10 Realistic Trades After the Results of 2017 NBA Draft Lottery
Has the end of the NBA draft lottery got you down? Are you finding it difficult to derive enough joy from the overwhelmingly predictable playoffs? Have you become tired of thumbing through draft-prospect highlights that always seem to end with LaVar Ball trying to sell you $1,000 shoelaces at the top of his lungs?
Consider yourself saved, because as the pre-lottery anticipation fades, the post-lottery trade speculation gets kicked into high gear.
Every deal in our list here will include a pick from this year's draft—that's our only rule.
Rosters are fluid in the offseason, so we're not as concerned about agreements with uneven components; the same goes for salary-cap situations. Many of these trades are designed to take place sometime after July 1, in order to capitalize on financial outlooks and offseason plans, and they will be denoted as such.
Lakers Try to Have Their Cake and Eat It
Chicago Bulls Receive: SF Corey Brewer, SF/PF Brandon Ingram, No. 2 pick
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: SG/SF Jimmy Butler, PG Cameron Payne
"I don't think we're going to be a major player this year," Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson said of free agency, per Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times. "I'm looking forward to next summer."
It's no secret who Johnson is talking about. Paul George's ears are still burning.
George didn't make an All-NBA Team this year, which means he's not eligible for the super-mega designated player extension, which means the Indiana Pacers are screwed ahead of his free agency in 2018, and they have to trade him. Johnson, though, has little inclination to make a deal.
According to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t CBS Sports), the Lakers are "pretty confident and have a great deal of belief that they're in position to get Paul George in 2018 whether he stays in Indiana or is traded elsewhere."
That last part is big. If the Lakers believe George is heading to them no matter where he finishes next season, there is no reason to fork over assets to land him a year earlier. They might as well stand pat or, in the name of our entertainment, trade for another star who makes them more appealing to George in 2018—and more formidable once he signs.
Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson says the Chicago Bulls aren't looking to deal Jimmy Butler, per the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson. But we know better.
The Bulls don't have a direction, and it's easier for them to hit reset. Part of that process entails moving Butler to restock the asset cupboard.
Offer them a chance to acquire Brandon Ingram and another top-two prospect, and they won't turn it down. If they want D'Angelo Russell instead of Ingram, Los Angeles shouldn't flinch. Either way, Chicago gets two legitimate building blocks and an opportunity to abandon their years-long dalliance with aimlessness.
The Lakers, meanwhile, get Butler, who won't need another contract until 2019 at the earliest (player option). It'll take some juggling for them to offer George $30-plus million in 2018, but they can get there.
If they cannot find takers for Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov by next summer, renouncing Julius Randle's hold and offloading Jordan Clarkson into another team's cap space would do the trick.
Again, it only makes sense to go this route if the Lakers are 100 percent sure George is Hollywood-bound. He could develop eyes for someone else by 2018. Then again, give him the opportunity to play with Butler and Ingram or Russell, and why would he want to?
Lakers Give Middle Finger to Patience
Indiana Pacers Receive: PG/SG Jordan Clarkson, PF Larry Nance Jr., No. 2 pick
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: SF Paul George
Reality-check time: There is no way the Lakers can be certain George will leave a fifth year on the table to join them via free agency on a four-season max.
Sure, it's one thing if the Pacers deal him to the Denver Nuggets or the Philadelphia 76ers—rebuilding teams that can't promise year-round bathing-suit weather. But what if he ends up with the Boston Celtics? Or, much less likely, the Los Angeles Clippers? Any winning situation would be a threat to steal his affections.
Faced with this terrifying alternative, the Lakers have to at least consider flipping the second-overall pick for his services. It's not ideal when they're essentially forfeiting primo assets for the right to pay him a lot of money, but there is a bright side. They should get him cheaper compared to every other possible destination.
"If Paul George intentionally depresses the trade market to direct his destination, may be a tough path for the Pacers to get true value."
Jordan Clarkson's reasonable deal, Larry Nance Jr. and the opportunity to draft someone like Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum is more than fair under the circumstances. Extracting more out of the Lakers will be tough, if not impossible.
The Pacers have to treat George like an expiring contract. He could earn an All-NBA bid next year, allowing them to offer the five-year deal they can't now. But the forward pool isn't getting any thinner, and the extra money won't mean as much when there isn't an entire year standing between him and unconditional freedom.
Go back to this year's trade deadline, and maybe the Pacers could have convinced the Lakers to dangle a package built around both Ingram and Russell. That's not happening anymore, though.
The Pacers can nab one of those two or the draft pick, plus complementary pieces—and that's if they're lucky.
