Baron Davis was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers early Thursday in advance of the NBA trade deadline, but the more important piece in the deal is certainly the Los Angeles Clippers' unprotected 2011 first-round pick. Unprotected Clippers picks might as well be the gold standard for NBA transactions; the Clippers have made the playoffs once since in the new millennium, which means that their first-round pick always has a shot at being No. 1 overall. (See: Blake Griffin, Michael Olowakandi.)
The Cavs pulled the Clippers' 2011 pick unprotected, and that's a huge boon. The Clippers currently look as if they will finish with the sixth or seventh worst record in the NBA, though they could be as bad as the fourth-worst or as good as the ninth-worst. In all likelihood, the pick will be no lower than No. 9, and as high as No. 1. Remember that the Chicago Bulls had the ninth-worst record in the league when their ping pong balls turned up Derrick Rose in 2008.
Davis is a huge burden at $28 million over two more seasons; while the Cavaliers dropped the $17 million owed to Mo Williams over that same span, Davis will really cut into any plans Cleveland has in free agency. But for a team building from the ground up -- as the Cavs are and should be doing -- that pick is worth it. The only teams that should sell lottery picks are teams on the absolute verge of greatness. The Clippers have some great pieces in Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon. But they aren't close to "good," let alone "great." The player selected with the Clippers' 2011 pick could have been a great addition to that core; now, he'll (hopefully) be a boon to Cleveland.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers reportedly look for more opportunities to build young. Taking on toxic assets like Davis is obviously something Cleveland is willing to do to get better.