Keep or Trade? What Every NBA Lottery Team Should Do with Its 1st-Round Pick

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2020

Keep or Trade? What Every NBA Lottery Team Should Do with Its 1st-Round Pick

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The 2020 NBA draft order is set, and you know what that means: The time has come, at long last, to instruct all 14 lottery teams about what to do with their first-round picks.

    Offering advice none of these organizations asked for isn't as effortless as you might think. Directing front offices to trade first-rounders is fun and uncomplicated, but it demands more critical thought when weighing the circumstances.

    And sheesh, are this year's circumstances heavy.

    Never mind that the NBA is still sorting through the financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic, which could put a hold on or outright deter all major moves. The inbound rookie class isn't generating the usual amount of hype near the top. There's still plenty of talent to be mined, but the allure of potential superstardom isn't quite as strong.

    All this draft doesn't have could make for an empty trade market. The external value of certain picks may not come close to matching what their placement infers, an inefficiency that would invite, if relegate, teams to standing pat.

    Put another way: It's easy to say the Minnesota Timberwolves should deal the No. 1 pick or the Golden State Warriors should offload the No. 2 selection. It's also easy to pluck out names both might be interested in acquiring. But it's ridiculously difficult to match the cachet of top choices and all lottery spots with their actual market value. We're juggling reality, convention and the unknown all at the same time. 

    These challenges will be at the forefront of every directive. Trade mandates will not be taken lightly or issued without specific targets and scenarios (note: We're interested less in the timing of deals and exact packages and more committed to the meat-and-potatoes framework). When necessary, we will hedge.

    Basically: To keep, not to keep or merely consider not to keep? That's the question.

14. Boston Celtics (via Memphis)

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    With selections at 14, 26 and 30 (via Milwaukee), the Boston Celtics will wind up having more first-round picks than roster space.

    Twelve slots are automatically gone if Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter pick up their player options and Daniel Theis' 2020-21 salary is guaranteed. That number climbs to 13 if Brad Wanamaker, an Early Bird restricted free agent, is considered a keeper.

    Carrying three new rookies into next season isn't feasible, particularly if the Celtics plan to spend their mini mid-level exception on one player (or more). They can always draft and stash, but are they going to do that twice?

    Using any one of these picks to reel in a veteran would be ideal. Boston's reserve wing rotation is spotty, and it could use another big or ball-handler depending on how much it likes Wanamaker and Robert Williams III. None of these selections are hot property, but a lottery pick is always a good conversation starter, even in the weakest drafts. (Lightly informed take: this class has enough quality role-player depth to make non-superstar spots worthwhile investments.)

    As ever, though, the Celtics have issues with matching salaries in any deal. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum (extension-eligible) and Kemba Walker are all off-limits, and this isn't a swing-for-the-fences situation anyway. That similarly eliminates Marcus Smart. Hayward's $34.2 million pill will be tough to swallow for other teams. Theis' $5 million price point is too valuable unless Boston is getting another proven big back in return.

    Targeting smaller-scale moves using Kanter's $5 million salary (if he opts in) is great, but cheap impact players aren't available in droves. Plus, who knows what type of discussion the No. 14 pick actually generates. Is it Luke Kennard territory? Better? Worse?

    Combining this choice with one or both of their other firsts makes the most sense. Perhaps 14 and 26 can get them No. 9 from the Washington Wizards. Or maybe 14 and 30 can get them 11 from the San Antonio Spurs. Moral of the story either way: This pick, like Boston's other two, should absolutely be in play.

    Verdict: Trade

13. New Orleans Pelicans

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    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    Bubble apathy poured cold water on the New Orleans Pelicans' immediate outlook. So many—raises hand sheepishly—expected them to gain entry to the Western Conference's play-in tournament. They instead turned in a 2-6 record on the back of wildly inconsistent offense and uninspiring defense.

    Shopping this pick would imply the Pelicans are still ready to put up a fight in the rough-and-tumble West. That's debatable.

    Zion Williamson will be better than he was at Disney World. With the number of stops and starts he labored through, his rookie year was, essentially, a tale of four to six(ty) seasons. But New Orleans is only a win-now squad if he's superstar good and if the players around him are mainstays.

    Both stipulations might be a stretch. The Pelicans are facing a ton of uncertainty beyond Zion. Brandon Ingram is headed toward a max payday in restricted free agency. Derrick Favors is hitting the open market. Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart are extension-eligible. Jrue Holiday can be a free agent in 2021 (player option) and is also extension-eligible. This core is going to cost them, which makes a rookie-scale salary like the one they'll get at No. 13 super useful whether they're looking to keep the nucleus intact or hit the reset button.

