Warriors send Richardson to Charlotte for No. 8 overall pick in a lively draft
Janny Hu, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, June 29, 2007
6-28-07 22:48 PDT In one of the most memorable draft nights in franchise history, the Warriors ended the Jason Richardson era in Oakland, added a promising power forward in Brandan Wright and set the stage for other moves to be made this summer.
Golden State sent Richardson, long considered its emotional heart, to the Bobcats on Thursday in exchange for the rights to North Carolina's Wright. The Warriors also drafted shooting guard Marco Belinelli of Italy at No. 18 and UMass forward Stephane Lasme at No. 46, while sending 36th pick Jermareo Davidson to Charlotte as part of the Richardson trade.
"It was a long, busy day," Warriors vice president Chris Mullin said. "But we made some big moves and it's really going to help improve the team."
The biggest move, of course, came when Mullin dealt away Richardson for Wright despite insisting after the season that the popular sixth-year guard would not be moved.
The Warriors had floated Richardson's name in trade talks with other teams earlier in the week, and Mullin said Thursday that the chance to pick up Wright, a 6-9 forward he believes is tailor-made for coach Don Nelson's system, was simply too much to pass up.
"I'll miss Jason of course," Mullin said. "He's one of my favorite guys, my favorite players. It's a hard thing to see him go. But when you need to improve your team, sometimes you got to make tough decisions."
In dealing Richardson, the Warriors lose their leading scorer from three of the past four seasons, and are off the hook for the $50 million he is owed over the next four years.
In adding Wright, the Warriors get one of the most highly regarded power forwards in the draft. The slender 19-year-old averaged 14.7 points and shot 64.6 percent in his only season at North Carolina.
Wright is known for his ability to run the floor, as well as his rebounding and help defense -- both areas in which the Warriors have been critically lacking. Mullin said he had been targeting Wright all along, preferring him to Chinese forward Yi Jianlian, whom Golden State was roundly believed to be coveting.
And despite reversing his stance on Richardson's untouchable status, Mullin said Wright didn't need to worry about another address change.
"We think he's potentially a star," he said.
"I think I fit in great," Wright added. "They like to use a lot of fours, a lot of pieces. I'm excited about this situation."
Not to be overlooked is the huge financial relief the Warriors receive by trading Richardson. Because Charlotte is under the salary cap, Golden State was able to make the deal without getting back the equivalent of Richardson's $10 million salary.
Instead, they netted a trade exception worth that amount which they can now use in future trades without sending back any salary. (Under league rules, salaries in any deal must come within 25 percent of each other unless a team has cap space.)
While the Warriors remain well over the salary cap, they now move significantly below the luxury tax level, which gives them financial breathing room down the road and allows them to resign their own restricted free agents (such as Mickael Pietrus) without being taxed.
The Warriors also have their midlevel exception -- estimated to be worth between $5.5 million and $6 million -- and their $1 million veteran's exception, to use in free agency, which begins Sunday.
And more moves could be coming, or were at least in the works: Mullin acknowledged after the draft that he talked to Minnesota within the last three days.
Meanwhile, with their own No. 18 pick, the Warriors selected Belinelli to add another scorer to their backcourt.
The 6-5 guard, known for his athleticism and shooting ability, averaged 16.4 points and a .544 field goal percentage for Climamio Bologna this past season. The fifth-year pro also posted 12.9 points per game in Euroleague competition.
Mullin raved about Belinelli's ability to knock down shots and said the 21-year-old had "a good feel for the game" both offensively and defensively.
"He's a young shooter, slasher, scorer, and athletic guy I've watched for a few years," Mullin said. "He's going to fit our system perfect. He's another guy to go out there and put the ball in the basket." E-mail Janny Hu at firstname.lastname@example.org
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