Playing Keep or Trade with Every 2014 NBA Draft Lottery Pick
This summer, the hottest commodity in basketball will come via the first 14 picks of the 2014 NBA draft. With so much hype surrounding this year's rookie class, general managers picking in the lottery have the opportunity to improve their franchise by either selecting an elite prospect or leveraging their draft spot in a trade for someone who is more proven.
There are pros and cons to both strategies. If a team chooses to keep their pick, they will be rolling the dice that whomever they select will pan out. Sometimes, you get a Kevin Durant (No. 2 overall, Seattle Supersonics, 2007); other times, you end up with a Darko Milicic (No. 2 overall, Detroit Pistons, 2003).
If a team chooses to deal the pick for a more established player, they have to cross their fingers that both the veteran works out and the rookie whom is ultimately selected with the pick they dealt doesn't become a star. Remember when the Charlotte Hornets traded Kobe Bryant to the Los Angeles Lakers on draft day for Vlade Divac? Needless to say, that didn't go work out great for the Hornets.
With the 12 teams in this year's lottery, I was kind enough to offer my two cents on what option would be in each team's best interest. Naturally, there are a few ground rules to consider before going forward.
First, each slide is based on what the team should do, not what they will do. Also, for those that I am pushing to trade the pick, the idea is that they'd move the pick in the right deal. Obviously, I'm not advocating for the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade the No. 1 overall pick for someone like Derek Fisher.
Lastly, the "trade" only refers to the team's lottery pick (or picks, in some cases). While each team's other picks (be it later first-round picks or spots in the second round) will be mentioned, the main concern here is the actual lottery pick being featured on each slide.
If there's a scenario where I think a team should trade up or down, I will specify that as well.
Are we all on the same page? Good. Let's get started.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Trade the Pick
The Cleveland Cavaliers have spent the last few years stockpiling young talent, as they've had four picks inside the top four over the last three drafts. This year, they'll be picking first for the second year in a row and the third time in four years.
While the Cavs could use any of this year's elite prospects, they would benefit most from shopping the pick and nabbing a superstar to pair with point guard Kyrie Irving.
In this case, the superstar in question would be Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Love wants out of Minnesota and would like to play for a contender after missing the playoffs in every year of his NBA career so far.
From the moment Love potentially became available in a trade, his name has been linked to every basketball team short of the Flint Tropics. Much to the surprise of no one, the Cavs have an interest in acquiring Love, per Steve Kyler of BasketballInsiders.com:
The Cavaliers are open for business. They are open to trading the top overall pick, but they want a bona fide All-star in return. Minnesota big man Kevin Love has been linked to the Cavs and he is absolutely a player the Cavs would move the top pick to obtain.
There's obvious risk involved in dealing a No. 1 overall pick plus additional talent for Love. What if he does not re-sign and bolts after next season? What if he gets hurt? All of these are reasonable concerns. However, the time has come for Cleveland to push all of their chips to the middle of the table.
Sure, guys like Kansas' Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid could be good, but what are the chances of either of them being better than Love next season? The Cavaliers need players that can help them win now, and teaming Love with "Uncle Drew" would be a great start.
There's also another trade option for the Cavs that I will get to later in the slideshow.
Milwaukee Bucks: Keep the Pick
This is a no-brainer.
Unlike some of the other teams in the lottery, the Milwaukee Bucks are more than a player away from turning things around. On the surface, they have some nice pieces in place. The team struck gold with last year's rookie, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and they have a promising big man in John Henson.
There are also guys such as guard Brandon Knight and center Larry Sanders that could still be valuable players.
Even though Milwaukee didn't win the lottery, they are still in a pretty good spot at No. 2. They'll either end up with Sanders' eventual replacement in Joel Embiid or a fine player on the wing in the form of Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.
Theoretically, they can't go wrong, regardless of who gets taken ahead of them. Someone like Parker, the exciting young scorer from Duke, would help improve an offense that averaged 95.5 points per game last season (28th in the NBA).
Wiggins isn't as polished of an offensive weapon as Parker, but he has the potential to be electrifying on both ends of the court. As for Embiid, he could be a franchise center if his back holds up.
This should be an easy decision for the Bucks. A team still in the process of rebuilding can't pass up on the chance to add another potential franchise cornerstone.