    At the same time, because the Pelicans have the potential to be so far ahead of schedule, they owe it to themselves to gauge the mystique of this selection. It isn't netting them a marquee addition on its own but could prove valuable as part of a larger package. Does pairing it with Ball and other salary get them in the running for Myles Turner? Probably not. It also might not take much more.

    Failing an opportunistic move like that, the Pelicans can retain the pick and try to hit on one of the off-ball wings who should still be on the board (think: Saddiq Bey).

    Verdict: Shop it

12. Sacramento Kings

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Taking stock of the Sacramento Kings' roster is a bizarre experience. They have a little of everything but aren't necessarily set anywhere...except point guard, with De'Aaron Fox.

    We don't yet know what the Kings' front office will look like around or after the draft. Joe Dumars is running the show right now, but the temptation to scope out trades will be there either way. Sacramento hasn't cracked the postseason since 2006 and has built out its roster in the image of a fringe playoff contender.

    That direction is about to get expensive. The Kings already paid Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield. Bogdan Bogdanovic is hitting restricted free agency this offseason. Fox is extension-eligible and a virtual lock to be on a max deal for 2021-22. Richaun Holmes is one year out from free agency, too.

    Sacramento isn't quite in danger of spilling into the tax to retain everyone, but it's uncomfortably close. Barnes, Bogdanovic, Fox and Hield alone should run them more than $90 million by 2021-22. That's without factoring in a new contract for Holmes or Marvin Bagley III's not-so-small team option ($11.3 million).

    Acquiring cost-controlled talent needs to be the Kings' priority. That's free to change if they find a certified path to contention. Flipping the No. 12 pick alone doesn't qualify. They'd have to pair it with other assets to broker a blockbuster, and they're not exactly flush with tantalizing trade chips after Fox. They're better off holding on to No. 12 and taking a stab at a complementary wing or big who fits beside Bagley long term.

    Verdict: Keep

11. San Antonio Spurs

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Nobody panic, but the Spurs might be rebuilding. They just missed the postseason for the first time after 22 consecutive appearances and spent their stay at Disney World giving extended run to their youngsters. Maybe they're ready to start over.

    Don't bet on it.

    So much of what they did in the bubble was beyond their control. LaMarcus Aldridge missed the entire restart following right shoulder surgery, and appendicitis ended Trey Lyles' season. Let's also not pretend the Spurs were supposed to be hyper-competitive. They were a nice surprise, their fate technically hanging in the balance until the final day of the season, but their chances of making the playoffs entering the bubble were basically nil.

    Expecting this roster to look much different next year would be foolish. Perhaps it does, but fire sales have never been San Antonio's style. Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan (player option), Rudy Gay and Patty Mills are all scheduled to be back.

    That doesn't obligate the Spurs to treat themselves like a postseason contender. Even if that's the route they go, triple-doubling down isn't in their DNA. They're unlikely to attach No. 11 to some of their younger players and a bigger salary in search of a star.

    Keldon Johnson, Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV and Derrick White give them a nice base for the future. Jakob Poeltl, a restricted free agent, is only 24. Retaining this pick and continuing to flesh out a big-picture core that's slated, as of now, to be their everything after next season makes the most sense.

    Verdict: Keep

10. Phoenix Suns

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    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

    Tough decision alert.

    The Phoenix Suns shouldn't read too much into their 8-0 bubble performance. The rest of the season actually happened. It is possible they caught lightning in a bottle.

    What they did admittedly feels more sustainable than that. Devin Booker isn't new to stardom. Deandre Ayton's three-point range might be a mirage, but his defensive progress has been more gradual. Mikal Bridges has always been a consistent offensive motor away from role-player fame.

    Ricky Rubio won't hit 42.9 percent of his treys forever, but his vision and defensive activity are staples. Cameron Johnson can hit threes, make quick decisions and move on defense better than expected. Dario Saric's 11th-hour rise didn't come out of nowhere when you consider the on-ball reps he gained by coming off the bench. Jevon Carter has always failed to social distance on defense.

    Cameron Payne going kaboom is the Suns' most unbelievable development, and they're not counting on him for cornerstone value. Kelly Oubre Jr. was doing mostly Kelly Oubre Jr. things—bringing relentless offensive pressure—before his right knee injury. The Suns have something here.

