10 Realistic 2017 NBA Draft Night Trades
Are you suffering from NBA vertigo? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers swapping picks, David Griffin’s exit from the Cleveland Cavaliers, D’Angelo Russell’s impending exile in Brooklyn and Dwight Howard getting traded to Charlotte during a Twitter Q&A, the annual basketball hot stove is already LIT.
And that’s before the insanity that’s bound to ensue during the 2017 draft. Five teams currently own multiple first-round picks in a class that’s long on intriguing talent.
Chances are, some of those selections will change hands between now and the moment deputy commissioner Mark Tatum announces the 60th pick on Thursday. Those slots aren’t going to move for peanuts, either. There could be some bona fide All-Stars and massive contracts sent from one city to another on skids greased by picks.
All of which is to say, hold onto your butts, ladies and gents. These 10 moves may well Woj-bomb your TV screens along with the hopes and dreams of your favorite team.
Lakers Push for Paul George
Yes, the Lakers used D’Angelo Russell (in part) to dump Timofey Mozgov’s salary on the Brooklyn Nets. And yes, as Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding noted, that amounts to “selling low” on a mercurial 21-year-old with evident (if inconsistent) talent as a scorer and passer.
But if there’s any consolation for Lakers Nation, it’s this: Of all the dominos that may fall in L.A.’s favor, this is just the first.
Next up? Paul George. According to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, George’s camp made it crystal clear to the Indiana Pacers that the All-Star will leave the Circle City next summer as a free agent.
“George hasn’t requested a trade before he can opt out of his 2018-19 contract,” Woj wrote, “but did have his agent, Aaron Mintz, tell new Indiana president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard that he wanted to be forthright on his plans and spare the franchise any confusion about his intentions, league sources told The Vertical.”
Per ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Lakers will see if they can land George, who’s yearning for a return to his Southern California roots, in exchange for the two late first-round picks they now have (Nos. 27 and 28) and either Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle. Depending on how the market shakes out, L.A. may have to give up both youngsters along with those picks to pry PG-13 from the Pacers a year early.
If that’s what it takes to land a franchise superstar without sacrificing Brandon Ingram or the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, the juice could be well worth the squeeze for the Purple and Gold.
Cavaliers Move Kevin Love for Another Star
The Lakers, though, won’t be the only team hot on Paul George’s heels heading into the 2017 draft.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, for one, seem eager to add either of the Central Division’s most wanted wings (i.e. George, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler). According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Joe Vardon, David Griffin, whose tenure as general manager of the Cavs ended abruptly on Monday evening, “left for his successors [the] potential trades to bring either Chicago's Jimmy Butler or Indiana's Paul George to the team.”
In all likelihood, that would spell the end of Kevin Love’s three-year tenure in The Land. Cleveland would need to find a third team to take Love and send some combination of picks and young players to either the Bulls or Pacers, per multiple reports.
Perhaps the Portland Trail Blazers, who play in Love’s home state of Oregon, would give up a pick or two from their stash this year, another future selection and one of their signees from last summer (Allen Crabbe, anyone?) to get a deal done.
Would the Boston Celtics willingly engage their top conference competition in a deal that wouldn’t land them a coveted wing, but rather a player, in Love, with the rebounding ability to help fortify Gang Green’s weak front line? That could depend on the price, with Boston’s stash of picks and attractive contracts (i.e. Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, Tyler Zeller, Terry Rozier) potentially on the line.
The Phoenix Suns, whom Vardon cited as a potential partner, could also put together a package built around productive veterans (Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight), intriguing youngsters (T.J. Warren, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Alan Williams) and picks to facilitate a trade.
All that’s certain is, if the Cavs get a deal done for Butler or George, it won’t be a simple swap.
Celtics Swing for Jimmy Butler
Then again, the Cavaliers might not be in the running for Jimmy Buckets, if he has his druthers. According to NBA.com’s David Aldridge, Butler “has informed Cavs that he wants to stay in Chicago rather than be traded to Cleveland.”
That doesn’t mean the Bulls have to heed his wishes. If the powers-that-be in the Windy City decide they would rather reset their roster, albeit with an aging Dwyane Wade returning, they still have that right. The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson reported that the team, in fact, “remain[s] active in talks on Butler.”
