Predicting Which Teams Will Trade 1st-Round Pick in 2014 NBA Draft
With only three weeks remaining before the 2014 NBA draft, the time is quickly approaching when big boards transform into blueprints.
NBA executives turn into architects for a night, plotting different paths to prominence based on their respective starting points.
For many, the best move is simply drafting and developing talent. But a number of factors could lead teams to decide they need to move up, down or even out of the draft.
Some clubs might have more picks than roster spots or vice versa. Some might need more pieces for the present than the draft can offer, while others could opt to convert win-now veterans into more future assets.
There were seven trades in the first round of the 2013 talent grab, but only two involved lottery teams. This year could see less overall movement but a higher concentration of in the top half of the opening round.
First-Round Pick(s): Nos. 9 and 24
The last time the NBA saw the Charlotte Hornets they were busy making three consecutive playoff runs (2000-02). With the purple and teal officially back in the big leagues, the hope is that this franchise will once again be a source of consistent success.
The Hornets snapped a three-year playoff drought thanks to steady contributions from Al Jefferson (21.8 points, 10.8 rebounds) and Kemba Walker (17.7 points, 6.1 assists), plus the sharp coaching mind of Steve Clifford.
The challenge is now to build on that success, which should be a little easier after Charlotte added a second first-round selection to its arsenal.
"We have options, possibilities, scenarios," Hornets president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said, via Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.
Regardless of the avenue taken, the desired destination should be the same: finding immediate help. Whether that means dealing one (or both) for an impact veteran or packaging the picks to get a higher-tiered prospect, look for the Hornets to target someone capable of not only matching this season's success but adding to it.
Oklahoma City Thunder
First-Round Pick(s): Nos. 21 and 29
The Oklahoma City Thunder remain planted on the doorstep of championship contention, but something keeps preventing this team from crossing that threshold.
Whatever it is, it's certainly not a cause to blow up the current core. And as long as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are still calling OKC home, the Thunder will have a shot at the NBA crown.
There is no pressure to dramatically improve the roster, but probably not a ton of motivation to add two more youngsters either. The Thunder already have six rotation players age 25 or younger, plus another pair of prospects (Perry Jones III and Andre Roberson) fighting for consistent minutes.
OKC still needs some help, but not likely the kind two low-end first-rounders would provide. So it comes as no surprise that OKC general manager Sam Presti said everything is an option for this draft, via Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, including trading both of these picks.
It's hard to tell which direction the Thunder might head, as arguments could be made for pursuing a higher pick, a veteran or even future draft considerations. The only approach that would be hard to defend is doing nothing, adding a pair of low-ceiling prospects to an already crowded rotation.
First-Round Pick(s): Nos. 3 and 10
After taking off most of the last 12 months, the Philadelphia 76ers need to be active on draft night. The franchise has staked so much of its future on finding something (or better yet, somethings) of substance from this class.
Philly finished the 2013-14 campaign an abysmal 19-63, a performance that Sixers owner Joshua Harris dubbed a "huge success," per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). Nerlens Noel, the No. 6 pick in 2013, skipped the entire season despite telling The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn in May that he'd "been 100 percent for months."
In this league, it is better to be really bad than mediocre, though. Provided, of course, that really bad club takes advantage of the draft opportunities presented to it.
The Sixers are already waging an uphill war in that sense, having finished with the second-worst record but slipping to the No. 3 spot. That drop could prove costly should Andrew Wiggins, a player the Sixers are said to "covet," according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, come off the board with one of the first two picks.
Armed with these two selections plus five more in the second round, the Sixers should have the ammunition needed to leave this draft with their guy(s). They've bet the farm on their ability to do just that.
First-Round Pick(s): Nos. 14, 18, 27
Bolstered by an impressive, unexpected 48-win season, the Phoenix Suns can't help but wonder just how good this roster really is.
The Suns seemed far more likely to win the tanking race than snag a playoff berth, but this group had something of a collective career year. Assuming Eric Bledsoe returns from his venture into restricted free agency, nearly every key contributor is slated to come back next season.
For Phoenix, this summer is all about raising its ceiling. As good as the Suns were last season, they weren't good enough in the overloaded Western Conference.
The Suns are reportedly one of many teams in the Kevin Love sweepstakes, per AZCentral Sports' Bob Young. They've been shopping some of their picks since last December in hopes of snagging a star, via NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper. The Suns could even swap one of these selections for a future first-round pick, something Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix said could be in play at the No. 27 spot.
Phoenix has no need for three first-round choices. The Suns still have to find some developmental time for 2013 first-rounders Archie Goodwin and Alex Len.
Phoenix could be the most active team on draft night. It doesn't seem to be a matter of if the Suns will flip a pick, but rather how many they'll ship out.
First-Round Pick(s): No. 8
Since Vivek Ranadive's group completed its purchase of the Sacramento Kings last summer, this group has quickly gone about building...something.
It's hard to say exactly what it is. It's exciting, it's talented, it's slanted toward the offensive end and, at least so far, it's not very good at winning basketball games.
But the hope is that it's getting better or could at least head that direction with a successful summer. Part of making this a productive offseason, league sources told NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper, is finding "at least one impact veteran" in return for the No. 8 pick.
The Kings are ready to compete for something other than lottery odds, and there are some intriguing pieces in place. DeMarcus Cousins might be the most highly skilled big man in the business, Rudy Gay (who has a player option) rediscovered his niche after landing in Sacramento and Isaiah Thomas (now a restricted free agent) continues to raise his ceiling.
The Kings need more puzzle pieces, though, and they don't seem interested in undeveloped ones. If things stay quiet ahead of them—a possibility given the need for the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics to add young talent—the Kings could be the first team to move their pick.
That alone could help drive up the price tag, potentially netting Sacramento far more value with a trade than adding another raw prospect.
First-Round Pick(s): No. 20
Like the Phoenix Suns, the Toronto Raptors made their own surprise splash in 2013-14. The only difference is that they play in the East, where 48 wins not only snags a playoff spot but locks up the No. 3 seed.
That seed proved useless when the Raptors dropped their first-round series with the Brooklyn Nets, but it did capture the fluidity of the conference standings. Heading into the summer, Toronto should feel as if it holds a strong chance of securing the No. 2 seed next season.
That's assuming Kyle Lowry, now an unrestricted free agent, returns for the 2014-15 campaign. Given the dearth of teams with both spending money and a need at the point guard spot, that seems a fairly safe bet.
But this team needs to expand its talent base, not simply maintain it. Doing so with the 20th selection and a pair of second-rounders would require a certain amount of luck, unless the Raptors start working the phones for potential deals.
According to ESPN Insider Chad Ford (subscription required), the Raptors are one of the teams keeping "especially busy trying to move up or acquire a second pick."
The Raptors should make this a quality-over-quantity draft, climbing as high up the first-round board as those two second-round selections will take them.