, rather than remaining bogged down by a cancerous Baron Davis.

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