Philadelphia 76ers: Keep the Picks....Unless They Can Trade Up
The Philadelphia 76ers are one of two teams with multiple picks in this year's lottery (the Orlando Magic being the other). Philly owns the No. 3 overall pick as well as 10th pick, which they acquired from New Orleans as the final piece of last year's Jrue Holiday trade.
The Sixers also have an astonishing five picks in the second round.
As a result, Philadelphia can go one of two ways. They can stay put and use their two top-10 picks to add to an already promising nucleus, or they could package some picks and move up if there's someone they are really enamored with.
Either scenario would work out great for the Sixers. Let's say they end up with someone like Kansas' Andrew Wiggins at No. 3 and then follow that up with UCLA guard Zach LaVine at No. 10. Here's what Philly's opening day starting lineup could look like:
- Center: Nerlens Noel
- Power Forward: Thaddeus Young
- Small Forward: Andrew Wiggins
- Shooting Guard: Zach LaVine
- Point Guard: Michael Carter-Williams
Not too shabby, right?
On the flip side, if there's someone Philly falls in love with that might not make it to No. 3, they have the ammunition to move up. Would Cleveland be interested in moving down two spots in exchange for a couple of extra second-round picks? Why not?
The Cavs (or whoever is picking first if Cleveland trades the pick) could still get a great player with the third pick while also adding a couple of picks in the next round for their trouble. Meanwhile, Philadelphia would get their guy at the top spot for the low price of a few second-rounders.
No team needs five second-round picks, not even a team that lost 26 straight games last season like the Sixers. Regardless of which route they choose, things are looking up for Philadelphia. With the right picks, they could be back in the playoffs for years to come.
Orlando Magic: Keep the Picks
The Orlando Magic are in a similar boat as the Philadelphia 76ers. They have a couple holes, but they can turn things around with the right moves on draft day. Orlando holds the fourth and 12th picks in this year's draft.
The only real glaring need they have is at point guard, and barring something unforeseen, they should have their choice of the draft's best at the position when their first pick comes up. Australian phenom Dante Exum would be a nice backcourt mate for Victor Oladipo, as would Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart. The obvious downside is that neither point guard prospect is a particularly good outside shooter.
The other need is at power forward. If Orlando isn't enamored with either Smart or Exum, they could pick a big man like Kentucky's Julius Randle. The team could also hope someone like Indiana's Noah Vonleh or Arizona's Aaron Gordon falls to them at No. 12.
There's also the option of moving up. Orlando has an enticing trade chip in last year's leading scorer Arron Afflalo. The veteran will make $7.5 million next season with a player option for $7.75 million for 2015-16.
He's also coming off a year where he averaged 18.2 points per game and shot nearly 46 percent from the field (including just under 43 percent from three). Could the Charlotte Hornets, who need immediate help on the perimeter, be interested in acquiring Afflalo's services?
What about the Los Angeles Lakers? Would they be willing to move down six spots in exchange for a L.A. native and former UCLA product? With all of the trade focus on Kevin Love, Afflalo could be another interesting name on the trade market this summer if Orlando makes him available.
Regardless, the Magic have a chance to fill both of their holes with their two lottery picks, and that's all you can really ask for on draft night.
Utah Jazz: Trade Down
It's disappointing to draw the fifth pick in a draft with four elite prospects; it's even worse when there's nobody at the five spot that fills a need.
Assuming Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Dante Exum go within the top four, in some order, the Jazz will be staring down intriguing prospects that might not be the greatest of fits at No. 5.
In truth, what the Jazz really need is someone proven, but you can't draft pro experience. They have more than enough promising talent in building blocks such as Trey Burke, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and restricted free agent Gordon Hayward.
At No. 5, the best players on the board will more than likely be power forwards like Kentucky's Julius Randle, Indiana's Noah Vonleh and Arizona's Aaron Gordon. The problem is Utah already has a towering tandem in Favors and Enes Kanter.
Could the team cut their losses with Kanter and select someone like Randle to be Favors' new frontcourt mate? Sure.
Another possibility would be trading down and selecting a wing player such as Creighton's Doug McDermott or even Duke's Rodney Hood. It would safeguard the Jazz in the event that Hayward departs in free agency, and it would also give them a little bit of leverage in negotiations with the former Butler star.
