7 Teams That Could Make Major Trades During 2014 NBA Draft
The lottery may be over, but the jockeying for position in the 2014 NBA draft has only just begun.
General managers from all over the Association have already begun reaching out to one another to gauge the market for picks and the opportunities to add cheap, young talent that they represent. Kevin Love's apparent availability has only further stoked the typical maelstrom of speculation and citation of anonymous sources that arises around this time every year.
Chances are, though, that the most exciting transactional action will have to wait until the draft itself on June 26. At that point, teams will have done their homework on this year's deep pool of prospects and be able to see which ones are within their respective reaches in real time.
To be sure, most draft-day transactions don't exactly shatter the Earth. Last year's relatively weak draft occasioned 16 swaps, but only one—Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans—registered on the NBA's Richter scale in any significant way.
That ratio could shift considerably this time around. There's quite a bit more talent up for grabs this year than there was in 2013 (to say the least), which means there will be much more at stake. As far as who might be doing the moving and shaking on draft night, keep an eye on these seven teams.
It didn't take long for teams to start kicking the tires on the No. 1 pick in this year's draft once it wound up in the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.
"I actually got calls right afterward, while I was standing there doing media," Cavs GM David Griffin told ESPN Cleveland's "The Really Big Show" on Wednesday (via ESPN). "Teams were already reaching out and texting, so I think it will be an active period of time."
Whether Cleveland gives up what's now its third top pick in the last four years is another story. Surely, the success-starved Cavs wouldn't mind pairing All-Star MVP Kyrie Irving with an athletic freak (Andrew Wiggins), a big man oozing with upside (Joel Embiid) or a polished wing scorer (Jabari Parker).
Griffin, though, hasn't ruled out taking his draft pick for a spin on the Trade Machine. "I've said many times that I'd trade me if it made us better," Griffin added.
"We're going to be open-minded to whatever it is that advances our cause the furthest."
That could include an inquiry with the Minnesota Timberwolves regarding Kevin Love. The Cavs reached out to the T-Wolves last spring, after acquiring the top pick in the 2013 draft, only to be rebuffed.
But the talent atop this year's draft would make Cleveland's advances that much more palatable for Minnesota, as would Love's stated desire to leave the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
The Cavs might hesitate to give away the farm for Love, a potential free agent next summer, unless he commits to opting in for 2015-16. Then again, given their own need to placate Irving, who's eligible for an extension this summer, the Cavs might do anything for Love, even if it entails a shocking shakeup on draft night.
The Philadelphia 76ers seemingly spent the 2013-14 season doing everything they could to land the top pick in this year's draft. Instead, they wound up third.
In truth, that isn't so bad. The Sixers should still wind up with one of the three projected stars in the 2014 crop, between Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid.
Which of those three is left on the board at No. 3 could determine whether Philly keeps its pick or flips it in another deal. If it's Embiid, the Sixers may seek a swap. They already have a gifted-but-raw rookie-to-be at center in Nerlens Noel and might not be keen to double up with Embiid.
Especially since the Sixers hold Noel in high regard, per Grantland's Zach Lowe. Moreover, Philly won't likely feel the need to "reach" for a lesser prospect at No. 3 since it owns the New Orleans Pelicans' pick at No. 10. As Lowe notes, Philly could also package those picks together in pursuit of a blockbuster:
"Expect the Sixers to make the same Love call, armed with two top-10 picks, potentially all their future first-rounders, and two interesting young guys in Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel."
Getting Love to agree to stick around for two years with a team coming off an epic "tank job" seems a stretch, at best. But don't underestimate Sixers GM Sam Hinkie's capacity to make a splash on draft day. After all, he was the one who pulled the trigger on the trade that sent Jrue Holiday to the Big Easy last June.
Hinkie learned the ins and outs of draft-day drama from the NBA's reigning champion in that department: Daryl Morey.
The man affectionately deemed "Dork Elvis" by Grantland's Bill Simmons has set a new standard for late-June trade activity. Since taking over as the GM of the Houston Rockets in May of 2007, Morey has engineered at least one trade just before, during and/or immediately after the draft five times in seven occasions.
Granted, few of those have moved the needle much one way or another. So far, Morey's most impactful maneuver therein may well have been his decision to send Nicolas Batum's draft rights to the Portland Trail Blazers as part of a three-team deal in 2008.
In truth, Morey's activity is often but a part of a much grander plan. In 2012, he pulled off a pair of cap-cleaning trades around the draft that ultimately paved the way for James Harden's arrival in October of that year and, subsequently, the signing of Dwight Howard last summer.
Morey and the Rockets could extend their streak of superstar acquisitions to three years, with Kevin Love as the apple of their eye. Love's desire to play for a title contender in a major market would make this a solid fit.
Problem is, Houston may have a hard time convincing Minny to fork over Love for the assets they have on hand: the 25th pick this year, likely late first-rounders in the future, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas and Omer Asik, among others.