Celtics Go All-in (After July 1)
Boston Celtics Receive: SG/SF Jimmy Butler
Chicago Bulls Receive: SG Avery Bradley, No. 1 pick
ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton explained why:
Because Butler has the extra year on his contract before a player option, and because he projects as the better overall player after outperforming George this season, he looks more valuable than the No. 1 pick. I estimate his net value above and beyond his salary the next two seasons at $54 million. So the No. 1 pick for Butler would be a good value. The No. 1 pick and [Jae] Crowder for Butler? I'm drawing the line there because Crowder has three seasons left on his deal at an average of $7.3 million, less than the non-taxpayer midlevel exception at the CBA. The upgrade from Crowder to Butler isn't big enough to justify giving up the No. 1 pick as well.
If the Bulls want more than Avery Bradley and a pick, they'll have to adjust their sights to the Brooklyn Nets' 2018 selection. The Celtics might be willing to dangle Jaylen Brown and that selection for Butler.
But the Bulls know the No. 1 pick is there now. They can't be sure where the Nets' 2018 choice falls. What if they sign some free agents and are unexpectedly good? Getting Markelle Fultz and Bradley is more than adequate—even with the latter entering free agency in 2018.
For the Celtics, this all about timing. They don't want to make this deal before the free-agency dust settles, because Butler's salary eats into their cap space.
Waiving the non-guaranteed pacts of Jordan Mickey and Tyler Zeller while renouncing all free-agent holds—including Kelly Olynyk—gives the Celtics a little more than $30 million in cap space. (This number drops closer to $25 million if Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic come over). In exact terms, they would fall less than $100,000 short of a max offer Gordon Hayward ($30.3 million). That still might be close enough.
Boston can also carry Olynyk's hold ($7.7 million) and enjoy between $18 million and $23 million in room, depending on what happens with their stashed prospects. That's enough to add a high-end player. Ainge would then pull the trigger on this trade after all the free-agency business is dunzo.
Slightly more salary must end up in Chicago if this deal puts the Celtics into luxury-tax territory, but the general framework tracks.
Bradley is expendable with Butler coming in—particularly when Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas, like him, will need new contracts next summer. Moving the No. 1 pick ties them to the Cleveland Cavaliers' window, but that's not as terrifying when they keep Crowder and add another impact player via free agency.
Celtics Kind of Go All-in (After July 1)
Boston Celtics Receive: SF Paul George
Indiana Pacers Receive: PG Terry Rozier, No. 37 pick, 2018 first-round pick (via Brooklyn), 2018 first-round pick (via Boston)
There is a strong chance the Celtics pass on dealing the No. 1 pick for Butler. If Grousbeck is bowing down to its value, Ainge and the rest of the organization probably are, too.
This stance is not unwarranted, even when it entails glossing over an All-NBA talent, as Vice Sports' Michael Pina noted:
In other words, the first pick is always valuable, but for the Celtics in particular, it's mega-ridiculously important, the key to unlocking another decade of top-tier basketball even as they already sit a few feet away from the NBA summit. It's tempting to swap a mysterious 19-year-old for an established star like Jimmy Butler or Paul George, but doing so would narrow the window Boston has to contend while the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are still favorites to win it all.
Yes, the Celtics can cobble together a competitive offer for Butler after beefing up the roster in free agency, but the end product will be ridiculously expensive.
They'll already be paying Butler, Al Horford and the new guy, with Smart and Thomas speeding toward lucrative raises. They could be footing the bill for Olynyk as well, if they go the cheaper route on the open market.
Acquiring George with a combination of Terry Rozier, picks and cap space may become the most attractive option—especially when neither of those picks convey this year. Grabbing George this way prevents them from pursuing another superstar in free agency, but keeping the No. 1 pick is worth it.
As Jared Wade, editor-in-chief for the Pacers blog, 8 Points 9 Seconds, alluded to, something along these lines is as good as it gets for Indiana. Boston will treat George as a potential rental. Handing over the right to take Fultz, let alone more than that, is irresponsible.
It hurts the Pacers that the Celtics won the lottery, which is where this year's draft comes into play. They may have been more willing to unload this selection if it was second or third. But Fultz has "franchise cornerstone" plastered across his forehead in bolder font than Ball, Jackson, Tatum or anyone else.
Indy can try sussing out better deals, but there's just no guarantee they exist. Will the Lakers sling more if they are so sure George will sign with them? Do the Nuggets up the ante when he's just not that into them, per ESPN.com's Chris Haynes?
George's impending free agency and well-known fondness for the Lakers puts the Pacers in a crummy spot. They should be prepared for lowball offers that, barring an ironclad commitment from their All-Star forward, they have no choice other than to accept.
Denver Rolls the Dice on PG13 (After July 1)
Denver Nuggets Receive: SF Paul George
Indiana Pacers Receive: PF Kenneth Faried, PG Emmanuel Mudiay, PG/SG Jamal Murray, No. 13 pick
This is what it looks like when the Nuggets flush all sense of caution down the toilet.