If the team moves down, the question centers on which spot they will move to. The only team in the lottery that can offer something really enticing is Orlando with Arron Afflalo. Is the veteran shooting guard a good enough reason to move down seven spots? Possibly.
A Burke-Afflalo backcourt would be pretty solid, and it would leaves Burks as a solid option off the bench. Utah could still take someone like Hood or even a foreign prospect like Croatia's Dario Saric at No. 12.
With cap space, a top-five spot and no huge needs, the Jazz are sitting pretty. If they choose to dangle the fifth pick (either in a trade down or in a trade for an established star), things could get interesting early on in the draft.
Boston Celtics: Trade the Pick
We've seen this with the Boston Celtics before; after missing out on Kevin Durant and Greg Oden in 2007, Boston famously began forming the "Big Three" when they used the fifth pick to help swing a trade for Ray Allen.
This year, there's the chance that lightning will strike twice—this time in the form of Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. Last week, the Twitter account for CBS Radio Boston's "Toucher and Rich" tweeted something that the world could have already assumed: "Celtics czar Danny Ainge has no qualms with trading for someone in the last year of their deal."
Does that kind of player sound like somebody we know? Love would like to play for a contender, and while Boston isn't there just yet, it could be soon. Ainge has proven capable of putting together a championship team in a quick manner, and the Celtics have the pieces in place to do so again, namely All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.
With Rondo expected to hit free agency after next season as well, the team needs to do all that it can to prove that they want to win now. For all of the talent in this draft, there's probably nobody that will be sitting at No. 6 who can turn things around in Beantown immediately.
That brings us back to Love. According to Comcast SporsNet's Tim Welsh, a source close to Love told him that Love wouldn't mind coming to Boston (h/t A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE):
He (Love) is not one of those guys that's saying, 'I want to go to Miami. I want to go to L.A.,' the hype cities. Now would he prefer L.A.? His girlfriend lives there. She's an actress. He went to college there (at UCLA). He was born there, but he's a professional. He wants to go where there's the best opportunity for him which would be in a winning organization and he respects the history of the Celtics.
A deal for Love would obviously require the Celtics giving up the sixth pick, and they may even have to give up their other first-rounder (No. 17 overall) as well as forward Jared Sullinger in order to facilitate the move. That seems like a fair price to pay for arguably the best power forward in basketball.
With Love and Rondo (and another piece or two via free agency), the Celtics could become a dark horse in a weak Eastern Conference. Whether it works out long term is another problem for another day. The Celtics need to win right now, and Love gives them the best chance to do so.
Much like he did in 2007, Ainge needs to do whatever it takes to make Boston respectable again.
Los Angeles Lakers: Keep the Pick
With the window for Kobe Bryant's sixth championship closing, there's going to be obvious sentiment for the Los Angeles Lakers to do whatever it takes to return to glory instantly. However, while "The Black Mamba" may be unwilling to wait (as ESPN Radio L.A.'s Beto Duran tweeted in March), someone has to have the franchise's future in mind.
Bryant will be 36 this August and is coming off his second serious injury in as many seasons. Point guard Steve Nash is 40 years old. Power forward Pau Gasol, a free agent this summer, will be 34 in July. Who will carry the torch for the Lakers after these guys are gone?
More importantly, when is the proper time to start working on the answer to that question?
The harsh reality that Kobe and Co. have to come to grips with is that the Western Conference has passed them by. It's hard to fathom a scenario where they will build themselves up enough this summer to compete with the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers next season.
Even teams such as the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers are better long-term contenders than the Lakers are right now.
Sure, the allure of the purple and gold sells itself, and the Lakers will always be a hotbed for free agents. But who are the big names that will be rolling through those doors any time soon?
Kevin Love? He might decide to come back to California as a free agent after next season. The keywords there though are "after next season."
The team already turned its nose up at this year's top free agent, Carmelo Anthony, per Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Meanwhile, the Lakers have cap space, but sources maintain they aren't too interested in Anthony as a fit with Kobe Bryant. Nor is Lakers president Jeanie Buss enthralled with stealing Anthony from Jackson, her fiancé."
