2018 NBA Draft: 1 Realistic Trade Every Team with a Top-5 Pick Should Consider
The stability that comes with a set order in the NBA draft is slightly disappointing.
After months of speculation about lottery odds and what that might mean for the restructuring of so many teams, we now know who picks where in the 2018 draft.
It's a letdown. The unknown is always more exciting than the known.
So, let's shake things up.
If you're one of the teams picking in the top five of this year's draft, you have plenty of problems: bad contracts, underperforming young talent and more roster holes than any one pick could ever fill. As such, none of the high-lottery teams should assume standing pat is the best course of action.
Perhaps there's a scenario out there that could yield more assets down the road. Maybe some team is desperate to move up, and you can hold their feet to the fire on a deal. One of these teams could get even more ambitious and try to secure a second top-tier pick.
Picking at the top of the lottery is great, but these five teams have the opportunity to leverage their good fortune into something better—if they swing the right deal.
5. Dallas Mavericks
Dallas Mavericks Get: Chandler Parsons, Evan Turner, Memphis' No. 4 pick in 2018
Memphis Grizzlies Get: Harrison Barnes, Dallas' 2019 first-round pick (top-10 protected in 2019, top-five protected in 2020), Portland's No. 24 pick in 2018
Portland Trail Blazers Get: Wesley Matthews
Why not start with a big one?
Dallas gets a second pick in the top five, which it needs to get its rebuild going. With Dennis Smith Jr. already in the fold, the Mavs can now add two more high-lottery selections around him, setting the team up with a core that can grow together over the next half-decade. The price of accumulating so much young talent is steep: the brutal contracts of Parsons and Turner.
The Mavs' 2019 cap space takes a hit here with Turner's $18.6 million salary for 2019-20, but swapping in Parsons for Barnes is a financial wash. The bad money will be all gone by 2020, at which point the Smith-No. 4 pick-No. 5 pick trio should be ready to ascend.
The Grizzlies are stuck trying to compete in the near term as long as Marc Gasol and Mike Conley occupy roster spots and eat up vast swaths of cap space, so adding Barnes and a few other assets makes sense. It might seem like the Grizz are making out too well by also dumping Parsons' dead money, but they're the ones surrendering that No. 4 pick, which is the best asset in the deal.
Portland is glad to get off Evan Turner's salary for the price of its No. 24 pick, reuniting with Matthews on a deal that expires after the 2018-19 season.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzlies Get: Los Angeles' No. 12 pick in 2018, Tobias Harris, Patrick Beverley
Los Angeles Clippers Get: Memphis' No. 4 pick, Chandler Parsons
Falling out of the top two was unlucky, as the Grizzlies now have virtually no shot at Luka Doncic or Deandre Ayton. It's time for them to pivot.
"They obviously were the most disappointed with the way the lottery went and the options they have now," a rival general manager told Sean Deveney of Sporting News. "It seems like they want to try to turn that pick into something else. Everyone's going to talk before the draft, of course. But Memphis, I think they're the ones who are going to be more ready to do something than others."
Here, the Grizzlies move down eight spots and pick in a range where there's still immense value. Donovan Mitchell went 13th last year, lest we forget. In addition, the Grizz add two vets in Harris and Beverley who can help them win now at reasonable rates. Harris makes $14.8 million in 2018-19, the last year of his deal, and Beverley's $5 million salary next year is non-guaranteed until Jan. 10.
The Clips have to eat Parsons' contract—attaching it to any deal involving the fourth pick should be a prerequisite for Memphis—which stings. But L.A. would then have a top-five pick to go with its other selection at No. 13 overall. Losing Harris hurts, but who knows what he would cost to retain in free agency next summer? This kickstarts the rebuild in earnest.
L.A. could buy out or stretch Parsons as soon as next season, clearing space and heading into the future with a new stable of young talent and no other crippling deals on its books...as long as it doesn't re-sign DeAndre Jordan at a premium this summer.
3. Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta Hawks Get: Ian Mahinmi, Shelvin Mack, Washington's No. 15 pick in 2018
Washington Wizards Get: Jonathon Simmons, Malcolm Delaney
Orlando Magic Get: Dennis Schroder
A lot could change in the next month as narratives form and opinions shift about prospects, but the No. 3 spot doesn't appear to be ideal. Despite what sources have told ESPN.com's Jonathon Givony, Doncic and Ayton likely will be gone, and no one knows how much more valuable the No. 3 pick is than, say, the 10th.
So, let's leave Atlanta's pick alone for now and seek out more draft assets by giving it Washington's No. 15 selection in exchange for taking on Ian Mahinmi's onerous deal. Washington should be happy to surrender its pick in an effort to duck the tax, and the Hawks have cap space to absorb rotten deals for the right price.
At the same time, we can also help the Hawks ditch Schroder, who seems open to a separation. Orlando's point guard situation may be the worst in the league, and that makes it a fine taker for Schroder's deal, which'll pay him $15.5 million per season through 2020-21.
Washington saves money, Orlando gives up filler for a shot at its point guard of the future and the Hawks eat bad money while adding a fourth first-rounder for their rebuild.
2. Sacramento Kings
Sacramento Kings Get: Chicago's No. 7 and 22 picks in 2018
Chicago Bulls Get: Sacramento's No. 2 pick in 2018
If Luka Doncic is available at No. 2, the Kings should grab him and run. But if the Suns snatch the Real Madrid star with the top pick, Sacramento might consider trading down and gambling on Micheal Porter Jr., a high-risk wing who isn't far removed from being perhaps the best high school player in the country.
In this scenario, the Kings send their No. 2 pick to the Chicago Bulls for Chicago's seventh and 22nd picks in this year's first round. If Sacramento had any bad long-term money on its books, it could ship that to the Bulls as part of the exchange, but both Zach Randolph ($11.7 million) and Kosta Koufos ($8.7 million) come off the ledger after the 2018-19 season. If anything, the Kings should be looking to take on another team's ugly deals in return for more assets.
The Kings need a scoring wing, and Doncic profiles as the best option. But if Porter Jr. is fully healthy after the back surgery that cost him almost all of his lone collegiate season, he might be just as good, albeit riskier. Getting Porter and an extra first-rounder feels like a fair trade-off for the Kings if Doncic isn't available.
From Chicago's perspective, the explanation is easy: You get the second overall pick in a draft many see as having a two-player top tier. If the Bulls aren't convinced Lauri Markkanen's future is at the 5, Ayton would be a fine fit—one who would help form one of the most promising young offensive frontcourts in the league.
1. Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns Get: Buddy Hield, Harry Giles, Sacramento's No. 2 pick in 2018, a 2019 second-rounder (via Houston, Cleveland or Orlando)
Sacramento Kings Get: Phoenix's No. 1 pick in 2018
We have a recent precedent for trades like this.
Just last June, the Philadelphia 76ers surrendered a future first-round pick and their own No. 3 selection to move up two spots for Markelle Fultz. The Suns taking on a few young pieces for a one-spot drop is well within the realm of possibility.
This also gives the Suns a chance to rectify a true rarity: a trade the Kings actually won.
In 2016, Sacramento dealt No. 8 pick Marquese Chriss to Phoenix for the 13th and 28th picks in that draft, plus the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic and a future second-rounder. Bogdanovic performed better as a rookie in 2017-18 than Chriss did in either of his first two seasons with the Suns.
From the Kings' side, this is all about taking control of their own destiny. If they're infatuated with Doncic and view him as the player they must have for the future of their franchise—that isn't a ridiculous thing to believe, by the way—why not surrender a few young role players and eliminate any drama on draft night?
Hield is already an elite shooter, but his defensive and playmaking limitations mean he's headed for a career as a role player, and Giles hasn't seen a minute of NBA action yet. Assuming the Suns are fine with either Ayton (who played for Arizona in college) or Doncic (whom new Phoenix head coach Igor Kokoskov coached with the Slovenian national team), it makes sense to collect a few assets and take whomever Sacramento doesn't.