They made an aggressive play for George at the trade deadline that included a third team, according to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe. They could revisit their offer again.
Denver needn't worry much about George's affinity for Los Angeles if this deal gets brokered deeper into the offseason, when the No. 13 pick has turned into a player, signed his contract and the 30-day waiting period has elapsed. By then, general manager Tim Connelly will have, presumably, put the team's cap space to good use.
Renounce Danilo Gallinari's hold (player option), and the Nuggets are a heartbeat away from $35 million in spending power. Think of the cachet their recruiting pitches will carry if they can sell stars on Nikola Jokic and the eventual chance to play with George. Lead with that hook, and there isn't a player who won't listen. Blake Griffin, Jrue Holiday, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Chris Paul—anyone.
Granted, the Nuggets would still need to woo George upon arrival, but that's so much easier to do with Jokic and another household name on the docket.
There's nothing for the Pacers to consider here. George feels like a goner. This package blows anything else they'll receive out of the water unless the Celtics feel recklessly generous. It might even be too much. The Nuggets can, and should, try using George's contract status to sub in a lower-end asset for Emmanuel Mudiay or Jamal Murray.
Some variation of this deal, though, puts the Pacers on the fast track toward rebuilding. George's exit would render it pointless to re-sign Jeff Teague, and they would net up to two playmaker prospects in Mudiay and Murray.
Kenneth Faried can be replaced with Wilson Chandler if the Pacers want to be spacier, but he hits free agency after next season (player option).
Faried is on a team-friendly deal, signed through 2018-19 and works as a spark plug off the bench. (Chandler would make for a nice small-ball 4.) They could always trade him later or keep him around after turning Thaddeus Young into a mid-first-round pick or prospect.
Pick Swap SZN in Brooklyn and Milwaukee
Brooklyn Nets Receive: No. 17 pick
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: No. 22 pick, No. 27 pick
Somewhat lost among all the Billy King jokes is the fact that the Brooklyn Nets have two first-rounders in their possession. And though they need all the talent they can acquire, consolidating their selections into one closer to the lottery (theoretically) increases the odds of them drafting someone who sticks.
Plus, Brooklyn figures to flirt with a roster-spot crunch. Turning two picks into one potentially eliminates a tough decision.
Of all the teams just outside the lottery, the Milwaukee Bucks profile as the Nets' best partner. They're hovering somewhere between dark-horse contenders and fringe playoff squads, ideally positioning them to roll the dice, just as they did with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker.
Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has Milwaukee choosing Hamidou Diallo in his latest mock draft, which gives this proposal more traction. Diallo never set foot on the floor at Kentucky in an official capacity. He's a reach inside the top 20.
Not one other team behind the Bucks has the developmental juju and available playing time to groom Diallo's detonative speed. He'll probably remain on the board at No. 22. Milwaukee can take him there and then pick up someone else at No. 27—perhaps another pet project, such as Latvia's Rodions Kurucs.
Finding cheap labor is imperative for the Bucks. They won't have meaningful cap space this summer if both Spencer Hawes and Greg Monroe exercise their player options and are at a point where they must reinvest in the core.
Antetokounmpo's extension kicks in next season, Tony Snell needs a new deal this summer, and Jabari Parker—believe it or not—is slated for restricted free agency in 2018.
Brooklyn Lends a Helping Hand to Toronto (After July 1)
Brooklyn Nets Receive: SF/PF DeMarre Carroll, No. 23 pick
Toronto Raptors Receive: No. 57 pick
There is no chance the Toronto Raptors run it back next season without noticeable changes.
Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker are each ticketed for free agency. Re-sign them all, and the Raptors' salary obligations dart past $150 million before taxes—and that's on the favorable end of forecasts.
Even if they let Patterson and Tucker walk, they'll be lucky to be within view of the luxury-tax line they leave behind.
Fortunately for them, the Nets are here to help.
"Brooklyn will be out there on the market looking at teams who have a bad contract they want to get off," Wojnarowski told NBC Sports Radio's The Chris Mannix Show (h/t Nets Daily), "but only if you're willing to attach a good young player or a draft pick."
Dumping DeMarre Carroll's $14.8 million salary significantly cuts into the Raptors' bottom line. If it doesn't help them evade the luxury tax, it should make the bill more manageable while giving them a chance to retain the cheaper and more effective P.J. Tucker.
Carroll isn't getting moved without a goodie bag attached, as Lowe wrote after Toronto was bounced by Cleveland in the second round.
Coughing up Lucas Noguiera or Norman Powell would be overkill, but general manager Masai Ujiri can stomach losing a late first-round prospect—mostly because, if he wants to retain the meat and potatoes of this roster, he won't have a choice.
