The 40 worst Warriors of the 40-year championship drought

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The Golden State Warriors, hoisters of their first Larry O’Brien trophy in 40 years Tuesday, advanced to the playoffs just eight times during the four-decade reign of futility and never came close to sniffing the jock of a finals berth. Whether through wasted lottery picks, ill-advised trades, bloated contracts or simply awful coaching and bungled front office management, the Warriors wrote volumes on fostering the culture of losing.

By Andrew Pridgen

Below, a list of the top 40 worst Warriors who personified the team’s doormat image from the 1976 to 2014 seasons. Please note, some of these players and staff were good guys, just bad for the organization. They rank lowest. As we climb closer to the best of the bad, the character issues mount.

40) Eric Musselman (2002-2004) I really don’t have much against Musselman the coach but the Musselman-era gaffes of the front office taint my judgement, so he’s probably guilty by association. In his first year trolling the Dubs’ sideline, Musselman was runner-up to Gregg Popovich for the NBA Coach of the Year Award. That season, Golden State played .500 ball for the first time in more than a decade. Not 100 percent a players’ coach, both Gilbert Arenas (free agent opt-out) and Antwan Jamison (see: #36 Nick Van Exel) bounced out of the Bay under coach Eric’s watch. Musselman was fired in 2004 by incoming VP Chris Mullin.

39) Ike Diogu (2005-07) I ain’t mad at Ike besides the fact that the Nigerian Nightsweats was a 9th overall pick and a power forward who couldn’t shoot, rebound or defend much. Later, the always nervous Diogu was shipped to Larry Bird’s Indiana Pacers along with Mike Dunleavy Jr., Troy Murphy and Keith McLeod in exchange for Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Josh Powell. This was basically the NBA equivalent of when you say to the neighbor kid, “I’ll trade you this single rollerblade for that flat football that’s sunbleached on one side from sitting in your backyard for the last three years.”

38) Joe Smith (1995-1998) College player of the year for Maryland. Number one overall pick. And then literally went on to become the NBA’s Becky. In 1998, Smith was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in a four-player blockbuster that brought forward Clarence Weatherspoon and guard Jim Jackson to Golden State. Boo Yeah! Smith went on to play for the Detroit Pistons, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Denver Nuggets, the 76ers again, the Chicago Bulls, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Atlanta Hawks, the New Jersey Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers. Smith is still enjoying his frequent flier miles.

37) Popeye Jones (2003-2004) Brought on late in his career to help the Warriors to a 37-45 record, the endorsement deal with Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen never quite worked out and no spinach could kickstart the moribund Warriors while he started at power forward.

36) Nick Van Exel (2003-2004) At the time, Van Exel was the headliner in the Warriors’ biggest most desperate trade in two decades. Van Exel was acquired on August 18, 2003 from the Mavericks along with Evan Eschmeyer, Avery Johnson, Popeye Jones and Antoine Rigaudeau in exchange for Antawn Jamison, Chris Mills, Danny Fortson and Jiri Welsch. Van Exel showed some small flourishes but basically took minutes from Speedy Claxton while bringing the culture of mediocrity he created with the Mavs in his carryon.

35) Calbert Cheaney (2003-2006) Cheaney closed out his lackluster NBA career in Golden State stamping out Newports at the end of the bench. If you do a little digging, you can find his best work was off the court alongside Juwan Howard, Ben Wallace and Ashraf Amaya in Crystal Waters’ adult contemporary hit Say If You Feel Alright.

beidrichI34) Andris Biedriņš (2004-2011) Biedriņš (pronounced like ‘Goodrich’ with a B) used to give the BEST post-game interviews ever. He couldn’t hit a free throw with a pair of boxing gloves (11.1 percent in his final season as a Warrior), but the Latvian center used to “always like inside. I like inside.” The poster boy for the Chris Mullin administration, in 2008, Biedriņš agreed to a six-year, $62 million deal. Totes worth it. The ultimate redemption? On July 5, 2013, the Warriors traded Biedriņš to the Utah Jazz along with Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson to clear cap space that led to the acquisition of 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala.

