There was a spectacular run there, from about Summer 2008 to Fall 2010, when anything the Warriors did was either mindless, senseless, irrational, contemptible or had shared fractions of all of those descriptions, and more.
(With one large exception: Drafting Stephen Curry in 2009. And not trading him for Amare Stoudemire.)
It was a franchise front-office Armageddon, in several glowing stages, layered with so much radioactive and vindictive fall-out that even someone as cynical and determined as me couldn't properly document it all in real time.
I won't put all of the horrorful moves of that era on this list . . . and I won't get to all of the Warriors' truly silly moves over the past decade or so. I've drawn up 2002 as the start date just because I've got to start somewhere, which does eliminate some GSW doozies (e.g. Todd Fuller, Mookie Blaylock), but oh well.
If I didn't cut it off somewhere, this list would be in the thousands, and I'd never finish it. Took me long enough as it is, believe me.
Previously, I've done this bad-move list for the A's, the Giants, the 49ers and the Raiders, to mixed receptions.
The Warriors . . . well, they're probably the last featured team and they're definitely the busiest one.
Note: Remember, this is about picking out the bad FRONT-OFFICE DECISIONS, not specifically the worst actual players, and with the salary cap, the high-stakes draft, the smaller rosters and tiny pool of true impact players, and the like, NBA execs probably can make more bad decisions quicker than any of their compatriots in other sports.
If you want a place to get it wrong repeatedly, probably 20 times a year, the NBA is for you. And the Warriors did that for long, long spells.
Another note: I've graded on a very steep curve for these lists. If a player produces at all, relative to cost, or if he's valuable enough to garner something back in return, the move gets some free-pass points off of this list.
For instance, Mike Dunleavy Jr. wasn't the greatest No. 3 overall pick in the world in 2002, but he played, he tried, and he more than redeemed his value to the Warriors when he was the central piece in their trade package to acquire Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington . . . and Dunleavy has since developed into a very useful player for Milwaukee.
I'll put Andris Biedrins (11th pick, 2004) in that relative list, too: He's a burden now, but for several key seasons, Biedrins was a solid player. It wasn't a terrible selection. Even the call to pay him $54 million over six years isn't the most insane thing ever in context of the decisions that occurred later . . .
Last note: The Warriors for sure have made their share of excellent moves, from the acquisition of Baron Davis for Dale Davis and Speedy Claxton, to acquiring Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington from Indiana, to drafting Monta Ellis in the second round in 2005 and drafting Curry amid the madness.
Understood. These are the bad ones.
THE WARRIORS' 15 Worst Personnel Decisions, from 2002 to now.
1. Signing forward Stephen Jackson to a three-year, $27.6 million extension in November 2008. Yeah, I've written about this a time or two.
It's a classic move, that perfect moment when Planet Cohan/Rowell spun the farthest from NBA reality and into self-aggrandizing, franchise-destructing fantasy land, with bonus points because the volatile Jackson was actually still under contract for two more seasons before he signed this extension.
There was zero reason to do this. It screwed up everything. That's what made it so legendary.
Despite believing that the new deal would turn Jackson into Rowell's buddy forever, the Warriors were forced to trade SJax to whoever would take him a year after signing the deal (which was the max he could get) and almost a full season before the deal ever kicked in.
From the date of the extension being inked to the end of the deal term (it actually doesn't expire until this Sunday!), SJax was traded FOUR TIMES and RELEASED ONCE (that being by the Spurs a few weeks before the end of this regular season and before the playoffs).
Almost from the millisecond Jackson and the GSWs agreed to this deal, he became an NBA hot potato, part of five transactions from that point on, and almost always as a contract filler or fiscal ballast.
Five transactions in the span of one agreement. Has to be a record, right?
Here's a rundown of what happened almost immediately after the Warriors gave Jackson the deal:
A) Jackson demanded to be traded in the summer of 2009, was suspended by the Warriors in that preseason, was traded in November 2009 to Charlotte for Raja Bell's expiring deal and Vladimir Radmanovic's horrible deal;
B) He was traded again from Charlotte to Milwaukee in June 2011 in a multi-team deal that sent Corey Maggette and a first-round pick (that became Bismack Biyombo) to Charlotte;
C) He was traded with Andrew Bogut from Milwaukee back to the Warriors in March 2012 for the package that sent Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh to Milwaukee;
D) Two days later, because Larry Riley (perhaps wisely) considered him such a pariah he didn't even want him in the locker room for a second, Jackson was traded again from the Warriors to San Antonio for Richard Jefferson's bad contract and the first-round pick that became Festus Ezeli;
E) After some decent play in his second stint with the Spurs, SJax was released by San Antonio right before this year's playoffs and is currently without a team.
