2018-19 NBA Rookies Already in Need of a Trade

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJune 22, 2019

2018-19 NBA Rookies Already in Need of a Trade

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Almost every draft pick looks good on the night they're selected.

    Optimism flows, fanbases get fired up, and every prospect promises they can't wait to get to (city x) and get to work.

    Unfortunately, situations change.

    Whether the team goes in a different direction, other players are added at the same position or the injury bug hits, some of last year's rookies should be looking for a new home already.

    The incoming 2019 draft class can complicate things as well, especially when teams draft high at the same position in back-to-back years.

    Although by no fault of their own, the following five 2018 rookies are now in a tough spot and should be thinking about a trade.

Jerome Robinson, SG, Los Angeles Clippers

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    The 13th pick of the 2018 draft, Jerome Robinson looked like the Clippers' shooting guard of the future in a backcourt with fellow draft mate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

    While Gilgeous-Alexander went on to have a terrific rookie season, Robinson saw the majority of his court time in the G League.

    Putting up 18.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists with the Agua Caliente Clippers should have earned him more of a shot at the big league level, but instead Robinson was limited to just 9.7 minutes per game in 33 contests.

    To make matters worse, the Clippers acquired another rookie shooting guard who's already gained the trust of the organization.

    Landry Shamet, brought over in the Tobias Harris trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, started 23 of his 25 games in L.A., averaging 10.9 points and splashing 45.0 percent of his three-pointers.

    The Clippers could choose to go small next season and start all three guards together, but that's assuming Kawhi Leonard or any other big free agents don't come. With only $46 million in salaries for next season, the Clippers will be big-game hunting this summer. Signing Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Khris Middleton or any other star wing would only push Robinson farther down the bench, one he already has to share with sixth man extraordinaire Lou Williams.

    A talented scorer, Robinson may not get a fair shake with the Clippers after the free-agency dust has settled.

Mo Wagner, F/C, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Mo Wagner is the only rookie on this list already being mentioned in trade rumors.

    With the Los Angeles Lakers looking to clear as much cap space as possible for a max free agent, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Lakers are offering Wagner's contract to teams.

    Even if Los Angeles fails to find a trade partner, Wagner and the Lakers are no longer a fit.

    With LeBron James and Anthony Davis together, there needs to be a championship-or-bust mentality in Hollywood. This typically doesn't bode well for 22-year-olds coming off their rookie season.

    The 25th pick of the 2018 draft, Wagner gave the Lakers 4.8 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.3 blocks in 10.4 minutes a night. He played in 43 games, starting five near the end of the season when players like James, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball were all out with injury.

    At his best, Wagner can be a stretchy big who hits threes at a good clip and can score in transition. His early shooting woes (28.6 percent from deep) mean he'll likely need a few years of seasoning before even thinking about a starting job in the league.

    The Lakers don't have this kind of time.

    On what's likely to be a veteran-heavy roster with championship aspirations and little time for player development, Wagner should have been looking for a trade out even before salary-cap issues came into play.

Lonnie Walker, SG, San Antonio Spurs

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    Like Jerome Robinson with the Clippers, Walker spent most of his rookie season getting some run in the G League.

    In 29 games with the Austin Spurs, Walker averaged 16.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 27.5 minutes while shooting 43.9 percent from the floor and 35.8 percent from deep.

    Looking at the Spurs' projected backcourt, Walker may be stuck in the G League once again.

    Starting point guard Dejounte Murray appears set to return to the Spurs lineup after tearing his ACL and missing all of last season. DeMar DeRozan averaged just under 35 minutes a game, splitting his time between shooting guard and small forward. 

    After them, Derrick White looks like a future star after putting up 15.1 points and 3.0 assists in the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets.

    Bryn Forbes (11.8 points in 81 starts), Patty Mills (9.9 points in 23.3 minutes) and Marco Belinelli (10.5 points in 23.0 minutes) will all need minutes in the backcourt as well.

    This leaves Walker as the odd man out, with little hope to crack a future rotation anytime soon.

    The 18th pick of the 2018 draft out of Miami, Walker should already be asking to be moved.

Collin Sexton, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Everything seemed to be going just fine for Collin Sexton and the Cavaliers.

    The No. 8 overall pick, acquired using the Brooklyn Nets' pick from the Kyrie Irving trade, Sexton looked like the Cavs point guard of the future. After initially coming off the bench behind veteran George Hill, Sexton finished the season with 16.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and shot 40.2 percent from three while playing in all 82 games.

    While his defense was questionable, Sexton's work ethic and athleticism seem to calm any restlessness about his value moving forward.

    With the team needing wing help heading into the 2019 draft, the Cavs passed on Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver and instead took another 6'2" point guard in Vanderbilt's Darius Garland.

    Such a move doesn't bode well for Sexton's long-term future in Cleveland. While it's possible the pair can start next to each other, that makes for an extremely small backcourt. Given that neither is an eager distributor, the fit is even more awkward.

    Maybe head coach John Beilein will start one at point guard and bring the other off the bench as a scoring sixth man, but it's Garland who appears to have the higher upside and should eventually lock down a starting job. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman compares Garland to Damian Lillard, citing his shot-making firepower and NBA-ready jumper.

    If Sexton stays in Cleveland, his career outlook has gone from starter to reserve.

Mo Bamba, C, Orlando Magic

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    The No. 6 pick in the 2018 draft, Mo Bamba's rookie season was consumed by a tibia fracture that cost him nearly half the year.

    In 47 games, Bamba averaged 6.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 16.3 minutes. While those numbers are enough to inspire hope that he could be groomed into a full-time starting center next season, that opportunity may never come.

    All current starter Nikola Vucevic did was reach career highs in points (20.8), rebounds (12.0) and assists (3.8) while being named to his first All-Star team. 

    This makes Bamba's future in Orlando a little less clear. While Vucevic is set to become an unrestricted free agent in less than two weeks, Magic president Jeff Weltman said bringing the 28-year-old center back is a priority

    With other teams likely chasing Vucevic as well, the Magic will have to make a strong, multiyear offer if they wish to keep him. That would mean nothing more than a reserve role for Bamba for the foreseeable future.

    Given the team's influx of bigs (Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Timofey Mozgov) and lack of wings (Evan Fournier and...ummm), this is a case when it makes sense for both parties involved to explore a trade. 

    Moving Bamba for a starting small forward or upgrade at the guard position should be Orlando's preferred move.


    Greg Swartz covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. All stats via Basketball Reference or NBA.com unless otherwise noted.