Here's the thing I keep telling myself, and I want to tell all of you as well: the trade the Clippers made on February 24th is no different today than it was yesterday or the day before that or the day the deal was done. It always included a very small likelihood (2.8% in the final analysis) of the first pick in the draft, and a higher though still pretty small (10%) chance of a top three pick. So kicking your feet and screaming the F-word and such is more than a little silly. The Clippers have exactly the same thing today that they had yesterday, which is no lottery pick. And the fact that the long odds for the number one pick actually paid off for Cleveland doesn't change the trade that was made. Get over it.
However, it's obvious that tonight was painful. From a purely emotional standpoint, having the pick that was traded to Cleveland wind up as the number one pick hurts. One particularly wonders, and I've asked this question many times before, if that trade could not have been consummated with restrictions on the pick? Obviously Cleveland was unwilling to do the deal with top three protection on the pick, because clearly that would have been the Clippers' starting point. So Olshey blinked first and pulled the trigger for an unrestricted pick, and crossed his fingers and hoped that this wouldn't happen: this very thing that happened tonight.
Of course, this would hurt a little less if I didn't already dislike the trade. I really felt like Baron Davis was a very good fit for this team - it would be an exaggeration to say that he was the perfect fit, but many of his strengths, particularly his ability to push the tempo, break down defenses, and deliver pinpoint passes, were ideally suited to playing with the likes of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and I felt like Baron was doing a terrific job of adapting his game to the situation. I'll admit that while watching the NBA Playoffs, every time I see that Kia commercial is a painful reminder of a player I liked very much; that was literally the last time we saw Baron in a Clippers' uniform.
But the most important thing to bear in mind at this point is this: the trade is still not complete. The sole reason the pick was included - the one and only reason that Cleveland required such a large spoonful of sugar to sweeten the deal - is the additional financial flexibility it affords the Clippers. Before passing final judgment on this trade, we have to wait and see what the Clippers do with that additional flexibility. If in the end the lower team payroll that is the result of swapping Baron's salary for that of Mo Williams only serves to save Donald Sterling some money, then yeah, it's a bad, bad trade, historically bad. How else do you describe a trade that makes you worse in the short term, costs you a lottery pick in the near term, and doesn't help in the long term? If however the Clippers use that lower payroll in some way to acquire the player they really need, a quality small forward, then it will have accomplished exactly what Neil Olshey hoped it would. So here's hoping that Neil knows what he's doing. (You can rest assured that the results of the lottery have increased the urgency of getting something done this summer.)
The final chapter of Baron Davis for Mo Williams is not written yet - we haven't even met all the characters yet. In the meantime, some team was going to win the lottery, and we already knew it wouldn't be the Clippers. Would you prefer that a Western Conference team had gotten the first overall pick? You have to be happy for the Cavs and Nick Gilbert tonight, after what they've been through.