There have been a lot of insane deals in the recent history of the NBA, but almost all of the worst ones came when the team had to do it to retain or add the players' services.
This one was done two years before the Warriors would have ever had to make that call, inked solely out of blind stupidity by a franchise that wasn't exactly short of that quality at the time.
Yep, worst signing of this NBA era and easily the worst move in the last decade of Bay Area sports by any team.
2. Trading a future first-round pick to New Jersey for pint guard Marcus Williams on July 2008 and then adjusting the deal a year later to make it worse.
The initial deal was bad and made out of desperation, after the Warriors lost Baron Davis to free agency that summer and Chris Mullin believed he could keep them in contention (after winning 48 games in 2007-08) by switching Williams into that spot.
Mullin figured Williams -- coming off of two backup seasons in New Jersey -- was good enough to make sure that the pick the Warriors gave to New Jersey (who then traded it to Utah) wouldn't be worth much.
That was a wild miscalculation. Don Nelson decided almost immediately and correctly that Williams -- a former first-round pick -- was out of shape and hopelessly incapable of playing NBA point guard.
The Warriors stunk with or without Williams playing, which put the future pick into valuable territory, whenever it was delivered.
And then it got worse: After Mullin was pushed out, new GM Riley changed the provisions of the pick . . . essentially giving the Nets (who traded it to Utah in the Deron Williams deal) better options in order to push back the time frame a year -- for no apparent reason.
I won't get deeply into the details, but the Mullin desperation plus Riley senselessness froze the Warriors' draft for years -- they couldn't trade any future first-round picks until they delivered the pick, and they couldn't deliver that pick until it met the protections on the revised deal . . .
That finally has come due this year.
All this for Williams, who played 9 games and made 4 shots for the Warriors that season, was released in March 2009, played the next season in Memphis and hasn't been in the NBA since.
Mitigating factor: Thanks to the protections, at least it didn't cost the Warriors their pick in 2009 (Stephen Curry), 2011 (Klay Thompson) or last season -- but that was only due to a massive tank job to close 2011-12 and a won coin-flip, that got the Warriors' the seventh pick . . . and Harrison Barnes.
If they had won one more game or lost the coin-flip with Toronto, they would have had to give the pick to Utah.
Delivering the 21st pick to Utah this season, in a weak draft, is a large break for the Warriors.
After that pick is made, the Warriors are back to being a normal drafting team.
3. Using the amnesty provision on guard Charlie Bell in December 2011 (and waiving Jeremy Lin). The worst move of the Lacob-Myers-West regime, by far. It's a testament to them that it's the only move of the new era (so far) that made this list, and no others really came close.
They had their reasons: Coming out of the long lockout, the new front office wanted to make a splash in the chaotic free-agent period that immediately ensued, and they highlighted Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, a former client of Myers' and a restricted free agent.
They didn't want to use the amnesty on Andris Biedrins, because they believed he was too young and played too valuable a position, and they weren't enthralled with paying him $9 million over the next three seasons to see him play for somebody else.
They sure didn't want to use the provision on David Lee, acquired only a year earlier and a useful player, despite his massive long-term salary commitment.
So it was Bell, a journeyman acquired before the 2010-11 season in the deal that sent Maggette to Milwaukee.
The GSWs could have held onto the provision for a later time, but they used it to clear Bell's one-year salary (of $4.1 million), and cleaned out a little more room (by, among other things, releasing Lin), they had exactly enough money to offer Jordan a four-year, $43 million deal.
That was enough, they believed, to make the Clippers consider letting him go for nothing.
But the Clippers quickly matched the deal, Lin ended up with Houston, and then the Knicks and Lin-Sanity (and then back to Houston), and the Warriors got nothing . . . all by using their only chance at amnesty on Bell, whose salary was expiring at the end of the season, anyway.
If they had used it on Biedrins back in 2011 . . . or last summer . . . or even now . . . well, Warriors fans don't even like to think about any of that, do they?