Boston has taken multiple shots at Butler in recent years—even recent days. According to CSN Chicago’s Vincent Goodwill, the Celtics turned down an opportunity to acquire the Bulls All-Star in exchange for the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft.
That doesn’t mean, though, that you won’t hear more about these two teams tangoing again before long. The C’s are up to their eyeballs in future draft considerations, prospects stashed overseas and young veterans on cap-friendly contracts. Surely, general manager Danny Ainge could concoct some combination therein to get a deal done.
But that wouldn’t necessarily require Boston to do its wheeling and dealing by draft night. Those other assets will all be available after July 1. Butler, on the other hand, might not be if the Bulls find a deal they like before then.
Boston Bets on Paul George
Should the Celtics continue to balk at the Bulls’ asking price for Butler, they could take another look at Paul George. Boston reportedly went after George at the February trade deadline.
Granted, that was more than four months ago. Trading anything of value now for George might get the Celtics no more than a one-year rental—something in which Danny Ainge and company have no interest, per Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler.
That tidbit hit the Twittersphere on Sunday, which is practically eons ago in NBA offseason time. If the Cavs can’t scrape together a viable package for PG-13 and the Lakers are unwilling to part with more than a pair of late first-round picks and a young role player, couldn’t the Celtics swoop in with a better offer that still leaves them with a full cup for now and the future?
Those 2019 picks from the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers could be useful. So could the rights to French forward Guerschon Yabusele, who spent last season in China.
Throw in Tyler Zeller’s non-guaranteed deal for 2017-18 and, say, Marcus Smart, and Boston could be in business for one superstar with some wiggle room to chase another in free agency this summer.
C’s Trade Down Again
Maybe the Celtics won’t keep the No. 3 pick and won’t deal it for an established star.
Huh? How does that work?
By trading down. According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, Boston, which already swapped spots with Philadelphia, has explored moving down even further—and for good reason.
“This draft is unusually loaded with top prospects who would arguably go no. 1 in a ‘normal year,’” O’Connor wrote, “so it’s hard to look at historical numbers as valuable.”
While the C’s seem keen to add Duke’s Jayson Tatum to their stockpile of young talent, they’re not exactly short on enticing options on the wing. Jae Crowder has molded himself into a more-than-serviceable two-way forward. Jaylen Brown, the No. 3 pick in last year’s draft, showed flashes of potential stardom during his rookie season.
And that’s before Boston either trades for an All-Star swingman (Butler, George) or signs one in free agency (Gordon Hayward).
The C’s, then, might be best served by sitting out the top of this draft and adding more ammunition for another day, when they’ll have a clearer need to fill and more pressure to fill it amid exploding contract demands from incumbent veterans.
Rockets Launch Patrick Beverley
If there’s any darkhorse that could swoop in for a draft-day blockbuster, it’s the Houston Rockets. They won’t have a first-round pick at their disposal on Thursday, but they will have all of their future picks to offer and at least one attractive asset to dangle: Patrick Beverley. According to Sporting News’ Sean Deveney, the Rockets have been “actively shopping” their starting shooting guard.
General manager Daryl Morey shouldn’t have any trouble finding teams interested in Beverley, even in a league that’s already overflowing with floor generals. The 28-year-old Chicago native has established himself as a threat from three-point range (37.5 percent of his career) and one of the league’s most dogged defenders at his position.
Moreover, Beverley’s contract might be one of the NBA’s best values. He’ll make $5.5 million next season and $5 million in 2018-19.
Package him with a present youngster (Clint Capela? Sam Dekker?), a future pick and some salary filler, and the Rockets could find themselves in fine position to snag a second fiddle for James Harden, whether that’s Paul George, Jimmy Butler or someone who has yet to get sucked into the rumor mill.
Clippers Ship out DeAndre Jordan
Just when you thought the lead-up to the 2017 draft couldn’t get any crazier, ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes reported that the Los Angeles Clippers were shopping DeAndre Jordan.
Among L.A.’s initial targets: the Phoenix Suns. Per Haynes, the Clippers didn’t get far after asking the Suns for Tyson Chandler and the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft as recompense for their All-Star center.