    To what end they should steer into that something is debatable. Saric and Aron Baynes are free agents, and they could use another ball-handler to supplement the offense during Booker's stints on the bench. They also have to figure out where Oubre fits into all this since they were at their most lethal with Johnson in the starting five.

    Attaching No. 10 to Oubre's expiring contract could draw in a few nibbles. Do the Brooklyn Nets discuss Spencer Dinwiddie for that price? What if the Suns can find a third-team facilitator to take the 10th pick? Is Aaron Gordon enough of an upgrade over Oubre to justify that price? Would the Orlando Magic even bite?

    Phoenix hasn't earned the right or birthed the urgency to go nuclear. Gambling on another ball-handler at No. 10 (Tyrese Haliburton?) or hoping a quality wing drops that late in the lottery (Devin Vassell?) is a safe, worthwhile contingency. But if getting back to the playoffs is the immediate goal, the Suns should enter the draft season looking to see whether they can glitz up their pick enough to snag someone more likely to push them over the postseason hump.

    Verdict: Shop it

9. Washington Wizards

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Dealing the No. 9 pick doesn't much track with the Wizards' state of uncertainty. Most teams hocking first-rounders are looking to parlay them into more established contributors. The very idea of moving a lottery choice, for the most part, infers a commitment to winning.

    Washington can't view itself in that vein with a straight face. And this doesn't necessarily have to do with Bradley Beal.

    Making him available would hint at a full-tilt rebuild and thus defeat the purpose of flipping No. 9 for actual players. The Wizards have yet to fully tip their hand on that front. And even if they do devote themselves to a more ground-up refurbishment, Beal doesn't have to be a goner. He's still just 27 and under contract for another two years.

    John Wall's future is the bigger wild card in Washington. He hasn't played in an NBA game since roughly Christmas 2018 after suffering a torn left Achilles. The Wizards cannot render a wholesale verdict on where they're going until getting a post-recovery sample from him.

    That almost consigns them to a holding pattern. They can't operate on a win-now timeline until they know what he looks like. Re-signing Davis Bertans is the most aggressive move they should make in the meantime. Leaning into a rebuild before getting Wall back wouldn't be unacceptable, but they'd be remiss not to at least give themselves until next season's trade deadline before declaring his partnership with Beal dunzo.

    Nearly every reasonable indicator begs the Wizards to keep their pick and try their hand at deepening the wing rotation or landing a back-line stopper. If the players they want figure to drop outside the top 10, they should definitely look at divesting No. 9 into multiple assets (hello, Boston!), but that's more of an in-the-moment, you-call-us-we're-not-calling-you proposition.

    Verdict: Keep it

8. New York Knicks

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Best of luck guessing what the New York Knicks will actually do at No. 8. They are the jagged-edged Rubik's Cube of NBA franchises. Every outcome is always in play, even if it's painful.

    Expecting them to trade out of this spot still doesn't feel right. Hiring head coach Tom Thibodeau gears toward the now, but some of their other staffing moves, like the additions of Johnnie Bryant from the Utah Jazz and Kenny Payne from Kentucky, seem to genuinely work the player-development angle.

    It helps that New York will presumably have limited opportunities to move this pick. The team doesn't have the asset jet fuel to go after Bradley Beal. Making a play for Jrue Holiday could even be a stretch. The Knicks are forever candidates to bring in older stars, but the names they're most likely to be seduced by—Kevin Love, Chris Paul—shouldn't fetch this high of an asking price. It would border on franchise malpractice to surrender the No. 8 pick for either of those two contracts.

    Trading up the draft-day ladder should be on the table but is also a complicated venture. The Knicks' unspectacular asset pool is again a problem. Neither RJ Barrett nor Mitchell Robinson should be used to move up a few spots, and New York doesn't have much left to sling after them. Offering Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina or Dennis Smith Jr. in tandem with No. 8 may not even be enough to get the sixth overall choice from the Atlanta Hawks.

    The calculus changes if the Knicks can negotiate a crack at Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball. Ponying up Barrett or Robinson is easier on the stomach if they're acquiring someone they view as a more bankable cornerstone.

    Whether this is the draft to go all-in remains to be seen. I'd lean no. Giving up Barrett or Robinson for anyone but Edwards would feel like the Hawks overpaying to select De'Andre Hunter last year. This class just doesn't have enough top-end talent. New York would be better off reaching for a Kira Lewis Jr. or RJ Hampton than pushing for the first or second choice.