4. Signing center/forward Chris Webber for his second Warriors stint in January 2008.
Webber was 34 at the time, out of the NBA for the first months of 2007-08 after a dismal tenure in Detroit thanks to his shaky knees, and hooked up with his old nemesis Don Nelson for a nostalgic mid-season re-do of their epic clash in the mid-1990s.
The 2008 reunion was sentimental, but also massively ill-conceived.
Nelson thought he had a smart passing center to electrify a tired but talented team, and bragged that he could do this without having to trade for anybody. But the Baron Davis-led squad didn't take to Webber, and his knees prevented him from doing much, anyway.
He played nine games and maybe one of them was actually good; I don't think there's anything I've done that has gotten GSW fans more angry than critiquing the Webber silliness game-by-game, but there you go.
Webber figured it out, went to the injury list . . . and then he retired for good on March 26, 2008.
The Warriors might not have made the playoffs no matter what that season, but the Webber move spotlighted their weird chemical imbalance and Nelson-tinged lunacy.
5. Losing point guard Gilbert Arenas to Washington in free agency in August 2003.
The mistake wasn't the actual loss of such a valuable young player (he was 21 at the time) -- Washington offered Arenas a deal (six years, $60 million) the Warriors literally couldn't match due to arcane salary cap rules (since changed).
The mistake came earlier, when the Warriors -- under then-GM Garry St. Jean -- didn't plan for this by creating cap space ahead of time for a player they found in the second round and helped develop into something special.
Deeper, it was a problem that such a bad team was already at the cap to begin with, but oh well. The persistent issue was that the front office at the time acquired bulky bad contracts (Erick Dampier, Danny Fortson, etc.) and thought holding onto Antawn Jamison and his monster contract was more important than keeping Arenas.
Instead, they lost Arenas for nothing. In Washington, Arenas turned in several great seasons, got hurt, signed a humongous deal six seasons later, went crazy, and burned them badly.
It wasn't until the weeks after losing Arenas that the GSWs started shedding their worst deals -- trading Fortson and Jamison, for example, and then Dampier the next season.
That second, smart wave was the beginning of Chris Mullin's rise to power . . . and St. Jean's exit.
6. Signing forward Corey Maggette to a five-year, $50 million free-agent deal in July 2008. Has there ever been a more meaningless/expensive stat-accumulator in NBA history?
Yep, it figures that Maggette, 28 when he signed, would serve some time with the Warriors in their dimmest -- and most meaningless -- era.
After losing Baron Davis to free agency, then swinging and missing wildly on Arenas (when he was about to re-sign with Washington) and Elton Brand (when he was about to sign with Philadelphia), Rowell instructed Mullin to sign anybody with a sell-able name . . . and that turned out to be a huge mistake.
Maggette gobbled up shots and minutes in two seasons with the Warriors, played no defense, produced a lot of points and actually was promoted by the team as an All-Star candidate.
He was horrendous, by the way. Just a horrendous player who seemed to be playing 1 on 5 every night.
In one of Larry Riley's better moves, he eventually sent Maggette to Milwaukee for Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzuric in June 2010 . . . to be rid of Maggette.
7. Signing guard Derek Fisher to a six-year, $37 million free-agent deal in July 2004. Derek Fisher is and has been many things, a point-guard savior is not one of them.
Mullin made this deal to help new coach Mike Montgomery adapt to the NBA -- and Fisher was a major supporting voice for Montgomery right off the bat; it's just that Fisher couldn't actually meet the standards of this gaudy contract.
Fisher, 30 at the time of the deal, fit in as a supporting player on a great roster -- like he had while winning titles with the Lakers -- and not with Jason Richardson, Troy Murphy, Dunleavy, Adonal Foyle and Clifford Robinson.
And when Mullin acquired Baron Davis the next season, Fisher and Montgomery were made obsolete almost instantly.
After two uncomfortable GSW seasons, Fisher was traded to Utah for salary ballast in July 2006. He asked for his contract to be terminated a year later and signed with the Lakers -- in an unusual situation involving his daughter's medical care -- and won two more titles there before bouncing around the league some more.
8. The forward Al Harrington into guard Jamal Crawford and then into point guard Acie Law and then into forward Vladimir Radmanovic and guard Raja Bell back into Acie Law AGAIN merry-go-round, starting in November 2008 and not ending until at some point in 2011.
The Warriors acquired old favorite Acie Law TWICE in this period -- once for Crawford and once for Raja Bell, and at the end of this loop Law actually got minutes ahead of Stephen Curry at times in 2010-11, thanks to the strategic whims of interim coach Keith Smart.
