The rights to Billy Owens, the Sacramento Kings’ unsigned top draft choice, were traded Friday to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Mitch Richmond, center Les Jepsen and a second-round draft pick in 1995.
Owens, a 6-foot-9 forward out of Syracuse, was the third player taken in the NBA draft. The acquisition of his rights breaks up the Warriors’ potent threesome of Richmond, Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway.
They combined to average 72.5 points a game last season as Golden State won 44 games while averaging 116.6 points a game, the team’s best in 23 years.
“The decision to trade Mitch Richmond is the toughest I have ever made,” Warrior coach and general manager Don Nelson said.
“Mitch has been much more than just a great basketball player for the Warriors. He’s been a member of our family. Fortunately, as we say goodbye to Mitch, we know we will remain a good friend for life and become an NBA All-Star for years to come.
“Les Jepsen is also a wonderful man and a hard-working young basketball player. Given some more time and experience, he will continue to develop.”
The trade came just as the Warriors prepared to open the season at Denver Friday night. Sacramento is at home against the Clippers.
Nelson said the Warriors felt Owens will help the Warriors become a bigger, more balanced and better rebounding team.
“Billy is a big, strong, excellent young basketball player who can play three positions (power forward, small forward and shooting guard),” Nelson said.
“We believe his forte is rebounding, which obviously is our greatest need. Because he is a rookie joining our team without the benefit of going through our summer program or fall training camp, we expect that our team will have to work through a period of adjustment during the early part of the season.”
Owens, 22, opted to skip his senior year of eligibility at Syracuse for the draft and was picked behind Larry Johnson of UNLV and Kenny Anderson of Georgia Tech.
As a junior, Owens averaged 23.3 points and 11.6 rebounds and was named Big East Player of the Year as he led Syracuse to the conference title.
Richmond, the NBA’s rookie of the year in 1989, averaged 22.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists a game in three seasons with the Warriors.