    Aiming to stand pat or for a minor draft-day bump should be the default. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has the Knicks taking Devin Vassell in his latest mock, and ending up with a legitimate three-and-D prospect would be a great outcome after dropping two spots in the lottery.

    If they get the sense he'll be off the board by then, or if they want a higher-end playmaker who can space the floor around Barrett and Robinson (Killian Hayes?), they should look to move up for a reasonable price. They have the Los Angeles Clippers' No. 27 pick and can always, less preferably, consider including the Dallas Mavericks' 2021 first.

    Verdict: Trade up without moving Barrett, Robinson or one of their own future firsts

7. Detroit Pistons

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Views of the Detroit Pistons' situation are bound to differ. Jettisoning Andre Drummond for pennies on the dollar at the 2020 trade deadline gestured toward a rebuild, but the remaining roster doesn't imply anything definitive.

    Detroit is a fringe playoff team next year if Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose stay healthy. Those are gargantuan ifs, as always, but they must be taken into account. Griffin made All-NBA in 2018-19, and Rose was in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation for much of this season.

    The Pistons have enough talent around them to make an Eastern Conference-sized push if everything works out in their favor. Bruce Brown Jr. (non-guaranteed), Luke Kennard (coming off a battle with knee tendinitis), Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Tony Snell (player option), Christian Wood (Early Bird free agent), whatever Sekou Doumbouya can give them, this year's pick and actual cap space amounts to a real NBA rotation.

    This isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of Detroit's present. Griffin is a high-variance, potentially distressed asset given his left knee injury and the two years, $75.8 million remaining on his contract. Any feel-good vibes the Pistons emanate are auxiliary and not a license for them to use this pick and other assets to go after a bigger fish.

    Scouring the trade-up market is an obligation but not especially tantalizing. They don't have a ton to sweeten the pot with—which pick does No. 7 and Kennard nab?—and there doesn't appear to be a cant-miss prospect who could be taken before they're on the clock unless they're smitten with LaMelo Ball. Everyone aside from him, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman could still be available at No. 6.

    Verdict: Keep it

6. Atlanta Hawks

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Issuing a straight "trade it" edict for the Hawks isn't entirely off-putting.

    Trae Young is already a star. John Collins is on the peripherals of stardom. Kevin Huerter's offensive bag is genuinely deep. Cam Reddish shot 41.7 percent from distance over his last 20-plus games. De'Andre Hunter's three-and-D peak hasn't gone anywhere. Atlanta traded for Clint Capela, a clear win-now move. And the team has more cap space than anyone in an offseason starved for spending power.

    Acceleration is probably the expectation at this point. And the Hawks, while in the ever-forgiving East, will have quicker access to the postseason if they trade No. 6 rather than go the draft-and-develop course. That rings even truer when looking at the free-agency landscape. They have plenty of money to burn, but the market deteriorates swiftly after Anthony Davis (player option) and Brandon Ingram (restricted), both of whom aren't going anywhere.

    On the flip side, Atlanta just wrapped 2019-20 at a 25-win pace. This isn't a temporarily wounded fringe contender, like Washington, seeking a mere return. The Hawks would be angling for a manifestation.

    Combined with an ambiguous trade market, that makes calling for them to move the sixth pick a touch too offhanded. Remaining open-minded is more in line with reality.

    Finding a co-star for Young who allows him to play off the ball tops their to-do list. Devin Booker would be ideal, but it's not happening. Bradley Beal's name will make the rounds over the offseason, but does Collins, No. 6 and salary filler get it done? Or would Atlanta need to throw in one of its three young wings? Or another first? Or both?

    Jrue Holiday is a nice fit, but his potential foray into 2021 free agency (player option) could be a turnoff. At 30, he might also be a tad too old for what the Hawks are trying to do.

    Caris LeVert would be an intriguing get, but while Brooklyn could talk itself into Collins' fit, it doesn't have much use for the No. 6 pick with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving returning next season. Atlanta would need to find a third team. Victor Oladipo would be fire if he's healthy, the Hawks don't mind bankrolling his next deal in 2021 and things go south between him and the Indiana Pacers.

    Verdict: Shop it

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Dropping a few spots relative to their lottery odds is a blessing in disguise for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Landing at No. 1 would've allowed them to roll with Anthony Edwards, but finishing second or third could've forced them to consider taking LaMelo Ball despite already having Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr. and Collin Sexton.

