Baron Davis Leaves the Warriors for the Clippers--And Both Teams Are HappyIt 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.
posted by David Friedman @ 4:46 AM