Note: Pro-basketball-reference.com cares so little about Law that the rigorous site doesn't even record what happened at the end of his career; they just note that he landed with the Warriors in 2010 . . . and then there's no other notation.
I do understand the Law ennui.
As befits the Larry Riley modus operandi, the Warriors seemed to get back less each step of this cycle . . . and that includes getting Law twice.
They moved Harrington because he didn't want to play for Nelson any more, they moved Crawford because Nelson wanted him out, they moved Law because he was terrible, they moved Raja Bell because he didn't want to play for them and he was hurt and they . . .
Oh I just lost my place and I think the Warriors did, too, about three moves ago.
9. Trading shooting guard Jason Richardson on 2007 draft night for the rights to forward Brandan Wright, and drafting shooting guard Marco Belinelli 18th overall to help replace Richardson.
OK, the real mistake here was not using the $9.9 million trade exception they received in this deal . . .
Or, if you really want to push it, the monster mistake was when Rowell and Cohan put the brakes on Mullin's near-deal to acquire Kevin Garnett from Minnesota that night.
(KG? REALLY? Here's a quick summary of all the things I wrote about this as it happened and then in the months afterward:
-- I'm not saying Rowell thwarted an almost-done deal for KG. But there's no question that the Warriors, along with two or three other teams, were given permission to talk to Garnett and his agent that night, to talk about a necessary extension as a prelude to a possible trade. Several sources indicate that at the time, the Warriors' trade offer was the one Minnesota liked best, and the T-Wolves urged KG to talk to the Warriors. (Boston's offer wouldn't come for several weeks.) But some things got in the way: KG was hesitant because he wanted to go to the Eastern Conference, plus he didn't like some of the contract talk he heard. One source indicates that Rowell started dragging his heels on a max extension, which is when KG and his agent decided to wait for another, better trade. When the Garnett discussion broke up, Mullin still had to go through with the Richardson-to-Charlotte part of it.
These dramatic moves were supposed to hurtle the Warriors -- who had just come off their 2007 playoff run -- into a new level and to keep them there.
Instead of complacently sitting on their "We Believe" squad, the Warriors were going to revamp on the fly and take the shot at a potential title contender (if they had acquired KG).
Not a bad idea, then it all went fizzle . . . though I must say I supported all the moves and they were not reckless.
Even if they never acquired Garnett, the Warriors had to re-direct money from Richardson to Ellis (smart) and they needed to get younger and more athletic at forward with Wright (didn't work out).
Mullin and Nelson were either trying to land KG, or to re-tool around Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson and Ellis, Biedrins, Wright and Belinelli were the keys . . . they didn't know a year later Baron would bolt, Ellis would wreck his ankle and Wright would never nail down a regular role at power forward.
-- Wright went eighth overall, one pick ahead of Joakim Noah . . . and Wright, after driving Nelson and Riley crazy, has actually become a decent player with the Mavericks.
-- Belinelli went five picks ahead of Wilson Chandler . . . and more on him later.
10. Drafting power forward Ike Diogu ninth overall in the 2005 draft. Andrew Bynum went on the next pick. Danny Granger went eight picks later.
Mullin wanted a low-post player for Montgomery's system, and Diogu was the best option left on the board -- though I don't think the Warriors were ever in love with Diogu, for good reasons.
He was a compromise pick -- he could score some, but he was short, he couldn't shoot the mid-range jumper and he apparently wasn't real good with the learning-the-plays or help-defense things.
Once Nelson took over a season later, Diogu was a short-timer. Diogu sent to Indiana with Dunleavy and Murphy for SJax and Harrington in Nelson's grand re-shuffling in January 2007.
Diogu started 18 total games and had 69 career assists and 200 turnovers in his six-season, six-team career.
11. Suspending guard Monta Ellis for 30 games (essentially a $3 million fine) in October 2008. Against Mullin's wishes, Cohan and Rowell punished Ellis for violating his contract by wrecking his ankle riding a scooter and for lying about it to the team immediately afterward.
This came only months after Ellis signed his $66 million deal and set the stage for years of mistrust and bitterness.
Did Ellis violate his contract? Literally, yes, probably. But he was 22 at the time, coming off of an incredible season alongside Baron Davis and was about to become the face of the franchise
On one side, Mullin believed the team needed to exercise compassion. On the other: Rowell and Cohan. They won, showing the first serious split with their top basketball exec.