33) Dean Oliver (2001-2003) Prior to the quasi-successful (in Warrior terms) Earl Boykins regime, Oliver was the bumbling back-up point guard to Gilbert Arenas. Think about choosing between Arenas’ sociopathic antics and a guy dribbling the ball off his foot for two years. The early ‘00s sucked.

32) Troy Murphy (2001-2007) Murphy, it could be argued, was also probably one of the Warriors’ top-20 guys of the last four decades (if there are 20 to be had on that list). The problem here is the 14th overall pick never quite lived up to the expectation he set his first two seasons. After averaging a double-double and finishing second in the league’s Most Improved Player voting in 2003-2004, a series of mystery injuries limited Murphy to 28 games, with no starts the following season. He would show regular flashes after that—nailing threes in garbage time and pulling 10 boards/night—but was eventually shipped as a player-to-be-named-later type in the Pacers’ deal.

31) Chris Mullin (front office only: 2004-2009) I’ll never argue against Mullin and his shorts as one of the top five Warrior greats of all time on the court, but as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, Mullin’s was a more painful four-year stint than his first three rehabs. The Mullin administration was marked with bad trades (Pacers), unmotivated coaches (Mike Montgomery, Don Nelson, Keith Smart) and underperforming draft picks (Patrick O’Bryant, Marco Belinelli and Anthony Randolph). On May 11, 2009, Mullin was replaced by Larry Riley as the Warriors’ GM. A month later, Riley drafted Steph Curry 7th overall.

30) Vladimir Radmanovic (2009-2011) This guy. This 6’10” Bosnian forward was just here for the Costco dogs and the unlimited access to jeans. He loved to shoot from beyond the arc and not get down in time to defend. America, what a country!

nellieI29-28) Don Nelson (1988-1995 and 2006-2010) No other coach in NBA history will ever win as many games without winning in the playoffs. Love him or hate him, his Nellieball combined with Mike D’Antoni’s uptempo style of the early 2000s is the direct predecessor of the Warriors’ current game. Nellie had a genius mind and a terrible record of execution in crunch time. Overall, it could be said his ego held back the potentially great teams of the early 1990s but helped create the blueprint for today’s winners starting in 2009.

27) Adonal Foyle (1997-2007) Sorry Adonal. I know you STILL lead the franchise in rebounds all-time and you write children’s books, but for a decade you were simply the best depiction of the Warriors continuing to be the face of mediocre in professional sport. At least you banked that six-year, $42 million contract in 2004.

26) Jason Richardson (2001-2007) Hard to hate on J-Rich: MSU alum, back-to-back Slam Dunk Contest winner (‘02-’03) and still in the league as a utility player for the 76ers. I also think he did double-duty as the über mascot Thunder (see: #6) during time outs. Maybe he never had the right set pieces around him. Whatever it is that held him back, the Urban Dictionary still has a picture of him doing a reverse windmill under “Unrealized Potential.”

25) Mike Montgomery (2004-2006) After a coach alienates himself from a pair of local NCAA programs, he gets promoted to the NBA. Part of my disdain for Montgomery comes from him being hired, for no reason, to replace Musselman. Any confidence Musselman was building in the team was quickly lit in fire and set out to sea. Montgomery didn’t have the chops to coach in the pros and point guard Baron Davis called him on it…literally by calling different plays on the floor. Two lottery-pick-grabbing seasons in purgatory and Monty was mercifully let go.

24) Jiri Welsch (2002-2003) In the same draft where the Warriors had the worst pick ever: Yao was number one, Jay Williams number two and then…Mike Dunleavy Jr. to the Dubs, Golden State tried to make up for it by trading a pair of future draft picks to acquire Welsch when they could’ve just traded down and gotten Amar’e Stoudemire at no. 9. Welsch couldn’t play defense, break to the basket or shoot—at all. After a year of garbage time, he was shipped to Dallas in the Antawn Jamison trade.

obryantI23) Patrick O’Bryant (2006-2008) Nobody gets mad about Patrick O’Bryant because nobody remembers Patrick O’Bryant other than “wasn’t that the name of an Irish bar that used to be on College near 51st?” O’Bryant brought the Warriors the luck of nothing as the 9th overall pick in ‘06. Don Nelson benched him immediately which resulted in O’Bryant appearing in only 40 games during his professional tenure with Golden State.

