Clippers say no regrets for not protecting lottery pick

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The Cleveland Cavaliers will select Kyrie Irving with the top pick in the 2011 NBA Draft — not with their own pick, but the one they got in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers at the deadline.

That deal was a salary dump by the Clippers — they wanted out of the two years and $28.7 million owed Davis. They didn’t love this draft. So they sent Davis and an unprotected first round pick for Mo Williams (two years, $17 million) and Jamario Moon (off the books this summer).

That pick had only a 2.8 percent chance of being the No. 1 pick. But folks, that is why you top-three protect picks like that.

Clippers GM Neil Olshey spun the “no regrets” line at Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com after the draft.

“Protecting the pick was never an option,” L.A. general manager Neil Olshey told NBA.com. “There is no way to Monday morning quarterback this (since) our draft position wouldn’t have been the same had we not made the deal as I’m sure we would not have finished 11-11 post-trade without Mo Williams.

“Additionally, we had a 97-percent chance of sitting here tonight with Baron Davis (taking up 25 percent of our cap), the eighth pick in a weak draft and no cap flexibility. Adding Mo Williams and $8.5 million in cap room gave us a better opportunity to become a playoff team next year than adding a seventh player under 23 with no NBA experience.”

The trade was still a smart one by the Clippers, except for protecting the pick. Which came back to bite them. Olshey suggested that protecting it would have killed the deal, and the chance was so remote that’s why they didn’t push.

But next year, in some similar situation, another GM is going to remember what happened to the Clippers and insist on top-three protections for the pick. (Meaning the next year’s pick would go to the trading partner.) And watch, the deal will still get done.