Sixers Trust The Process (of Trading Back)
Orlando Magic Receive: SG/SF Justin Anderson, No. 3 pick, No. 39 pick
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: SG/SF Terrence Ross, No. 6 pick
These aren't Sam Hinkie's Sixers. They will consider divesting a top-three pick.
"Is there a big difference between four and three, or had we moved back to five?" team president Bryan Colangelo said, per Montgomery Media's Jack McCaffrey. "I think it’s good to be at three, and we’re excited about the pick. We think we are going to add a great player...or we are going to have some discussions with other teams in certain situations that we might entertain.”
Philly doesn't have a real need for the No. 3 pick. Neither Ball nor Fultz is a home-run fit when Ben Simmons needs to be a primary handler. Jackson is a phenomenal fit on defense, but the Sixers need spacing more than anything. Both he and Tatum lack volume-shooting track records.
Trading down to No. 6 puts them in line to take Malik Monk. He canned 39.7 percent of his threes at Kentucky and is far more equipped to play off Simmons and Joel Embiid full time. Philly gets even more shooting in this hypothetical with Terrence Ross, a career 37.4 percent shooter from deep whose marksmanship will be laid to waste within the Orlando Magic's clumpy offense.
And speaking of the Magic, they need a viable cornerstone. This is the fourth time since 2013 they'll be saddled with a top-six pick. None of the previous three have been unquestionable hits. Victor Oladipo is now with the Oklahoma City Thunder; Mario Hezonja struggles to see the floor under head coach Frank Vogel; and Aaron Gordon has been subjected to an ever-changing role.
Sneaking inside the top three gives the Magic a better chance of landing that franchise face. Maybe Ball drops to No. 3, or perhaps Jackson turns into the Paul George-prototype they mistakenly hoped Gordon would be.
Throw in an early second-rounder and Justin Anderson's rookie-scale deal, and Orlando has enough incentive to pound this reset button.
Swap SZN Comes to Portland and Charlotte
Charlotte Hornets Receive: No. 15 pick, No. 20 pick
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: No. 11 pick
Free agency isn't a realistic avenue of improvement for the Charlotte Hornets. Failing a series of salary dumps, their best asset will be the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception, which is projected to come in at $8.4 million.
That's not nearly enough to get the Hornets a backup point guard, more shooting and a cross-position frontcourt contributor. They can keep the 11th pick and hope to strike lightning. After all, since 2011, both Klay Thompson and Myles Turner have been selected in that slot.
But securing two assets on rookie-scale contracts is too convenient to pass up. Charlotte has more than $95 million in guaranteed salary on its books through 2018-19, after which Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (player option) and Kemba Walker will be due for new deals. The process of scrapping together affordable help starts now.
The Portland Trail Blazers can't say no to jumping inside the lottery—not while in the middle of a roster-hold crisis. They have three first-round picks in this draft. Even if they waive the non-guaranteed deals of Pat Connaughton, Festus Ezeli and Tim Quarterman, they'll be maxed out at 15 players, with a payroll that blows past $130 million.
Consolidation is inevitable, and the Blazers—as a team trying to win now—will want to complete splashier moves. But the 11th pick fits the small-scale bill; a low-cost addition that winds up saving them a roster spot.
Utah Makes a Tough Call
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: PG/SG Dante Exum
Utah Jazz Receive: SG/SF Justin Anderson, No. 36 pick, 2018 second-round pick (via Clippers or New york Knicks)
Dante Exum doesn't seem like a happy camper.
"You can tell he's not happy with how the season went," the Desert News' Jody Genessy wrote of Exum's year-end media availability. "It felt like he was giving partial answers and holding back what he really felt."
Can we really blame him? Exum's injury woes have been compounded by an unpredictable place in the rotation. Head coach Quin Snyder had no problem this season turning to Shelvin Mack or Raul Neto before him.
There's no light at the end of the tunnel if the Jazz intend to re-sign George Hill. More minutes will be available at backup point guard once Mack, as expected, takes his talents elsewhere, but Exum is a restricted free agent next summer, and paying him is out of the question.
Utah will cannonball into the luxury tax if Hayward, Hill and Joe Ingles (restricted) are all back, and Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood (restricted) are both headed for free agency in 2018.
Things would change if Hayward left, and the Jazz send Hill and Ingles packing with him. Even then, Exum's looming payday isn't going away.
Getting out in front of what feels likes an unavoidable divorce is a good idea. Exum isn't going to hold a ton of value, so the Jazz should pounce at a trio of cost-controlled assets that include a defensive specialist like Anderson.
As for the Sixers, let's not pretend uniting Ben Simmons with a fellow Australian isn't the coolest idea ever. Exum isn't a spot-up weapon and must learn to play off other ball-dominators, but Philly has the bandwidth to test out another point guard as a super sub.