The NBA draft is a perfect time to build for the future. But what if your team is built to win now? What if you're only one player away from contention? For those teams, the draft is an opportunity to trade draft picks for established players or money.
Some teams, like the Houston Rockets, are looking to package draft picks for a star like Dwight Howard. Others, like the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, are built to win now, and don't need or have minutes available to develop a rookie.
What these teams should do is unclear. But what they shouldn't do is use their draft picks to select players. Here are three teams that don't need to throw another rookie into the mix on draft day.
The Houston Rockets own three first-round picks in the draft (No. 12, No. 16 and No. 18), but the Rockets don't need a rookie. In fact, the Rockets don't want a rookie, indicated by their desire to move their draft picks for a veteran player.
On Tuesday, the Rockets traded forward Chase Budinger to Minnesota for the Timberwolves' No. 18 pick. Now ESPN reports have them packaging all of their picks to make a run at Dwight Howard.
With picks No. 14, 16 and 18 as well as two first-rounders from a year ago (Marcus Morris and Donatas Motiejunas), Houston hopes to present an overwhelming stockpile of assets to the Magic in return for Dwight Howard ... even if it has no assurances he'll stay more than one season.
Then on Wednesday, Houston made a trade with Milwaukee sending the No. 14 pick and Samuel Dalembert to the Bucks for Milwaukee's No. 12 pick, Shaun Livingston, Jon Leuer and Jon Brockman. So far, all of these moves have been geared towards landing Howard (from ESPN).
Although several rival teams now believe the Rockets are determined to stockpile a fistful of first-round draft picks to offer Orlando for Howard, sources say there are other established players they're interested in acquiring. One of them, sources say, is Atlanta Hawks swingman Josh Smith, who happens to be one of Howard's closest friends.
Either way, the Rockets are looking to deal their draft picks for an established veteran.
The Lakers only own one draft pick in this year's draft, and it's the last overall pick. But regardless of draft position, Los Angeles really has no need for a rookie.
Granted, ESPN reports Los Angeles is looking to package Pau Gasol to get a draft pick. But we've been down this road before with the Lakers trading Gasol. So far there's been much more smoke than fire.
Besides, the Lakers' best chance at winning is to keep their core of Bryant, Gasol and Bynum together, then add a veteran point guard such as Mo Williams through a trade. If Gasol and Bynum can get on the same page again, there's nobody that could stop them.
On top of it all, Los Angeles is a veteran team with a finite amount of time to contend. Adding a draft pick wouldn't benefit the Lakers or the player.
Their current draft pick wouldn't help the Lakers because anybody they draft with the 60th pick probably wouldn't be able to contribute much.
It wouldn't benefit the player because given L.A.'s makeup, there wouldn't be minutes for the rookie to develop.
However, the 60th pick in the draft doesn't have much trade value, so L.A. likely couldn't get much in return. What they could do is sell the pick for cash, which we've seen teams do in the past, like when Phoenix sold its first-round pick to Portland in 2007.
Or they could draft a player and send him to the D-League to develop.
The Mavericks are in a similar boat as the Los Angeles Lakers. They're built to contend now and they've got a finite amount of time to win another championship. They've got a lot of aging but established players. They are also looking to add free-agent point guard Deron Williams and are on Williams' short list in free agency, along with the Brooklyn Nets.
As ESPN the Magazine's Chris Broussard notes:
On Saturday, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that Williams had narrowed his choices to the Nets and the Dallas Mavericks, his hometown team.
King acknowledged that the Mavericks likely are a top contender to sign Williams but claimed the Nets are in a solid position to retain the most coveted free agent on this summer's market.
The Mavericks own the No. 17 pick and could use it to draft a solid player. But given their depth and need to win now, there might not be many minutes for a rookie to develop. With Dallas' cap flexibility this offseason, they could package the No. 17 pick and get a solid contributor to help the team immediately.
Because it's a trade involving a draft pick, their trading partner would likely get a trade exception, which would increases the Mavericks' chances of getting a deal done.