6 Teams That Should Trade Up in the 2020 NBA Draft
NBA front offices are hard at work assessing the incoming NBA draft class and building their big boards. But lacking a consensus top selection and with divisiveness over talent grades, many teams could take the safer option to move out of their positions in favor of grabbing additional assets.
On the other hand, this could be the perfect year for others to move up. One purpose could be to condense an overwhelming number of immediate assets. Another could come from chasing a player above all others based on fit or upside. Lastly, because of COVID-19's financial impact on the salary cap, which is expected to be lowered from $109.1 million, this may be many teams' only avenue of improving in 2020-21.
So, who should move up in the Oct. 16 draft? Here's our list.
The Boston Celtics posted the NBA's third-best net rating in 2019-20 and are already a threat in the Eastern Conference. Packaging picks to acquire veteran talent to fill out their depth or move up in the 2020 draft would be worthwhile.
The Celtics have three first-round picks and four overall this year at Nos. 14, 26, 30 and 47. If there is a player they value highly to complement their rotation, it may be worth trading all four to move up.
A team such as Washington, which has the ninth pick, has plenty of holes and may be comfortable sliding back five slots to acquire additional selections. The Celtics could even throw in established players to seal the deal if they value a rookie highly enough.
What kind of prospect would have to find his way to No. 9 to pique Boston's interest? Onyeka Okongwu seems an obvious candidate given big man Daniel Theis' impending free agency and the team's lack of viable depth behind him. James Wiseman could be a bona fide steal if tumbles that far, which is possible, as CBSSports.com had him ranked eighth in a mock draft published May 4.
Perimeter defenders like Devin Vassell and Isaac Okoro could also give the Celtics an impressive number of wings to throw at opposing scorers.
After all, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge once reportedly offered four first-round picks to acquire Justise Winslow in 2015.
New Detroit Pistons general manager Troy Weaver has his work cut out for him.
The Pistons need help everywhere, as only Sekou Doumboya has a contract on the books beyond 2020-21, and even then he carries a pair of club options before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2023. Blake Griffin has a player option for 2021-22, and Luke Kennard is restricted next summer.
The Pistons should re-sign Christian Wood to a healthy salary this offseason and scour the free-agent market to fill in the remaining holes.
In addition, Detroit could be a viable candidate to move down in this draft. After all, the roster has holes everywhere and could use the additional assets to round out depth and develop a core beyond this season.
However, a player with upside such as LaMelo Ball could be worth the gamble to move up, and the Pistons may not have to do as much as they would in other drafts to acquire him given the divisiveness over his value.
An Andrew Wiggins-Griffin trade and swapping the Nos. 2 and 7 picks might be enough to pique Golden State general manager Bob Myers' interest. While a knee surgery ended Griffin's 2019-20 campaign in January, his 2018-19 performance was arguably his best, given his scoring output and efficiency. Though his athleticism will inevitably continue to decline, the Warriors only need him to perform over the remaining two years of his deal (assuming his opts in to its final season).
They can get out from under Wiggins' mammoth five-year, $147 million deal, which runs through 2022-23. And with the seventh pick, the Warriors can still shore up the wing with Vassell, Okoro or Saddiq Bey.
The Orlando Magic's overloaded frontcourt will damn any chances of contention in the Eastern Conference. The Magic have $67.1 million locked up in Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Al Farouq-Aminu, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba in 2020-21. That does not include Khem Birch, James Ennis III ($2.1 million player option) or 2019 first-round pick Chuma Okeke.
In the backcourt, the Magic have $25.8 million invested in in Markelle Fultz and Terrence Ross, with incoming decisions on Michael Carter-Williams (free agent) and possibly Evan Fournier ($17.2 million player option).
The Magic badly need a shake-up, and the draft may be the best way to regroup on the fly. With the 15th pick, Orlando is within spitting distance of a difference-maker who can reinforce positions of need at small forward and in the backcourt.
Gordon could be a candidate to move. Heavy's Sean Deveney already reported the Magic's interest in dealing him before the February trade deadline. Given Jonathan Isaac's unfortunate luck with injuries, he could also become a trade candidate.
Dealing one of these wings could give Orlando the ammunition to move into the top half of the lottery and acquire a score-first guard such as Killian Hayes or a three-and-D wing such as Vassell or Aaron Nesmith.
The summer of 2021 will mark four years of president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond's tenure. If being dominated in a pair of first-round exits is all they have to show for their time, a change will occur.
New Orleans Pelicans
Few teams have a similar volume of draft assets to that of the New Orleans Pelicans. In addition to their own first-round picks and two previously belonging to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Pelicans also have six second-round picks from Cleveland, Milwaukee and Washington. They have four selections in 2020 and as many as four in 2021.
