There are less than two weeks to go before the NBA draft lottery, which means it's time to start thinking long and hard about the moves teams must make to secure their long-term futures.
Specifically, the idea of trading picks to move up is worth looking at. It's hard to give definitive answers on the draft before the lottery because we don't know exactly where teams will be picking, but if we base the order on records at the end of the season, it does fill in some of the blanks.
One thing that separates the NBA from other drafts, even the NFL, is the sheer volume of trades teams make during the event. Last year, for instance, there were 16 separate deals through the first 55 picks.
This year figures to be even more chaotic because the talent available is plentiful. Whatever the rationale for making a deal, these are the teams to monitor closely on draft day.
Milwaukee Bucks (25 percent chance to win lottery)
No team has a greater chance of winning the lottery than Milwaukee, which finished with a league-worst 15-67 record this season. It would stand to reason that the Bucks want to keep the No. 1 pick, if they get it, and have their choice of anyone available (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, et al.)
But allow me to present a scenario, if you will. ESPN.com's Chad Ford (subscription required) wrote in March that Wiggins is the jewel of Philadelphia's eye and has been for some time.
In the midst of a 20-game losing streak, the Sixers have had Wiggins atop their board all year and believe he'd be the perfect complement to Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Thaddeus Young. The athleticism on that team would be crazy.
If the 76ers are so desperate to get Wiggins that they will do whatever it takes to get him, the Bucks could leverage their standing in the No. 1 slot to add a future first-round pick or even a second first-rounder this year.
Remember, Philadelphia gets New Orleans' first-round pick this year as long as it's not in the top three. The Pelicans have just a 1.1 percent chance to win the lottery, so it seems likely the 76ers will have two of the top 14 picks.
Milwaukee is a team desperate to find long-term talent with star potential, especially with the franchise under new ownership, so collecting many valuable assets is more important than adding the best pure talent in this draft.
Plus, it's not like the Bucks would be moving down far if the 76ers, who had the second-worst record in the league, are willing to deal. They can still get a player with a huge ceiling.
Boston Celtics (10.3 percent chance to win lottery)
The Celtics are in a good position leading up to the lottery with the fifth-best odds to get the No. 1 pick. They will miss out on the elite college scorers like Wiggins and Parker but are borderline contenders to get Joel Embiid, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon.
Assuming the Celtics land the fifth pick, they might want to consider finding a way to move up a spot or two. Their biggest position of need is at center, which Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe wrote about in March.
This season the Celtics have lacked a true center. Kris Humphries is a power forward playing center, same with Jared Sullinger. Olynyk has the height of a center but is more of a stretch power forward. Vitor Faverani has true center size but needs development and to get into premium shape to approach being a factor.
There is one potentially elite center in this class—Kansas' Joel Embiid. He comes with a lot of risk after missing the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments due to a stress fracture in his back, but there's also the allure of a 7'0", 250-pound 20-year-old who can play at the basket while displaying good touch from the outside.
This franchise has more than enough assets, now and in the future, that it can afford to make a bold move up in the draft to acquire the center it so desperately needs to build around.
Cleveland Cavaliers (1.7 percent chance to win lottery)
Which team would be best served by making a draft day move?
It won't get a lot of attention because the franchise—specifically owner Dan Gilbert—is a laughingstock, but the Cavaliers need to make a splash in the draft this year. They botched things with the No. 1 pick last year, as Anthony Bennett shot 36 percent from the floor and averaged 4.2 points in 52 games.
On top of that, there is the ongoing saga of Kyrie Irving, who is eligible to become a restricted free agent after next season and unrestricted free agent after 2016. He's a superstar in every sense of the word playing on a team full of backups (at best).
Gilbert and the Cavaliers need to find a player who can take some of the pressure off Irving and bring the franchise closer to that long-promised playoff berth.
Unfortunately they picked a bad year to start playing better—by Cleveland standards, anyway. The Cavs own the ninth-best odds to win the lottery, so an elite player seems like a long shot. But they should try to find a way to move somewhere between No. 5 and No. 7, where someone like Gordon or Randle will be available.
The Cavaliers need size, especially considering the Andrew Bynum experiment blew up in their face. Who could have seen that coming? They have a ton of future assets to play with, including Miami's first-round pick next year and possibly Memphis' (it's protected in the first through fifth and 15th through 30th ranges).
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