February 7, 2010

The Speedy Claxton Affair

You probably heard about this. The Warriors' decision to cut bait on Speedy Claxton's expiring contract less than two weeks before the trade deadline has been pilloried, and rightfully so -- Larry Riley's game effort to defend the move to Marcus Thompson only highlighted its stupidity. But it's worth clarifying exactly why this move was so stupid.

The problem with this move was not that Anthony Tolliver is a complete waste of time. He's easily the most intriguing D-Leaguer that's come through Oakland this season, having provided non-impact but solid production... he's passed well for a big and generally avoided foul trouble, and his woes behind the arc have obscured the fact that he's shooting over 50% on two-pointers. Tolliver's a fine guy to keep around.

The problem with this move was not that it precluded some big trade from happening. The Warriors aren't in a position to snag a top-tier guy, and they shouldn't be looking to add a second-tier guy who makes a lot of money... a Caron Butler type does nothing to cure the woes of this franchise. Other than dumping Maggette's contract, which can be accomplished as easily with Raja Bell's contract as with Speedy's, there's no big-money move that the Warriors should be considering right now. You don't pay to build on top of a foundation this rotten.

The problem with this move was not that it prioritized short-term interests over long-term ones. The short-term goal of fielding a semi-credible non-embarrassment of a team should always rank high on the list of any GM... even if you're rebuilding, you owe it to your paying customers to keep up appearances. And in fact, the team's long-term interests are better served by the presence of Anthony Tolliver than by the presence of a second mid-sized expiring deal. One certainly can't bank on perfect health from either Randolph or Wright next season, let alone both, so maintaining team control over another young big is a fine idea.

The problem with this move wasn't the move itself... it was the messaging behind the move. It reveals the inconsistency and incoherence of the Warriors' front office. Because if you're willing to drop Speedy Claxton for Anthony Tolliver when you're 13-35, you should've been willing to drop Devean George for a warm body when you were 6-10. If you're actually invested in helping the current team win some games, you should've demonstrated that investment before the season was already lost. If you're not interesting in converting expiring deals into value, you should've acknowledged that to your fanbase early and often. And you really shouldn't drop hints that you're trying to land a "star player" the day before you jettison a valuable trade chip.

In a vacuum, dumping an expiring deal to take a flyer on even a middling young 'un can be a perfectly defensible decision. But this move didn't take place in a vacuum. It took place months later than it should've, and amidst constant front office hints that the Warriors were pushing hard in the exact opposite direction. This move, and the signaling that preceded and followed it, made our general manager look like a flake and a fool. Optics matter. And if Larry Riley can't even manage to waive a player without looking bad, how on earth can we expect him to negotiate skillfully with other actors?


Anonymous said...

My partner and I really enjoyed reading this blog post, I was just itching to know do you trade featured posts? I am always trying to find someone to make trades with and merely thought I would ask.

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