I like the trade that sent guard Jason Richardson to the Charlotte Bobcats for the rights to Brandan Wright, the No. 8 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.
That doesn’t mean I don’t like Richardson ... not at all. I like Richardson. But I like the trade more.
For the better part of six seasons, Richardson has been the face of the franchise, one of the team’s better players and a solid locker-room presence. Until last season, when a couple of injuries slowed him down, Richardson had improved every year he had been in the league.
His mid-February return this past season no doubt aided the Warriors to their impressive season-ending run that produced a playoff berth for the first time in 13 seasons.
But the important question was this: How much better were the Warriors going to be next season by standing pat this summer and only adding the No. 18 pick? Simple answer: Not much.
Warriors executive vice president of basketball operations Chris Mullin knew darn well that aside from a 16-5 finish, this was a pretty ordinary team. There was one school of thought that said allowing the Warriors, injury-plagued a year ago, to play together for another year would allow them to grow and improve even more.
Apparently, Mullin wasn’t buying that.
Mullin’s entire front-office tenure has been defined by a willingness to roll the dice. And this is another example of that. He rolled the dice and signed Richardson, Troy Murphy, Adonal Foyle and Mike Dunleavy to big contracts.
They’re all gone now, except Foyle. Mullin took a chance on Baron Davis and it paid off. He took another gamble by acquiring Stephen Jackson, who was far more instrumental to the Warriors making the playoffs than Richardson.
Now, Mullin is taking another chance, and this one isn’t without risks, either.
Without Richardson, the Warriors have a bigger upside than they had with him. Unfortunately, without Richardson, the Warriors’ downside just grew some, too. But this is where Mullin is unafraid.
Keeping Richardson and bringing back essentially the same team likely may have nudged the Warriors up in the standings a notch or two. But it also was possible that the Warriors would have missed the playoffs completely.
Mullin is sitting with a potential (repeat: potential) star in Wright, and he’s a power forward to boot. Mullin is also sitting with a sizable trade exception that he could parlay into a very real contributor in 2007-08.
There is a chance that Wright is too raw to contribute next season. There is also a chance that the big trade exception goes unused. In that case, the Warriors could take a step back.
But if Wright is the real deal and Mullin can pull a star from that exemption hat, then the Warriors just got a lot better. Give Mullin credit for taking a shot at it.
Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.
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