Losing Is Winning: How Tanking Saved the Golden State Warriors

There has been a lot of talk recently about NBA teams tanking to try and better their chances to get one of the coveted freshman in next year’s draft. Although many have called tanking a terrible way to build a team, it worked for my beloved Golden State Warriors. The downtrodden Bay Area franchise was stuck in turmoil as its two little men Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis couldn’t seem to work together. So instead of continuing another year in mediocrity, the Warriors brass decided to trade Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh to the Milwaukee Bucks for an injured Andrew Bogut and Dub Nation nemesis Stephen “Captain Jack? Jackson. Immediately after the trade, the Warriors sent Jackson to the Spurs for Richard Jefferson and a first round pick, in what many thought was an insignificant deal.

The Warriors needed to tank in the 2011/2012 season because if they were to get anything higher than the seventh pick in the lottery they would have to trade their draft pick to the Utah Jazz. In perfect Chris Mullin fashion, he traded a high value protected first round draft pick to the New Jersey Nets for point guard Marcus Williams who played in a whopping nine games for the Warriors. The Nets then traded that pick in a package to get point guard Deron Williams.

Wizards v/s Warriors 03/02/11
Keith Allison Flickr Page

After the Monta Ellis trade, the Warriors went a staggering 5-22 the rest of the year. Even though the Warriors were without Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and the injured Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut, they still were not bad enough to get a bottom seven pick in the draft. So their lone star player David Lee was suddenly out for the year with a mysterious injury even though he had finished the night before with 30 points and 8 rebounds. Even star backup Nate Robinson was held out of the final games because he was scoring buckets too frequently.

Mark Jackson and company seemed to find the right mix of lovable losers to finally fulfill their goal of being god awful. With a starting lineup of Charles Jenkins, Klay Thompson (Klayup version of Klay not the Splash Brother), Richard Jefferson, Jeremy Tyler and Mickell Gladness, the Warriors finished 1-7 down the stretch. When the season ended the Warriors got their wish of retaining the 7th pick even though they had to flip a coin to get the pick.


The Warriors looked like they had found their replacement for Monta Ellis as Klay Thompson showed some potential down the stretch. With the addition of Bogut, the Warriors looked like they had four solid starters with Stephen Curry, David Lee, and Klay Thompson. All the Warriors needed was a small forward to replace the mediocre Dorrell Wright. To the surprise of many, former phenom Harrison Barnes fell right into the Warriors lap with the seventh pick. With the 30th pick that came from the Stephen Jackson trade, the Warriors drafted big man Festuz Ezeli. To top off the 2012 draft, the Warriors nabbed utility man Draymond Green in the second round.

We all know what happened next. The Warriors went on to become the darlings of the NBA as they went on to shock the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs and came agonizingly close to upsetting the San Antonio Spurs. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson became the Splash Brothers, David Lee became an All-Star, and the 2012 draft picks changed the culture of the team. Oh yeah, that guy Richard Jefferson who was part of the Stephen Jackson trade, he became a key piece in another trade to bring superstar Andre Iguodala to the Warriors.

Who says tanking can’t help a team?


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