Fortunately for the Rockets, they just so happen to employ arguably the most creative dealmaker in basketball.
The Sacramento Kings are probably fielding plenty of calls, texts and emails regarding their own top-10 pick today, though they'd have only themselves to blame for such a deluge. According to NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper, the Kings have made it known that their pick, the eighth in this year's draft, is on the market.
Their reasoning? They've already spent more than enough time stockpiling young players and toiling through losing seasons as is. The Kings have a number of clear needs heading into the offseason (i.e. a playmaking floor general, a shooter or two, a reliable defender), but they would prefer to address them with proven commodities rather than with unknown quantities.
Doing so without cap space, though, is a difficult task. Should Rudy Gay opt into the final year of his deal, Sacramento will find itself absent of any financial flexibility of note. And if the team decides to retain Isaiah Thomas, a restricted free agent, it'll likely have to do so at the expense of the luxury tax.
That's not an ideal situation for a squad that won just 28 games this season and hasn't so much as sniffed the playoffs since 2006.
Going with a young, inexpensive addition would make the most fiscal sense, but for a team that's eager to win now under owner Vivek Ranadive, the Kings aren't willing to wait.
Los Angeles Lakers
Down south, the Los Angeles Lakers are plenty eager to accelerate their own rebuild. As reasonable as it might be for a team coming off the misery of a 27-55 season to take its time getting back to respectability, L.A. has at least one notoriously irrational constituent—Kobe Bryant—to whom it must tailor its efforts.
Otherwise, that two-year, $48.5 million extension the team handed to the Black Mamba, during a season in which he played a career-low six games at the age of 35, would be just plain stupid...
Whatever their expectations, the Lakers simply need players at this point. They'll head into this pivotal offseason with just three players with NBA experience (Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre) signed to guaranteed contracts for the 2014-15 season.
Barring an unforeseen change to the rules of the draft, L.A.'s first-round pick (seventh overall) will only net the team one player with which to fill out its barren roster.
Don't get me wrong: The Lakers could still nab an excellent prospect in June, with the likes of Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, Dante Exum, Julius Randle and Marcus Smart firmly in their crosshairs. But the same depth that has the Lakers brass feeling fine about falling one spot in the lottery might also encourage them to trade down in the order if they feel they can acquire a more polished prospect of comparable talent later on and bring in an established player of some sort in return.
The last time the Boston Celtics landed in the lottery, they flipped their pick (fifth overall) to the Seattle SuperSonics for Ray Allen and Glen Davis, thereby sparking their eventual run to the 2008 title. The C's could see a similarly resplendent scenario play out this time around, courtesy (in part) of the No. 6 pick currently in their possession.
According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Boston has become "an increasingly intriguing destination" for Kevin Love in the early stages of this offseason's biggest sweepstakes.
The C's don't have much in the way of established assets to offer the T-Wolves, but they sport the cap space needed to absorb Love's contract and can offer a boatload of draft picks—two first-rounders this year, three next year, two apiece in 2016 and 2018, and swap rights with the Brooklyn Nets in 2017—to either satisfy Minny directly or route elsewhere to add pieces that would please the T-Wolves.
"With our goal of getting back to being contenders, you've got to put everything in the mix," team owner Wyc Grousbeck said on The Sports Hub's Felger & Massarotti show on Wednesday (via Boston.com's Gary Dzen). "I think 6 and 17, and next year's pick and next year's Clippers pick, I've got to imagine that all of those things are in the mix.
"We've got more first-round picks than anybody in the league over the next 5 years. Will we end up trading some of those? Undoubtedly."
Better yet for the C's, CSNNE.com's A. Sherrod Blakely reported on Wednesday that Love would be amenable to a long-term future in Boston with Rajon Rondo and company.
Now, it's up to GM Danny Ainge to work his magic once again.
The C's aren't the only team with multiple first-round picks to peddle over the next couple years. The Phoenix Suns are similarly flush with such considerations—three this year, two more in 2015. Those, along with their bevy of cap space and tradable contracts, could make the Suns players in the Kevin Love sweepstakes.
Even if Phoenix falls flat in that frenetic pursuit, it should still be among the most active dealmakers on draft night. As NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper wrote ahead of the lottery:
The Suns do not want multiple rookies in 2014-15 as part of a roster that, depending on offseason moves, may already be dotted by prospects. Picks late in the lottery will draw some interest, picks plus existing players will generate more, and beating long odds Tuesday to move into the top three guarantees Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough will need to charge backup phone batteries.
The Suns weren't able to beat those long odds, but they should be in fine position to improve their team in late-June nonetheless. McDonough has proven to be a quick study since taking over Phoenix's basketball operations last year, turning a presumed "tanking" candidate into a 48-win, near-playoff team since then.
With a year of experience under his belt and a multitude of fungible assets at his disposal, look for McDonough to move decisively to solidify the Suns' 2015 playoff prospects once the draft gets underway.
Which other teams belong on this list? Tweet me your thoughts!