The first step in building the Lakers' future comes with the seventh overall pick, which is amazingly the highest draft pick that L.A. has possessed since the start of the lottery era. Some likely candidates to be the Lakers' pick are Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, Indiana's Noah Vonleh and Kentucky's Julius Randle (if he falls).
Rebuilding may be a tough pill to swallow for Bryant as well as Lakers fans, but the team needs young stars to uphold the Lakers name down the line, and they need them now. Unlike in past years, there's no valuable assets on the roster to help facilitate a trade for another superstar.
This is who the Lakers are right now: a team with a star living in the past that needs to build for the future.
Sacramento Kings: Keep the Pick
The Sacramento Kings made headlines recently when they expressed a willingness to trade for Kevin Love even without any assurance he'd stick around after next season, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. The interest in Love is understandable, but it's probably a pipe dream.
Beyond the No. 8 overall pick, the Kings don't have anything they could give up that wouldn't limit their long-term appeal. You can't trade most of your assets for Kevin Love and then expect him to stick around when the cupboard is bare.
The more likely scenario is that Sacramento will fill their power forward void in the draft. By now, you should be able to recite the top prospects at the position in your sleep. Indiana's Noah Vonleh would be a nice tag-team partner in the paint for center DeMarcus Cousins, as would Arizona's Aaron Gordon.
The Kings may have spent the better part of the last decade as lottery fixtures, but they have built something exciting over these last few years. It may not be very good, but it's at least exciting.
Cousins is steadily making his case to be one of the league's best centers. Diminutive point guard Isaiah Thomas is a great underdog story. Ben McLemore could be a solid No. 2 option down the road, and as of right now the team still has Rudy Gay (who can opt out this summer but would be foolish to do so).
If they find a new starter at the 4, their starting five would become very interesting. Love would be a great addition, but he doesn't offer enough immediate impact to make trading for him worthwhile.
If Sacramento really wants to entice Love to stick around Sac-Town permanently, they should continue to build upon what they already have and give the All-Star forward something to consider next summer.
That part starts with adding another piece in the draft.
Charlotte Hornets: Keep the Pick
The Charlotte Hornets (formerly the Bobcats) have had their share of hits and misses in the draft in recent years. They found a potential star in point guard Kemba Walker, while the jury is still out on former lottery picks such as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller.
Such a checkered history with draft picks should give this team reason to steer clear of adding another lottery pick to the mix, right? Wrong.
The No. 9 overall pick, which was gifted to the Hornets from the Detroit Pistons via the Ben Gordon-Corey Maggette swap in 2012, could be an asset in a couple ways.
For one, the Hornets need scoring on the perimeter, and there will be some options available at this spot who could fill the void. Creighton's Doug McDermott, Michigan State's Gary Harris, and Michigan's Nik Stauskas would all make sense. The team could also go international in the form of Croatia's Dario Saric.
Another possibility, albeit a long shot, is to take the best player available in the hopes that it leads to a trade down the road. If Carmelo Anthony likes the idea of playing in Charlotte, the Hornets would then have some nice pieces to offer in a sign-and-trade.
The same for goes for Kevin Love. Would Minnesota be interested in a package involving MKG, Gerald Henderson as well as a pair of Spartans like Harris and forward Adreian Payne (whom Charlotte would take with their other pick at No. 24)? That wouldn't be a bad haul for the All-Star forward.
The latter option may be far-fetched, but you get the point. A draft pick can make an impact in more than one way. The Hornets need proven players, but they are in a safe enough spot to roll the dice a little in the lottery.
The No. 9 pick is a luxury for Charlotte. Why not turn it into something worthwhile?
Denver Nuggets: Trade the Pick
The Denver Nuggets have all of the makings of a playoff team except for good health. They have an intriguing young coach in Brian Shaw, and they are nearly two deep at every position. It will be tough for a rookie to come in and log decent minutes at any position next season.
So, what do you do if you're the Nuggets?
Well, you can't draft a great training staff, so that's out.
However, beyond having bad luck with injuries, the Nuggets also have limited cap space. According to HoopsHype.com, Denver has a little over $64 million on the books for next season.