22) Vince Carter (1998) A Warrior for 10-minutes, not even enough time to get a jersey/hat photo op with David Stern. This future hall of famer, who made a cameo in the second round against the Warriors this year as a reserve for the Grizzlies, was immediately and inexplicably traded to Toronto on draft day 1998. Carter was initially drafted by the Dubs with the fifth overall pick, and then traded to the Raptors for Antawn Jamison, the fourth overall pick. Were the Raptors like, “Oh wait, just kidding, we got the wrong Tar Heel” and swapped? Either way, Canada was right.

21) Todd Fuller (1996-1998) We all know Fuller was taken 11th overall in 1996 (two picks ahead of Kobe Bryant), but he also dropped 14 on Jordan in the first half one night in Oakland in ’97. I was at that game. It was beautiful. Still, this pick came at the 20-year mark—the halfway point of the Warriors’ inadequacy—and ushered in two more decades of the same.

20) Joe Barry Carroll (1980-1984) The future of the franchise the franchise franchised its future for (see: #16 Robert Parish) left the Warriors to go play in Italy. Thanks bro.

19) Bobby Humbles (1978) The Warriors’ 9th rounder that year. Never saw one minute. Just, why are you drafting a guy named Bobby Humbles?

18) Brandon Wright (2007-2011) I think the Tar Heel the Warriors got in Harrison Barnes is the Tar Heel they thought they were getting in Brandon Wright. Four spotty and injury-filled seasons and Wright finished his time in blue and gold having played fewer than 100 games. He was the next Jason Richardson like Billy Owens was the next Mitch Richmond.

17) Mickael Pietrus (2003-2008) 2003’s 11th overall pick was French.

16) Robert Parish (1976-1980) Parish hated Golden State (fresh off a title win his rookie year) so much that he wanted to quit basketball after a handful of seasons on the West Coast. Enter Boston, which traded their 1980 first pick (see: #20 Joe Barry Carroll) and the 13th pick (Rickey Brown) in 1980 for Parish and the rights to the 3rd pick (Kevin McHale). Parish and McHale hung banners for the Celts in 1981, 1984 and 1986 and the trade is remembered as one of the worst in NBA history—made possible through Parish’s disgruntled repose.

15) Michael McDonald (1995) The 55th overall pick of the 1995 draft played four minutes in the NBA and grabbed half a rebound. Oh, but you should see him live at Red Rocks.

montaIV14) Monta Ellis (2005-2012) Scootergate notwithstanding, Ellis put in some real time during some real uncertain years in a Warriors uniform. That said, the Lanier High School grad never quite lived up to the superstar status his tattoos connote. Mercifully, on March 13, 2012, Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown were traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson—giving Monta’s ankle injury-prone understudy Steph Curry control of the team. Addition by subtraction is what lands Ellis at no. 14.

13) Steve Logan (2002) 2002’s second rounder never located the Warriors’ practice facility on his GPS. Steve Logan, if you’re out there, let us know so we can send you some schwag.

12) Al Harrington (2007-2008) Harrington was the Warriors’ most-coveted for years and once he was brought over from Indiana, finished the second half of the 2007 season looking like he and Monta could captain a winner. The quick courtship was over by early 2008 when Harrington sat himself because his back hurt. Harrington was sent to the Knicks shortly after for Jamal Crawford.

10) Mike Dunleavy Jr. (2002-2007) With Yao Ming and Jay Williams plucked off the draft board, the Warriors took the willowy no. 3 with the NBA pedigree. After two disappointing seasons, the Dubs compounded the problem with a five-year, $44 million contract extension for MDJ in 2005. Dunleavy, soft and pasty on and off the floor, was later the marquee name in the Pacers trade…where he promptly found his physicality and stroke for Larry Bird.

