Best Potential Trade Scenarios for Every Top 5 Pick in the 2015 NBA Draft
In 2014, NBA general managers couldn't keep themselves from discussing deals, and the result was a remarkable 13 draft-day trades. Notably, that didn't even include Andrew Wiggins and others going from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love.
Highlighted by Jrue Holiday's arrival in New Orleans, the 2013 NBA draft featured another 13 swaps. Eighteen different teams managed to get in on the wheeling and dealing. And in 2012, franchises finalized an even 10 trades, though not all of them came on draft night itself.
Chances are 2015 won't be much different, and there's a distinct possibility we could see some of the earliest picks moved at the last minute on June 25.
Of course, there are many reasons for seeking out trades.
Some teams want to fill holes that would otherwise require major reaching during the selection process. Others would like to acquire veteran talent rather than add another young piece to the roster. Others still just seem to like collecting assets.
Four of the squads with the first five picks in this year's draft aren't going to be exceptions. Even if they do end up making picks in their designated slots, they'll all still work the phones and try to make trades as ideal for the direction of their franchise as these.
No. 1 Pick: No Trades for the Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves simply aren't going to trade the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA draft—not unless something mind-numbingly crazy comes their way. Think LeBron James or Anthony Davis, if you're looking for examples.
Sure, the top selection this year isn't as valuable as some stars who may end up on the block but the Wolves don't need to make any huge changes.
Due to sheer internal improvement and better luck in the health department, they'd likely have a significantly better season in 2015-16 than they experienced this past go-around. And the team's adding too many veterans is only going to inhibit the growth of Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, Ricky Rubio and the other young pieces on Flip Saunders' roster.
Plus, Minnesota is in luck.
With Rubio and LaVine, there's no need for another point guard. The wings are covered as well, and the young trio of Anthony Bennett, Adreian Payne and Dieng will attempt to hold its own at the 4. Center is the biggest need, and it just so happens that this 2015 class features two centers who stand out above all the rest.
Whether the Wolves select Karl-Anthony Towns (as they should) or Jahlil Okafor (the second-best fit, though by no means a bad choice), they're working to fix one of the biggest weaknesses on the roster. Trading away that opportunity and attempting to hurry along a rebuild that requires patience would be foolish, barring the proverbial Godfather offer that likely isn't coming.
No. 2 Pick: Los Angeles Lakers Welcome Carmelo Anthony
New York Knicks Receive: No. 2 pick, Julius Randle
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Carmelo Anthony
"It looks as though we'll use our pick this year," Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said to ESPN's Colin Cowherd during a radio appearance, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com.
But if there's one player who could push the Purple and Gold in another direction, it's Carmelo Anthony. After all, Bleacher Report's Howard Beck also quotes the GM as revealing, "We don't have...the time to methodically and slowly build through the draft."
What better way to expedite the process than by trading for a bona fide superstar?
The New York Knicks probably won't undervalue Anthony, even coming off a season cut short by recurring issues with the small forward's knee. But if public perception of his game is at a low, it shouldn't be. He just needs to be on the right team surrounded by players who actually draw defensive attention and occasionally hit the shots he sets up.
The No. 2 pick in this draft would obviously be the foundation for the trade, giving New York the ability to draft an elite center prospect first—whoever is left between Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor—and then a point guard at No. 4.
Even if L.A. throws Julius Randle, last year's No. 7 pick, into the mix, it's an interesting idea for the Lakers, who would be throwing two stars together and then spending plenty of money in free agency to surround them with a quality supporting cast.
While the Knicks get to build around the young core of Towns/Okafor, Randle and Emmanuel Mudiay/D'Angelo Russell, the Lakers would be working with Kobe Bryant, Anthony and plenty of money, though the deal would take some salary-cap finagling. If they're truly feeling urgency in the rebuilding process, it wouldn't be the worst idea in the world.
No. 3 Pick: Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets Swing a Deal
Denver Nuggets Receive: No. 3 pick
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler
At some point, the Philadelphia 76ers will have to find some contributors with experience, as the rebuilding process will be much more difficult if general manager Sam Hinkie only has young players with upside in the starting lineup—and a bit of leadership off the bench.
Now could be a good time to complete the search.
Ty Lawson is growing malcontent in the Mile High City, and, per Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post, he's moved onto the trade block. His unhappiness is only going to drive the asking price down for any team willing to acquire a disgruntled point guard seemingly always on the brink of developing into an All-Star talent.
