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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Baron Davis Leaves the Warriors for the Clippers--And Both Teams Are Happy

It has been reported by multiple sources that Baron Davis will sign a five year, $65 million contract with the L.A. Clippers as soon as the NBA's annual moratorium on signings and trades ends on July 9; the moratorium is necessary because the next season's salary cap--which is based on the league's overall revenues--must be precisely determined in order to calculate bookkeeping issues such as whether or not certain deals are permissible and if these moves will force some teams to make "luxury tax" payments (any team that exceeds the salary cap must pay a dollar for dollar "tax" that goes into a fund that is divided among the teams that did not exceed the cap).

On Monday, Davis surprised many people by opting out of the final year of his contract with the Golden State Warriors, giving up a guaranteed $17.8 million to explore his options in free agency. Davis played in all 82 games last season, the first time he has done that since 2001-02, and he had thought of the 2007-08 season as something of an audition to validate that he is not only talented enough but also durable enough to justify receiving a big dollar extension from the Warriors. When it became apparent that the Warriors were not going to offer him that extension--essentially making the 2008-09 season another contract year for Davis--he decided getting $65 million over five years is a better move than getting $17.8 million for one year and hoping to receive a long term deal next offseason. Considering his age (29) and injury history that is very sound reasoning on his part. It is not likely that as a 30 year old guard in 2009 he would be able to negotiate a better deal than the one he is getting now and he would be running the risk that an injury plagued season could cause his value to plummet, potentially costing him tens of millions of dollars.

So this is a no-brainer for Davis and anyone who considers him a "traitor" for leaving the Warriors is missing the point and does not understand business. NBA players have a finite number of high earning years and--depending on various factors--they may only get one or two chances to be a free agent and have a certain degree of leverage. Davis took the best deal he could reasonably expect to receive and anyone who has any sense would have done the same thing given his choices.

Although the Warriors may have been playing a bit of high stakes poker--gambling that Davis would play next season for $17.8 million and take his chances about the future--they are far from heartbroken about the way things have turned out. Granted, if they had known Davis' intentions they may have elected to use their $10 million trade exception before it expired on Monday but, as one source in the Warriors' organization told the Sporting News' Sean Deveney, with Davis' contract off of the books, "It means there's lots of cap room for us now. It's a chance to remake this team with our young guys a year earlier."

In three seasons with the Warriors, Davis led them to one playoff appearance. While it was no doubt exciting for Golden State fans to knock off the number one seeded Dallas Mavericks in 2007, it should be obvious that the current nucleus of players was not going to lead the Warriors to the Western Conference Finals, let alone win a championship. It makes perfect sense for the Warriors to reload--they will still contend for a playoff berth next year and as their young players develop perhaps they can make a run at a title in a few years after adding one or two more pieces.

Does that mean that the Clippers are wrong to sign Davis? No, not at all. The Clippers desperately need a top notch point guard, whether or not Shaun Livingston completely recovers from his devastating injury. It appears that they will renounce their rights to Corey Maggette and then re-sign power forward Elton Brand. Assuming that Brand and Davis stay healthy, the Clippers now have an All-Star caliber low post scoring threat and an All-Star caliber point guard. Their potential starting lineup of Chris Kaman, Brand, second year forward Al Thornton--a beast in training--Davis and Cuttino Mobley is quite potent. The main questions for the Clippers are their health, their dedication at the defensive end of the court and the lack of depth on their bench. Still, on paper this looks like a team that could certainly be in the Western Conference playoff mix if those three concerns are properly addressed.

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:46 AM

7 comments

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7 Comments:

At Wednesday, July 02, 2008 8:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous regggie

why wouldnt the wariors pay him you offer brand the max and arenas the max but not baron davis? make no sense to me you made the second round and beat a 67 win team to let him go and get no value is crazy. the clippers got eric gordon thorton brand baron davis and cuttino mobley chris kaman tey ave a bright future and could make second round or conference finals next year maybe a all la conference finals next year david. phoenix on down side san antonio and dallas as well hornets we dont know if they could duplicate that back to back years portland will be a team to reckon with denver no i se clippers as conference finalist.