Since nobody the team takes with the No. 11 pick is likely to see major playing time next season, why not use the pick to entice a team with cap space to take on one of the team's bad contracts?
Would a team like the Detroit Pistons, who don't have a first-round pick, be willing to take on the close to $22 million over the two years remaining on Danilo Gallinari's deal if it meant getting back into the lottery?
How about (warning: extreme fan bias alert) Denver offering the No. 11 pick and the two years and $23.25 million left on center JaVale McGee's deal to the New Orleans Pelicans for Eric Gordon, who would then agree to opt out after next season?
With the right bounces in the fortune department, the Nuggets could be back in the playoffs next season. Adding a rookie to the fold won't make or break the team, but using the pick to try to get out of financial trouble wouldn't be the worst idea in the world.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Keep the Pick
It goes without saying that a team poised to trade its best player should probably try to hang onto whatever other assets it has left. Regardless of whether it comes via trade or free agency, the Minnesota Timberwolves must prepare for life after Kevin Love.
The bright side for Minnesota is that point guard Ricky Rubio is ready to step into Love's shoes...even before the big man has begun taking them off. (For those who aren't fluent in Spanish, here's Rubio's comments in English, via Kevin Zimmerman of SB Nation).
The only way that trading the No. 13 overall pick makes sense for Minnesota is if the team were to move up or if it were to find a suitor who was willing to give up something decent in exchange for the pick. If Cleveland gives up the No. 1 overall pick for Love, then maybe the team's other pick becomes expendable (though I'd still keep it).
The problem with the team's draft spot is that it's even more of a crap shoot. Once you get into the later part of the lottery, you're really rolling the dice. If the team is willing to wait for an international prospect to develop (like it did with Rubio), Croatian big man Dario Saric could be a steal at No. 13.
The team could groom Saric to be love's successor if they choose not to deal their All-Star forward. If the T'Wolves find Love's replacement via trade, guys like Duke's Rodney Hood and Kentucky's James Young might be the best players available here.
No matter how the Love situation shakes out, Minnesota must prepare for the future. If this is truly Rubio's team going forward, he needs to step it up and the team must do a better job of building around their young point guard than they did with Love.
Phoenix Suns: Trade Up
Things look very promising for the Phoenix Suns. They just barely missed the playoffs in the West this season despite looking like a preseason candidate to tank. Furthermore, they have a dynamic backcourt duo in Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
They also have solid role players in center Miles Plumlee, guard Gerald Green and forward P.J. Tucker (if he re-signs this summer). The Suns also have ample cap space and three first-round picks in this year's draft (No. 14, No. 18, and No. 27).
The thing is, if Phoenix wants to make a run at the playoffs next season, they aren't going to have time to break in three more rookies on a young basketball team. The Suns are already waiting on last year's first-round pick Alex Len to develop into a promising big man.
Sure, those three first-rounders will make the bench deeper, but a playoff team needs reserves they can count on when it matters. It's tough to find young players with ice in their veins in the middle of the draft.
Furthermore, the Suns are probably another addition or two in the starting lineup away from being a very tough out. They could solve part of that by bringing in an established veteran like Luol Deng or Trevor Ariza.
They could also package some picks and leave New York City with a top-tier prospect (or they could do both).
Let's say you're the Utah Jazz. There's nobody you're in love with at No. 5 and you'd rather not reach for a lesser talent and feel committed to playing him major minutes because of his draft status. What would it take to convince you to move down to the end of the lottery?
Would the 14th and 18th picks be enough? Would you want No. 27 as well? Sure, it's a stretch, but once you get past the top-six or -seven prospects, there isn't much of a gap in talent anyway.
What about the Lakers at No. 7? They could use an infusion of youth. Why not go two-for-one and fill a couple holes? The same for Sacramento at No. 8; how does picking up an extra first-round pick to move down six spots sound?
For Phoenix, if they can find a way to move up to within the top 10, they could nab someone who will have more of an immediate impact (theoretically) than the player they'd end up with if they stay put. Suddenly, you're looking at Julius Randle or Doug McDermott instead of K.J McDaniels (Clemson), Glenn Robinson III (Michigan) or Clint Capela (Switzerland).
That's the kind of power move that could put the team over the edge and keep them from battling for the eighth seed in the last week of the season.