"Once considered an untouchable on the Nuggets' roster, the point guard's actions over the past two years have done everything to remove himself from that space," Dempsey wrote in early May. "His new reality? He's as susceptible to the next good trade offer as any other tradable player in the NBA."
As intriguing as drafting D'Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay may be to the Sixers, it's an ever better idea to pounce and nab a potential All-Star, especially when Wilson Chandler might also be thrown into the deal as a sweetener. All of a sudden, Philadelphia would be looking at trotting out Lawson, Chandler, Robert Covington, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid.
It's not crazy to think such a core could make the playoffs in the East, perhaps as soon as the 2015-16 season.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets would be able to draft Lawson's replacement at No. 3, retain their own No. 7 pick to add someone such as Stanley Johnson and then build around the quartet comprised of those two rookies, Kenneth Faried and Jusuf Nurkic.
Talk about a win-win scenario for two downtrodden organizations.
No. 4 Pick: New York Knicks Talk with Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: No. 4 pick
New York Knicks Receive: Joel Embiid
"Now, as a rookie once more, [Joel] Embiid is a project. His history of foot and back problems also mean he's a gamble," Bleacher Report's Dan Favale opines. "But the Knicks are in the market for big men, and the only tower who matches Embiid's two-way potential in this year's draft is [Karl-Anthony] Towns—who, in all likelihood, will go in the top three."
The New York Knicks could certainly justify sitting tight and using the No. 4 pick to select whichever member of the draft's top tier is still on the board. Whether it's D'Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay or—though it's unlikely—one of the big men, they'd all be welcome arrivals.
But they could also swap the pick for the player who, had he been healthy, likely would've been the slam dunk No. 1 selection in last year's class.
Just for perspective, here are NBADraft.net's grades and comparisons for the five relevant players:
- Karl-Anthony Towns: 98; compared to Andrew Bogut/Vlade Divac
- Jahlil Okafor: 98; compared to Al Jefferson
- D'Angelo Russell: 98; compared to Brandon Roy/Manu Ginobili
- Emmanuel Mudiay: 98; compared to John Wall
- Joel Embiid: 100; compared to Tim Duncan/Akeem Olajuwon
There's only one way to get their hands on the triple-digit score: trade the No. 4 pick for last year's No. 3 selection.
Sure, that means the Knicks are exposing themselves to more risk of injury, but they're also filling the biggest need with the biggest talent. The Philadelphia 76ers, meanwhile, would be ridding themselves of the conundrum that centers around playing Embiid and Nerlens Noel together. We still don't know if they'll actually work alongside one another.
"Dealing Embiid frees up the Sixers to play Noel exclusively at center," Favale explains. "It also allows them to keep their options open at No. 3. They could roll with Towns if he's still available, or they could pick up Russell or Mudiay to fill their hole at point guard."
No. 5 Pick: Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors Get Busy
Toronto Raptors Receive: No. 5 pick
Orlando Magic Receive: DeMar DeRozan
"Expect the Magic, Kings, Pistons and Hornets to seriously consider trading their picks. All four want to accelerate rebuild," ESPN Insider Chad Ford tweeted.
We're not concerned with the Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons or Charlotte Hornets here. They're all outside of the top five. But the Orlando Magic are currently slotted behind only four other squads, and that might not remain true by the time a fifth player shakes NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's hand.
The Magic already have a promising backcourt led by the developing talents of Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton. Aaron Gordon and Channing Frye will demand minutes at the 4, while Nikola Vucevic is entrenched at center.
Only small forward is truly up in the air, and trading the No. 5 pick for DeMar DeRozan would be an even better option than paying a premium to retain the services of Tobias Harris, who will be a restricted free agent this offseason. And lest you think DeRozan is strictly a shooting guard, Basketball-Reference.com shows that he spent 42 percent of his minutes at small forward in 2014-15 and 78 percent the year before.
DeRozan isn't an ideal fit for the Magic, who desperately need some outside shooting. But even his mid-range prowess would be a welcome addition to the Orlando offense, and his defense would certainly complement Payton and Oladipo's talents.
For this to work, the Toronto Raptors would have to be totally sold on blowing up their core after an embarrassing playoff sweep at the hands of the Washington Wizards. They may well be, and getting access to someone like Stanley Johnson at No. 5 would certainly make a small-scale rebuild an easier pill for the passionate fanbase to swallow.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com.
Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.