 
At Thursday, July 03, 2008 5:01:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Offering Brand the max makes sense because--assuming he is healthy--he is a big guy who can get 20-10 on a nightly basis. I don't believe that you can build a championship team around Baron, nor would the Warriors have money to get anybody else if they signed Baron for that much.

On the other hand, offering max money to Arenas is insane. Any team that does so should be forced to put the following statement in every ad campaign and game program: "We have no intention of advancing past the second round of the playoffs."

The Warriors are not getting "nothing" by letting Baron walk; they are freeing up salary cap space that they believe they can use more effectively (whether or not they actually use the money more effectively is a separate issue). This is essentially the same thing that the Grizzlies did with Pau Gasol. They decided that they could not win a championship with him as the cornerstone player, so they traded him for draft picks and expiring contracts.

People throw around the terms "elite" and "franchise players" but there are no more than 15 elite players in the NBA and I would say that there really are 10 or less. Baron Davis and Gilbert Arenas are All-Stars; they are not franchise players and a team that gives either of them max dollars will not have enough money left to be able to build a championship roster unless they luck out and some no-name player who has a small contract develops into an All-Star.

The Clippers have a bright future provided that they keep Brand but I don't see them as a Conference Finalist next year. They have to prove that they will bring it defensively on a nightly basis and I want to see what kind of bench they will have.

 
At Thursday, July 03, 2008 1:39:00 PM, Anonymous S.Tiku said...

David,

One of my friends came across this site, here it is:

http://airjudden2.tripod.com/jordan/index.htm

what do you think of the arguments that are posed?

 
At Thursday, July 03, 2008 6:59:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

S. Tiku:

As I indicated in my Pantheon series, one could make a reasonable "greatest player of all-time" case for about 10 different players. The site that you mentioned is kind of the "anti-Reggie" (referring to the Reggie who made the first comment here) in that it is obsessed with proving that Jordan is not the greatest player of all-time. The writer takes a very condescending, argumentative tone but he makes some valid points, the main one being that it is very difficult to definitively say that one particular player is the greatest player of all-time. Instead of focusing on Jordan I think that he should have emphasized that point.

A "battle" between the writer at that site and Reggie would be fascinating to watch :)

 
At Monday, July 07, 2008 9:23:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

Air Judden rates players better than Jordan but he hasnt even seen all of them play. How can you effectively rate players based on just stats? You cant. You would have to see them play. I watched the 1966 Finals on NBA TV with Sam Jones and Satch Sanders going through the game and there are only like 4 players who could play now. The game is so much different its night and day. As great as West was he would have a very hard time guarding a 6 8' guard or even someone his height. There are plenty of guards today who arent even the elite guards who would kill Jerry West.

I know its his site but who cares who is the best ever? He brings up how Pooh Richardson lit him up one game and is a reason why Jordan shouldnt have been all defense for 96-98. Who cares if Pooh had a good game? He hates Jordan (he says he doesnt) and he definitely has arguments and has analysized who is the better. He also says Babe Didrickson-Zaharus from 80 years ago is a better athlete because of AAU victories and gold medals and squash and bowling championships. A little ridiculous. You cant compare men and women in sports either.


The Clippers are the Clippers. They wlll be a little better but not much. Why Davis would go to the Clips makes no sense (I understand the money scenario and producing movies.) But definitely doesnt want to compete for a ring because he wont there.

 
At Tuesday, July 08, 2008 6:56:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

I agree with most of what you wrote but I completely disagree with your assertion "There are plenty of guards today who aren't even the elite guards who would kill Jerry West." Steve Nash is about the same size that West was, so I don't buy that West would be too small to play in today's game. West was a great all-around player and if he were in his prime today he'd be a perennial All-NBA guard.

 
At Wednesday, July 09, 2008 8:58:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

I was rough and definitely incorrect on Jerry when I thought about it. Ill attribute my ignorance to AirJudden and ESPN because I looked at those sites that day. And that 1966 game I saw.

West had the most perfect form on a jump shot Ive ever seen from the goose neck to the elbow in to the release. He played great defense, was very quick, could handle the ball, and had more heart than anyone. I mean he is the logo.

 

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