And when Ellis recovered fully -- returning for the final 25 games of the 2008-09 season -- the relationship with Ellis was irreparable, though Riley and Nelson tried to mend it . . . and the selection of Curry in 2009 only heightened Ellis' wariness.
Ellis was finally traded to Milwaukee in March 2012 in the package for Andrew Bogut.
12. Signing center Adonal Foyle to a six-year, $42 million extension in July 2004. If you don't have a real center, you over-pay the journeyman you have, especially if he's a nice guy.
The Warriors bought him out in the 2007 offseason.
-- Andris Biedrins' six-year, $54 million extension in July 2008 goes in the same category -- need a center, pay a center, even if he's very limited.
13. Selecting center Patrick O'Bryant with the ninth pick of the 2006 draft. Another case of Don Nelson taking a look at a big player and deciding quickly he wanted no part of him -- only weeks after Mullin drafted O'Bryant.
The problems: Mullin drafted POB before he fired Montgomery and hired Nelson, and Nelson swiftly judged O'Bryant correctly -- he wasn't able to hang in with physical NBA post play.
It wasn't a great draft, but O'Bryant went two picks ahead of J.J. Redick and 12 picks ahead of Rajon Rondo.
That's not actually a long list of should-have-taken players for this pick, though I know GSW fans scream about this one on and on. Just some of the other land mines out there in the top half of this draft -- Mouhammed Sane went 10th and Hilton Armstrong 12th.
This was a bad draft. The Warriors were part of it. Taking O'Bryant ninth wasn't astoundingly bad. Just regular bad.
14. Selecting forward Anthony Randolph 14th overall in the 2008 draft. Mullin had many successes, but there's no way around it -- taking Randolph, Wright/Belinelli, O'Bryant and Diogu in four consecutive first rounds was not the highlight of Mullin's personnel run.
But I should point out, this pick was made as Mullin's power was evaporating . . . Nelson and Riley (and maybe Rowell) probably were just as involved in the selection, though there's no clear accounting for such things when there's skirmishing in the executive suites.
We all know that Randolph showed a lot of interesting things for the Warriors in two seasons; once again, Don Nelson was the one who decided that Randolph couldn't fit in his style, and Nelson was correct -- while Randolph agitated and languished.
Two ragged seasons later the Warriors put Randolph in the package to get David Lee from the Knicks.
Usually the 14th selection isn't enormously valuable, but in that draft, Roy Hibbert went 17th, JaVale McGee went 18th, and Ryan Anderson 21st.
15. Selecting forward Ekpe Udoh with the sixth pick in the 2011 draft . Riley took Udoh, who was already 23 years old, partly because Udoh was so eager to come to the Warriors (as opposed to several top prospects who weren't) and because Udoh wore a suit to his personal interview.
Yikes. Udoh was a very good defensive player for the Warriors, but had a definite ceiling -- not much offense, several years older than several other candidates for that pick -- one of the Warriors' highest in years.
In that draft, Greg Monroe went seventh, Larry Sanders went 15th . . .
And oh, Paul George went 10th.
After a season and a half with the Warriors as a decent backup big man, the Warriors put Udoh in the package featuring Monta Ellis that landed Andrew Bogut in March 2012.
Udoh is 26 now. George and Monroe are 23.
This was NOT a bad fiscal decision on its face, because BD was due to break down and he did, destroying the Clippers along the way. But Rowell's decision to back away from the deal Mullin had with Davis essentially busted up everything -- signaled that Mullin was out of power, that Nelson was going to get full rein to run the team into the ground and that Rowell was drunk with power. End of era.
Welsch, the 16th overall selection, went seven picks ahead of Tayshaun Prince.
To get the pick, the Warriors gave Philly back its 2005 first-rounder (acquired conditionally in -- I love these! -- a 2001 three-team deal that sent Derrick Coleman to the 76ers and included the Warriors moving Vonteego Cummings and Corie Blount to Philly and Chris Porter to Detroit.
It's hard to follow the twists and turns -- and it was conditional, so maybe this isn't all solid, but it looks like Philly then traded that pick again to Denver (in a three-team deal that sent Kenny Thomas from Houston to Philly and James Posey to Houston), then Denver traded the pick to New Jersey (in a huge package for Kenyon Martin) and New Jersey traded it to Toronto (for Vince Carter).
Toronto then finally used the pick on Joey Graham. Whew!