9) (9-way tie) Lewis Jackson, Steve Bartek, Scott McCollum, Tony Martin, Cliff Higgins, Paul Brozovich, Mitch Arnold, Tim Bell: Golden State’s third through tenth-round picks (back when the draft had 10 rounds) in 1984—all of whom combined for zero minutes, zero points, zero assists, zero rebounds…you get the picture.

8) Derek Fisher (2004-2006) All I can say is: Fuck Derek Fisher. After starring at point for the Lakers, the Warriors signed Fisher to a six-year, $37 million deal in 2004. Instead of a free agent, it was like they’d signed a double agent. Fisher showed up, collected his paycheck and showed no flash (beyond exploring new and creative ways to brick threes, create turnovers or curb momentum). Fisher was then relegated to Salt Lake City where he came back with his final fuck you to the Dubs as his brilliance effectively ended the Warriors’ 2007 playoff run just 10 days after they dethroned the top-seeded Mavericks.

latrellI7) Latrell Sprewell (1992-1999) In 1997, Sprewell choked Warriors’ head coach P.J. Carlesimo after P.J. yelled at Latrell to put a little mustard on his passes in practice. Practice. We talkin’ about practice. But Latrell went on to choke it up even more in the playoffs missing key shots in post-season appearances with the Dubs, Knicks and Timberwolves—the latter after creating the league’s best regular-season offense with KG then kowtowing to the Lakers in 2004’s Western Conference Championship.

thunderI6) Thunder (1994-2006) The Warriors made the playoffs in 1993 and 2007 and that’s all you need to know about the spandex-clad pansexual flip-and-dunk mascot Thunder. RIP.

5) Gilbert Arenas (2001-2003) The brilliant-but-psychotic Arenas doesn’t rank number one because he prematurely ran himself out of town. Do a quick Google search on Arenas and you get a grab-bag of Travis Bickle-type behavior. My favorite incident happened just this week. The WaPo’s headline says it all: Gilbert Arenas destroys own vehicle over lost Netflix password. Classic Arenas.

4) Billy Owens (1991-1993) I wouldn’t be this mad at the former Orangeman if he wasn’t 1) traded for Mitch Richmond, exiling Richmond to Sacramento and 2) widely regarded by NBA scouts as the all-time gold standard for lazy fuck (in a league full of lazy fucks).

And last but not least, A Tale of Three Chrises:

3) Chris Webber (1993-1994) It’s not just that the Dubs franchised their future for the Fab 5’s frenzied leader plucking him from the Orlando Magic in exchange for Anfernee Hardaway PLUS three future first round draft picks—building the closest thing Orlando’s ever come to a dynasty—but after a year in Golden State, Webber opted out and the Dubs had to fire-sell the wayward Wolverine to the Washington Bullets. I don’t wish any man harm, but I also wasn’t sad when his Center Court with C-Webb restaurants in Sac went under in 2009. Call timeout again bro.

2) Chris Cohan (1995-2010) Cohan doesn’t get enough credit for owning and maintaining the worst franchise in sports for 15 years then making a $400 million profit on it. The Warriors’ fortunes literally changed overnight when Cohan sold to Peter Guber and Joe Lacob for $450 million in July 2010 (not that those guys aren’t dickheads too—but at least they’re dickheads who like to win). The sale at least made Cohan liquid enough to go ahead and start paying off the $160 million in back taxes he owes the feds.

And…

1) Chris Gatling (1991-1995) Taken 16th overall, Gatling was supposed to be the muscle complement to the silky smooth Run TMC. Though he turned out to be a 10-point/seven rebound guy before being shipped to Miami along with Tim Hardaway and a churro, Shady Gatling was never a coach, teammate or fan favorite. Fast forward 20 years to him living in Arizona (tip-off number one) and being arrested in March as a kingpin of a giant illegal credit card and ID theft scam. Though Gatling faces living out the rest of Golden State’s current run behind bars, he can sleep soundly knowing that he is the worst Warrior of the last 40 years.

 

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