With the 14th pick, the Golden State Warriors select …

Robin Lopez.
Seriously. That won’t happen. Still, you have to be concerned about the Warriors chances to nab a difference-maker picking last in the lottery. Maybe Darrell Arthur from Kansas falls. Or Kevin Love from UCLA. Chances are they’ll end up with a project like Lavale McGee from Nevada, who is Patrick O’Bryant with a bit more fire.
I haven’t studied the rookie prospects yet, but from where I sit at this point, the best idea would be to use the pick in a trade to get a difference maker. If No. 14 and a player or two (Al Harrington, Mickael Pietrus) and maybe a future first-rounder gets you Elton Brand, or even someone a tier below, such as Rasheed Wallace, that may be the best move. It may work out when one of those restricted free agents end up unhappy with their contract options and want a trade, a la Charlie Bell last summer. Maybe Josh Smith gets stuck looking at the mid-level because the market is too bare, gets upset that the Hawks lowballed him and asks for a sign-and-trade. This lottery pick could be best used as part of a deal.
I would say use it to move up, but for who? They won’t get high enough to get Rose, or Beasley, or Brook Lopez. Do you jump for Mayo? Jerryd Bayless? Maybe DeAndre Jordan is seductive enough to move up for, but he won’t contribute next year.
The Warriors just don’t need another project. They have too many young players now. Most important, they have a window now. This pick needs to be another resource to capitalizing and getting this team ready to win now. Or the window will close.


Playing with Fire?

According to a source with knowledge of extension negotiations between Baron Davis and Warriors management, the Warriors are playing hardball with their star point guard. President Rowell and VP Mullin came at Baron with an “insulting” offer – so much so that B. Diddy is questioning whether the Warriors view him as their franchise player.
Tough negotiating is hardly a bad ploy, especially considering the Warriors’ history of fiscal irresponsibility. But there is a time and place for it, and this may not be the time. It was last offseason, when Don Nelson and Mickael Pietreus were looking for too much icing on their cake. But now might be a bad time for Warriors management to throw around its weight.
Why? Because Baron, the team’s best player, had already issued the first peace offering. Instead of threatening to opt out, instead of seeing which desiring team he could use to sweeten his deal, Baron bowed down. He said he wanted to stay a Warrior and he wasn’t going to demand a ridiculous amount of money. He conceded his leverage. Even if he recognized he had very little, it was a relatively commendable gesture because he made himself vulnerable by voluntarily setting aside his options.
The proper response to that is not to stick it to him, or make him think you are sticking it to him. Sure, get the best deal for the team, but don’t make him regret throwing himself at the mercy of the execs.
Why not, you say?
• The Warriors need Baron. Losing him means starting over, it means getting back in the skimpy market for a proven frontline NBA star, a franchise player. Even if you are of the belief that Monta is Baron’s replacement (which I am not, especially not yet), then the Warriors will be needing a No. 2 or No. 3 star, which is also hard to coup. Plus, he’s the reason guys like Al and Jax, and anyother player with the Warriors
on their short list is Baron.
• The Warriors will be sending a bad message to players, future and current. In less than a year, three players have voiced their disapproval with how they were treated by management (Jason Richardson, Mickael Pietrus and Matt Barnes). That’s not a good way to land a top motivated talent, which the Warriors will need to do. Players won’t want to come if the Warriors are not shelling out big money and have a rep – justified or not – for lowballing.


Funny man Baron

You know those ads that the NBA is running with the split faces? One half is one player and the other half is another player, but they are playing the same thing?
I just got word that Baron has one. Yes, the NBA is only using players in the postseason, and Baron isn’t in it. Guess who he’s pared with? Adam Sandler.
It’s a promo for Adam Sandler’s new film “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.”
It’s pretty funny.



Is Keith Smart Still the Best Choice?