    Contemplating the addition of another ball-dominant guard is no longer a potential predicament. Ball shouldn't get past No. 3—and definitely shouldn't fall beyond No. 4—and Cleveland is in prime territory to roll the dice on a wing or combo big.

    Prioritizing a 3-4 feels like the best call. Without a regular-season sample from Dylan Windler, the Cavs' only real wing prospect is Porter, insofar as you consider him a wing. Deni Avdija seems like a no-brainer if he slides past the Chicago Bulls at No. 4.

    Things get interesting if he's off the board or Cleveland wants less of a long-term project. Isaac Okoro or Devin Vassell are both nice fits yet could be available later, in which case trading down would have its merits.

    But the Cavs aren't exactly set on the frontline. Kevin Love isn't finishing his contract in Cleveland. Tristan Thompson probably leaves in free agency. Andre Drummond will pick up his player option, but his future with the team beyond next season is uncertain at best. Larry Nance Jr. cannot be your lone big-man building block.

    Obi Toppin and Onyeka Okongwu are the most logical investments if the Cavs wish to shore up the frontcourt long term. Both should be available at this spot, and since the same can be said for wings beyond Avdija, Cleveland doesn't have much of an incentive to strike a trade in any direction.

    Verdict: Keep it

4. Chicago Bulls

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Instructing the Bulls is the easiest part of this entire exercise.

    Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas is just getting started. Though he already canned head coach Jim Boylen, the draft will be the first shot he has at leaving his imprint on the roster itself. Without much room or incentive to move up, sitting still becomes the default, if preferred, outcome.

    Perhaps Chicago should consider trading down. So many of the players feel interchangeable after LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman. If the Bulls aren't hot for Deni Avdija or prepared to take Devin Vassell, Isaac Okoro, Aaron Nesmith or Saddiq Bey earlier than most mocks, they can hunt around for scenarios that secure them multiple picks.

    Except, that's more so a play for a rebuilding squad confident with what's already in place. The Bulls still give off fringe-playoff-darling fuzzies on paper, but their infrastructure is far from settled. Coby White and, maaaybe, Wendell Carter Jr. profile as their sole untouchables.

    Should they sell high on Zach LaVine? Trade the extension-eligible Lauri Markkanen? Test the market for veterans like Otto Porter Jr. (player option), Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young? Nothing along these lines should be off the table. And without knowing for sure how the new regime will wind up tweaking the roster between now and next season's trade deadline, Chicago is best left staying put and taking who it believes to be the best player available.

    Verdict: Keep it

3. Charlotte Hornets

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    It turns out I lied. Directing the Bulls from my armchair—well, actually, desktop stepper—isn't the easiest part of this process. That honor belongs to the Charlotte Hornets.

    Absent a franchise face for the future, they desperately need an infusion of hope that only a blue-chip prospect can provide. Tethering so much of the big picture to this draft may not be ideal, but Charlotte is at least in position to take the consensus best player available.

    Maybe that changes. Not much is a given with this incoming class. But LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman are expected to go off the board with the first three picks, in a yet to be known order. The Hornets have the luxury of taking whoever is left after selection Nos. 1 and 2.

    Their decision is made even simpler by minimal talent overlap. They shouldn't be drafting for fit in the first place, but not one of Ball, Edwards or Wiseman steps on the toes of who's already in tow. Ball comes closest with Devonte' Graham and Terry Rozier on the docket, but he has the size (6'8") to play beside them and they both have the spot-up touch to work next to him.

    Ignore the defensive repercussions of that hypothetical backcourt rotation for now. The Hornets are in straight talent-acquisition mode. They need to take the best player available at No. 3—which, again, should be decided for them—and then figure out the rest later.

    Verdict: Keep it

2. Golden State Warriors

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Levels upon levels upon levels of hair-pulling are happening here.

    Almost any direction suits the Warriors. The assumption has long been they'd shop their pick in favor of impact talent that maximizes the window for Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, but the idea of keeping and developing this pick is far from egregious.

    Everything hinges on Golden State's Big Three. Curry's left hand injury that cost him most of the season shouldn't prove chronic, but Thompson is returning from a torn left ACL, and Green's 2019-20 decline could theoretically be less voluntarily and more a sign of what's to come.

    If both sniff their previous normals, the Warriors, while top-heavy, will have the juice to tussle with the West's foremost powers. And that would afford them the flexibility to groom a top-two prospect who can serve as their bridge into a future without their three stars.

