July 9, 2010


Before we give Mr. Lee a closer look, let's take one sorrowful glance at the fellas we just gave up.

I vividly remember Kelenna Azubuike's first game... he was hastily called up the day of the DunMurphy Dump, as the not-yet-Steve-and-Al'ed Warriors needed warm bodies to fill out the bench (they also called up the comically overmatched Renaldo Major, whose only NBA game was one to forget). 'Buike played all forty-eight minutes, scored twenty-eight points and grabbed seven rebounds, and forged a stable career for himself on the spot. With a (large-nostriled) nose for the rim, a three-point shot that ranged between good and great, and a willingness to mix it up on defense and on the boards, 'Buike was a consistently solid player throughout his Warriors tenure, and a hot start to the '09-'10 season suggested he had the potential to be more than solid. A freak knee injury during Brandon Jennings's 55-point outburst changed all that... Azubuike won't be ready in November, and there's no guarantee that he'll ever recover the explosiveness that made him effective. But he gave this franchise 205 games of good lunchpail basketball (career per 36: 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 55.7 TS%), and should be remembered as a good Warrior.

It won't be at all difficult to remember Ronny Turiaf. While he only played 2,568 minutes in a Warrior uniform, less than many players log in a single season, Ronny endeared himself to fans and teammates with some fierce rim protection, nifty passing, empassioned towel-waving and impressive hobo-bearding. One of the nicest and most likeable players in the league, Ronny at times risked getting more credit than he deserved for his Warriors efforts... his middling rebounding totals prevented him from being a huge asset. But an asset he was, as the Dubs performed better with him than without him in each of his two seasons in Oakland. The Knicks just got a fabulous bench piece and a ray of Martinique sunshine. Here's hoping they treat him well.

The previous gentlemen may have been my favorite two Warriors. Nevertheless, it is much more painful to say goodbye to Anthony Randolph than to either of them. Neither 'Buike nor Ronny was long for the Bay Area; conversely, the Warriors had control over Randolph for three more seasons, with a strong chance of retaining him for longer than that. 'Buike and Turiaf were fun to watch, but Randolph was downright magnetic: whether he was soaring or crashing, he was a spectacle that commanded your attention. Most importantly, while the former two were complementary pieces, AR was a lottery ticket, the Warrior with the greatest potential of all. Two comparisons will suffice.
1) In 2009-10, his sophomore NBA season, Anthony Randolph averaged over 18 points, over 10 rebounds, and over 2 blocked shots per 36 minutes... he was twenty years old. The NBA started officially keeping track of blocks in 1973. In the thirty-seven seasons since then, the list of players who averaged 18/10/2 as twenty-year-olds looks like this:

Shaquille O'Neal
Chris Webber
Anthony Randolph

2) Let's compare the per-36 stats of a pair of twenty-year-olds.

Player A: 16.2 PTS (54.7 TS%), 8.6 REB, 1.8 AST, 0.9 STL, 1.3 BLK, 2.2 TO, 2.7 PF
Player B: 18.5 PTS (52.1 TS%), 10.3 REB, 2.0 AST, 1.3 STL, 2.5 BLK, 2.4 TO, 4.4 PF

Player A shoots a little better and gets in foul trouble less often, but overall, you'd unquestionably rather have Player B, who scores, rebounds and makes defensive stops significantly more often.

If you've been paying attention, you should know that Player B is Anthony Randolph. Player A? You may have heard his name mentioned once or twice lately. His name is Chris Bosh.

The Warriors just traded away a player who has a not insignificant chance of becoming Chris Webber or Chris Bosh. There's a chance he could become Chris Washburn, too; a raw, emotional beanpole like Randolph comes with some obvious risks. But since joining the league, the kid has produced like a motherfucker. And next season in New York, with consistent playing time and a more attentive coach, he'll put up some performances that make you non-believers shake your heads in despair.

Yesterday, I compared this trade to the Webber/Gugliotta disaster. A reader named Matt thought I was overreacting. The truth is, this trade may be worse than that one. Lee is better than Gugliotta (though not by much), and Randolph's not the sure thing Webber was, but there are other variables in play here. Randolph was on a cheap rookie contract, while Webber's contract ($74 million over fifteen years) was downright monstrous for the era. Most importantly, the Webber trade netted the Warriors three first-round picks from a bad Bullets team, a huge factor; this trade has the Warriors adding in the extra chips. Golden State just spent $80 million on a power forward who puts up big numbers without seeming to help his team's fortunes. Anthony Randolph was doing that for a bargain price, and he's already a better defender than Lee.

There is no player, not Monta, not Lee, not even Curry, that has the potential to reverse this franchise's fortunes that Anthony Randolph did. You didn't even have to pay big bucks to the kid... all you had to do was play him, and watch, and hope. The Warriors weren't up to even that nominal challenge. Robert Rowell, Larry Riley and (especially) Don Nelson never gave Randolph a chance to prove himself, and now they've shipped him out the door. The road to hell is paved with bad teams that pissed away high-upside big men. The Warriors should know that better than anyone.

Fare thee well, young spaz... may fortune shine on you in the big city. And may God have mercy on the souls of the foolish Cohanians that fumbled you.

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