It’s been widely understood, and more than intimated by head coach Don Nelson, that Keith Smart will be the Warriors next head coach. But Nelson’s possible departure and the recent shake-up in the coaching ranks has brought up an interesting question.
Should the Warriors stick to their plans of annointing Smart as the successor? Or should they go out and get one of the names that are available?
Honestly, it’s a tough call. The names are enticing. Avery Johnson, who was introduced as coach of the year just two years ago. Mike D’Antonio, who is reportedly but unofficially out in Phoenix, has mastered the system similar to the one the Warriors play. Sam Mitchell, who may get fired in Toronto, was last season’s coach of the year and one of the young talents in the league. Flip Saunders may be on his way out, too.
These are all winning coaches. Avery and D’Antoni (if he becomes available) Playoff coaches. Avery has been to the Finals. D’Antoni has been to the West Finals. They couldn’t get their team to a championship, which is why they are (likely) out, but they have gotten their team to the playoffs regularly, which is the next step for the Warriors.
If you are Chris Mullin, do you go out and get a proven coach who can take this team to the next level? Or do you stick with the groomed assistant who knows the system, the organization and COULD be one of the next young coaching talents?
As tempting as it is to go nab one of those vets, it may be more beneficial to go with the guy who is familiar to the franchise. A new guy would have to a spend a year or two getting accustomed to the team, to the franchise, to the media, to the fans. There’s a whole feeling out period that needs to go on, which could cost the Warriors a season of progress. True, it may be a necessary price to get to the ultimate goal, but that may not be the best thing coming off missing the postseason. True, it may take Smart as much or more time to get used to being the head man. But he may just be able to smoothly step in, as did Avery.
Another reason I’d say go with Smart is the cost. Smart is cheaper than Avery or D’Antoni (should he become available), and could turn out to be just as good. Remember, Avery and D’Antoni were young, unknown commodities when they first took over. They stepped into to great situations and thrived. If Smart can do the same, and it’s set up for him to do so, they Warriors will get the same results for much cheaper. That money is better served going towards the luxury tax they’ll have to pay to bring in some help.
As tempting as it is to get the proven commodity, I’d say stick to the plan. Stick with Smart.


Report Card: Guards

It’s hard to not look at the stats of the Warriors guards and come away impressed. But there were some areas where the guards fell short – and it hurt because of their importance to this team. I’m a little harder on them (especially Baron Davis) because their value to the team and their overall talent is greater than anyone else’s on the team.

Baron Davis — He averaged 21.8 points in 39 minutes, his highest marks in those categories since 2003-04, whe averaged 22.9 points in 40.1 minutes. He also set a career high in rebounds. But where Baron falls short — and this is only a shortcoming because he is expected to be elite — was being a point guard. Baron proved two things this season: 1) he is still a top-notched scorer and 2) he can stay healthy (though that is relative). Unfortunately for the Warriors, they only need No. 2. Golden State doesn’t need Baron to be a dominant scorer, but a playmaker. They are better when he’s not the leading scorer. His assists (7.6) dropped under 8.3 for the first time since he joined the Warriors. His field goal percentage also dropped (42.6) fairly significantly off last season’s career-best 43.9 percent. They needed him to make stuff happen for everyone else, not get his. Last year, he played like Chris Paul. This year, he was Gilbert Arenas. They are much tougher to defend when he’s racking up 15 assists than when he’s scoring 40. Plus, he was bad down the stretch.
Grade: C+

Monta Ellis — He really took his game to another level this year. His became a reliable offensive weapon, partially filling the void left by Jason Richardson. There’s no question this dude has the potential to be the next. But looking at just this season, he was atrocious on defense, and that hurt the Warriors in the long run. If Baron is going to play 40 minutes, Monta has to guard the Allen Iversons, the Chris Pauls, the Tony Parkers, etc. He couldn’t this season. His best defense was getting 30 himself. Plus, Monta has the tendency to force offense and take quick shots at the wrong time. He was excellent on the boards, though, and he’s already a much better ball-handler than he used to be.
Grade: B

Marco Belinelli — I give him a lot of credit for keeping a great attitude while not playing and while sitting in the disgruntled section of the locker room (with MP2, Matt Barns and Al Harrington). He thought he should’ve played more, but he always kept a smile on his face and kept working hard. And when he got in, he stroked it some. Grade: B

C.J. Watson — He was much better than I expected, and he fit because he can score. Could’ve been more aggressive, but I understand why not. He produced when he got the minutes, and that’s all you can ask from a guy who started on a 10-day contract.
Grade: A-