    Conversely: What the bleepity bleep are we doing here? Title windows are scarce. Optimization takes priority over extension. Between the No. 2 pick, Minnesota's 2021 first-rounder and the Andre Iguodala trade exception ($17.2 million) or Andrew Wiggins' salary, the Warriors should be looking to do something seismic.

    But what? It takes at least two teams to strike a blockbuster. Someone needs to covet the No. 2 pick. And no, it isn't going to be the Milwaukee Bucks in a deal for Giannis Antetokounmpo.

    The Athletic's John Hollinger suggested a scenario in which Golden State turns Wiggins, Kevon Looney, this year's pick and the Minny selection into Jrue Holiday and JJ Redick. That doesn't feel like the Warriors are getting enough. Both Holiday (player option) and Redick will be free agents in 2021. And then you remember Wiggins is owed $94.7 million over the next three years. Suddenly, the Pelicans might be getting the shorter shrift.

    Skulking around the Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner situations with the Indiana Pacers might be worthwhile. If they don't want to foot the bill for Oladipo's next contract and are done with the Turner-Domantas Sabonis frontcourt, Golden State can offer something along the lines of Looney, Wiggins, Jordan Poole, No. 2 and the Timberwolves pick for Oladipo and Turner.

    Indiana has a knack for mining gems on the wings, which could make Wiggins more palatable, and those two draft selections might yield enough immediate impact to keep the Pacers prowling for playoff berths while arming themselves with two bites at the cost-controlled-cornerstone apple. The overall package still seems to fall short, but Oladipo's market value post-right quad injury and with free agency on the horizon is an unknown.

    To be clear: Settling for whatever shouldn't be on the Warriors' menu. Turning No. 2 into Aaron Gordon won't cut it. (Gordon and Terrence Ross is a different story.) But their overarching goal should be to maximize what's already in place. And they're more likely to do that by moving this year's pick.

    Verdict: Trade it

1. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Nabbing the No. 1 pick is a boon for the Timberwolves' long haul. D'Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jarrett Culver, Malik Beasley (restricted), Josh Okogie and Anthony Edwards make for a legitimate top six.

    Do they also make for a playoff team in the West? Eh, probably not. All 15 teams in the West will consider themselves postseason hopefuls next year as things stand. Minnesota would only be working with a handful of proven players, plus whomever they sign with the mid-level exception.

    That's not conducive to an immediate return to the playoffs, and the Timberwolves have acted like a team most concerned with now. Next year's pick is owed to the Warriors with incredibly light protection (top three) before going unprotected in 2022. They don't have time to take the ultra-gradual approach, not even with Russell (2023 free agent) and Towns (2024) signed through at least 2022-23.

    And that's the other thing: Minnesota's two best players are already on max deals. Beasley is about to sign his second contract. This isn't a typically priced rebuilding roster. And while that shouldn't invite the Timberwolves to move out of No. 1, it does demand a certain level of urgency.

    Poking around Devin Booker's availability is encouraged but invariably futile. They could give Bradley Beal a look, but with the defensive issues he'd perpetuate, they'd have to know he plans to re-sign in 2022. (Acquiring Booker—if they could, which they can't—poses the same defensive headaches, but he's younger and signed through 2023-24 and, of course, besties with DLo and KAT.)

    Talking to the Pacers about Victor Oladipo or the Pelicans about Jrue Holiday (2021 player option) is worth a try, but with both approaching free agency, the Timberwolves would need to extract more value in return. The list of potentially available All-Stars who jibe with Minnesota's one-two punch peters out about here, with the caveat that all of the already mentioned names might not even come close to gettable.

    Not all trade scenarios need to go scorched earth, though. The Timberwolves can look at moving down for a package of another lottery pick and veteran. But finding that right deal would be a challenge. Potential scenarios run dry real quick.

    Does the framework of Otto Porter Jr. and No. 4 get it done? Would the Bulls include Lauri Markkanen as well? Does John Collins and No. 6 for No. 1 make sense for either Minnesota or Atlanta? Does Buddy Hield and No. 12 get the Timberwolves' attention? Is Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Rudy Gay and No. 11 too rich for San Antonio? Not enough for Minnesota?

    You can see the issues facing a shop-it mandate. Still, the Timberwolves aren't escaping it. They've shown they're more for today than tomorrow, and in this draft, with so little guaranteed at the top, they should feel an obligation to solicit offers for the No. 1 pick more than they would in most years.

    Verdict: Shop it


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