When the Golden State Warriors traded for Andrew Bogut on Tuesday, they did so in the hope that it would improve their future. For the next few months, though, they'll clearly take a step back. Bogut figures to miss the rest of the season as he recovers from an ankle injury, and the team will certainly miss Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh with only the aging Stephen Jackson to make up for them. If things go as expected, their 18-21 record will get a whole lot worse.
That's not necessarily a bad thing for the Warriors moving forward. If they end up with a pick outside of the top seven in this summer's loaded draft, the Warriors will send it to the Utah Jazz. If the draft were held today, the Warriors would have the 10th-best odds at nabbing the top pick, which suggests that they will indeed need to give up their spot to Utah. Losing more games won't guarantee they get to keep it, but it does improve their chances significantly.
Complicating matters is the fact that Stephen Curry, now the team's best offensive player by a wide margin, can't seem to go two games in a row without tweaking his ankle. With the playoffs now extremely unlikely, even with the team just three games back of the Rockets for the eighth spot in the West, it might make sense to shut down Curry for the year. According to Matt Steinmetz of CSNBayArea.com, that's exactly what they're considering right now (via PBT):
When Curry was asked about his status for the rest of the season, he responded: "I'm just trying to get healthy. I'm getting fed up with dealing with the same thing over and over again and trying to push through it and not being able to produce like I want to on the floor.
"That's my main goal, to get healthy. What that means I'm not sure yet. I'll continue to do my rehab and my treatment and listen to the (training) staff. I'm sure we'll have a better idea what we're going to do going forward later."
Tanking is a bad word around the NBA, but it's hard to look at this situation and make a case that Curry should play through injury. By trading Ellis and Udoh for an injured player, the Warriors front office made it clear that they're not overtly concerned with making the playoffs this season. There's no real reason to play Curry when it would only hurt the team's situation for this year's draft and not lead to a postseason berth. Every team starts a season wanting to win as many games as possible, but there's a point at which sticking to that goal becomes quixotic rather than purely noble.
That's not to say that the Warriors know exactly what they're doing here. If this trade sets them up to do no better than challenge for a low playoff berth in even the most ideal season, then it's as yet unclear why they wouldn't stick to that goal for this season — when reaching it was a tangible possibility, if not exactly likely — and reassess trade possibilities in the offseason. The Warriors either have unrealistic expectations for a Bogut-led roster or are banking heavily that they'll get lucky in the draft lottery this June. In either case, how is this situation is much better than the one they found themselves in on Tuesday morning?
It's possible that Joe Lacob and the rest of his ownership group have a clear outline of what they want the franchise to be. But with the logical contradictions of this trade — not to mention the news that minority owner Peter Guber has joined Magic Johnson's group looking to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, the most hated team in the entire Bay Area — make it increasingly easy to question if they're unfurling a master plan or making it up as they go along. Tanking is an acceptable strategy, but it only really works if everyone surrounding the team realizes that they're trying to become legitimate contenders, not another middling also-ran.