The Cleveland Cavaliers won the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft with the selection acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in the Mo Williams-Baron Davis trade. So essentially, the Clippers traded Baron Davis and Kyrie Irving for Mo Williams.
Now there's some butterfly effect shenanigans there -- the Clippers' GM immediately covered his tail by pointing out that without Williams, the Clippers wouldn't have gone 11-11 to finish the season and landed the particular lottery combination that won the whole shebang. He also insisted that Cleveland would not have done the deal if the Clippers protected the pick, which means to lose Davis' $28 million salary over the next two years, L.A. had to give up its pick.
That still doesn't excuse the trade.
You don't trade unprotected first-round picks when you know you're going to be in the lottery for anything less than a star, period. The New Jersey Nets traded their first-round pick unprotected this year ... for Deron Williams, a franchise point guard and legit star. The Clippers traded their own unprotected pick for the difference in salaries between Davis and Williams, which will be about $11 million over two years.
That's cap space for the Clippers ... who already had cap space when they made the trade. L.A. had tons of cap space in the summer of 2010, when every player on the planet was seemingly a free agent. You know who the Clippers ended up with? Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye. Gomes is cool, and Foye availed himself alright in a comeback year. But those are mid-level exception players, not "create more cap space" players.
The last big-name free agent the Clippers drew -- scratch that, the only big-name free agent the Clippers have ever drawn -- was Baron Davis. When you're the Clippers, you don't get stars in free agency. You get stars via trade and through the draft. Every legit star the Clippers have had in the past 11 years -- Elton Brand, Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon -- has come via trade or the draft. If you're the Clippers, the Kings, the Bobcats, the Nets, the Cavaliers ... you'd better depend on the draft and trades.
By trading the draft pick, the Clippers showed a fundamental misunderstanding of their own situation. That cap space is probably not going to help L.A. Kyrie Irving would have helped tremendously. It's a no-brainer.
The great Steve Perrin of ClipsNation also remains skeptical of the trade, and says that if L.A. doesn't do something with the modest cap space savings this summer, the Davis-Irving-Williams swap could turn out "historically bad." It's well on its way.