Despite having a promising foundation of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Josh Hart, the Pelicans still have numerous holes, and that will be especially so if they move on from All-Star and a two-time All-Defensive player Jrue Holiday, who has one year remaining on his deal before a player option in 2021-22.
If the Pelicans can't re-sign him, they could take a big swing and send him to Golden State for Wiggins and a pick swap of Nos. 2 and 13. The Athletic's John Hollinger even speculated about adding Minnesota's top-three protected pick in 2021 to the deal, provided the Pelicans move 36-year-old JJ Redick and take back the contracts of both Wiggins and Kevon Looney.
The Timberwolves might be willing to entertain acquiring Holiday for James Johnson (player option in 2020-21) and a pick swap of Nos. 1 and 13. Though the Pelicans would probably loathe doing so, moving Jrue could net them one of the top three players in the draft.
There's been no evidence that the Pelicans are willing to move someone executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin pushed as a leader and MVP candidate just last summer. However, Ball could be on the trade block, per The Athletic's David Aldridge and ESPN's Jay Williams.
If the Pelicans are intent on moving Lonzo before he hits restricted free agency in 2021, then moving up to acquire a wing like Bey, a rim-protecting center to replace impending free agent Derrick Favors like Okongwu or a backcourt replacement like Tyrese Haliburton may be worth the sacrifice.
New York Knicks
Falling two spots in the lottery to No. 8 may seem inconvenient to a New York Knicks franchise in desperate need of star power, but dropping in this year's draft isn't as bad as it would've been in previous seasons. For instance, both the Wolves and Warriors should be willing to move out of the Nos. 1 and 2 spots for veteran help. The Warriors carry a win-now roster, and the Wolves can't afford many more losing seasons if they want to keep Karl Anthony-Towns happy.
The Knicks are still every bit in position to grab LaMelo Ball if they want him. He'd be a perfect fit given his skill set. His playmaking and ability to manipulate the pick-and-roll make him an ideal match for big man Mitchell Robinson, and he'd take some of the pressure off RJ Barrett.
The Knicks would probably be more than happy to move Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina. It's also likely they'd be willing to take back Wiggins for Julius Randle's remaining two years and $38.7 million. While Randle may not seem like much of an addition, he'd make for a massive savings over Wiggins' remaining three years at $94.6 million.
However, the Warriors will probably desire a bigger contributor to move out of No. 2. To get such a player, the Knicks can trade the guys mentioned above and involve a third team—one willing to move a player for any of New York's future first-rounders or three additional firsts acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks. Gordon, Holiday, Rudy Gobert, Griffin, Myles Turner and Buddy Hield stand out as candidates teams might be willing to send to Golden State for New York's draft assets and movable contracts.
Arguably no team suffered more disappointment than the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019-20. From 2013-14 to 2016-17, the 76ers won just 75 games to build a championship contender through the draft. Things seemed to be going according to plan, as both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid emerged as superstars.
However, after falling just one shot shy in Game 7 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Semifinals against Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors, the 76ers are again heading home empty-handed following a first-round loss to the Celtics.
The 76ers can't seem to get out of their own way or advance past the second round, and it may be time for another shake-up. Acquiring Al Horford and Josh Richardson while losing Jimmy Butler appears to be a massive series of mistakes. A front-office change may be imminent, and the team has already fired head coach Brett Brown.
Regardless of who occupies the front office, the 76ers have little to no salary-cap wiggle room thanks to exorbitant contracts for Tobias Harris (five years, $180 million) and Horford (four years, $109 million), which are likely immovable. Moving Simmons, 24, or Embiid, 26, also appears a non-starter given their talent and ages.
So, how can the 76ers fill out their roster? Through the draft!
Philly possesses the 21st, 34th, 36th, 49th and 58th selections. The Sixers also still hold all of their future firsts except for 2020 (Brooklyn). If they want to add value this year, they can. Boston is always seemingly interested in acquiring future firsts, and at 14, Ainge might give the 76ers the win-now contributor they need.
Minnesota at No. 17 is another possibility if prodded. If interested in moving Matisse Thybulle in favor of a shooter (possibly Nesmith), Philly might be able to climb as high as No. 13, which New Orleans holds.
Given Philadelphia's narrowing frame of contending, it may deal that pick with a contract such as Richardson's or Mike Scott's to acquire a win-now veteran. But if they exhaust all options, moving up in the draft may become the safest way of adding a contributor in 2020-21.
Preston Ellis covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @PrestonEllis.