That could be just the start of any sweepstakes involving Jordan. Phoenix has more than its fair share of other players already on-hand who could appeal to the Clippers, now featuring Jerry West as a consigliere to Doc Rivers and Lawrence Frank.
Perhaps L.A. would consider bringing back Eric Bledsoe, who got his start in the NBA as a Clippers draftee. Maybe T.J. Warren, who would help L.A. address its deficiency on the wing, becomes expendable with Kansas’ Josh Jackson or Duke’s Jayson Tatum available to Phoenix in this year’s draft.
Or, the Clippers could find another taker elsewhere. Either way, it should come as no surprise that this club is looking to shake things up now that The Logo is on board, the Golden State Warriors have raised the bar and Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick are among eight Clippers (not including the retiring Paul Pierce) who could bolt in free agency this summer.
Trail Blazers Dump Some Salary
The Portland Trail Blazers already have 15 players under contract for next season—including three on non-guaranteed deals—with a payroll that could soar past $140 million.
And that’s before factoring in three first-round selections: Nos. 15, 20 and 26.
In theory, the Blazers could package two or more of those picks together as a means of moving up in this year’s draft. Or, they could use their selections to clear off some of the expensive salaries they added last summer.
According to CSN Northwest’s Jason Quick, Portland wants to hang onto its own slot at No. 15 but may well Nos. 20 and 26, acquired respectively from Memphis and Cleveland, to lighten its financial load.
There aren’t quite as many teams with cap space to burn this summer as there were in 2016. Still, with squads like Brooklyn, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Sacramento sporting financial flexibility amid their rebuilds, there should be a team out there that’s intrigued enough by Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard or even Evan Turner to take one on with a pick to sweeten the pot.
Pistons Trade Their Pick
Last spring, the Detroit Pistons were come off their first playoff appearance since 2009. Granted, it was a brief one—a four-game sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers—but an important step forward for the franchise nonetheless.
Now, the Pistons find themselves back in the lottery, once again looking for a way out. Even in a draft as deep as this year’s, they may have difficulty finding a player at No. 12 who can help vault them back into the East’s top eight.
It’s no wonder, then, that Detroit is looking to exchange its shot at a young prospect for more immediate help.
"Jeff (general manager Bower) is on the phone constantly and we're talking to people and every deal gets evaluated on whether or not we think it makes us better," Pistons head coach and president Stan Van Gundy said, per MLive.com’s Ansar Khan. "It's tough trading a draft pick for an established veteran guy just in terms of money and things like that. Not only getting the deal done, but then when you're looking at your structure and trying to manage your salary, not having those rookie scale contracts is big, so it's not an easy thing.”
Finances figure to get tight in the Motor City this summer, even with Aron Baynes opting out of his $6.5 million contract for next season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is entering restricted free agency. So is Reggie Bullock. Stanley Johnson’s continued growth could cover for both in the event that Detroit decides to pass on paying its own guys beaucoup bucks.
Still, shunting Caldwell-Pope, in particular, would hardly leave the Pistons with enough to pursue even a mid-level free agent. Thus, offering up the 12th pick may be Detroit’s best bet to add a helpful veteran this offseason.
Jazz Look to Climb into the Lottery
Perhaps the Utah Jazz will be among those teams to inquire with the Pistons about their real estate in the draft lottery. According to KUTV’s Spencer Checketts, the Jazz have “made inquiries” about leaping into the lottery.
Utah has both the means and the motivation to make such a move. To the former, they have the 24th and 30th picks in this year’s draft along with some contracts (Alec Burks) and intriguing youngsters (Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Trey Lyles) to further encourage potential trade partners.
As for the reasoning behind such a step up the ladder, it’s more a matter of doomsday preparation in the Beehive State.
The threat of Gordon Hayward leaving Salt Lake City is real—and for the Utah Jazz, it’s anything but spectacular. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Miami Heat intend to join the Boston Celtics and Jazz in the summer sweepstakes for Hayward’s services.
Utah may hope for the best with Hayward, but it’s only prudent for the franchise to prepare for the worst. That could mean chasing veterans to fill the gap and keep the Jazz competitive.
Or, in this case, targeting another prospect who might be equipped to step into Hayward’s shoes in a few years.