"Almost everyone wants to get out of their pick in this draft," said one Western Conference executive. "For some teams, it’s hard to take on money for multiple years in this economic climate, especially if the player would not make an impact and help the team win immediately."
That means contending teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder or Chicago Bulls may opt to trade their late first-round pick rather than draft a rookie who won’t really contribute (just like Reggie Jackson and Jimmy Butler this season).
What this suggests to me, is that the Wiz could conceivably flip $3 million and package it with one (or both) of their second round picks and trade into the low middle of the first, much like Ernie did when selecting Trevor Booker. Except when we consider that 'draft a rookie who won't really contribute' could mean anything from Perry Jones III on down the line, there could be unprecedented bang for the buck this year. Trading into the low lottery/high mid first round could be very possible. In any case, this is an open-ended opportunity for the Wizards front-office to nab a very intriguing prospect and few general managers in this league shout 'Yankee Swap!' faster than Ernie Grunfeld. And the $3 million may not even be necessary. On to the speculation![Part One]
76ers: Home of the Liberty Bell, Philly Cheesesteaks and Andre Iguodala trade rumors. Philly has Elton Brand's expiring deal, but the Wiz won't have that much cap space to burn. That means a trade, and since no one is touching Andray Blatche's radioactive contract that means the Wiz would have to amnesty Dray or take on the rights to Lou Williams...which are likely valuable to Philly and even that might not be enough. And this would also have to happen after either Andre Iguodala is dealt and/or Spencer Hawes is re-signed to make certain they haven't crippled themselves. So their pick might be in play...but it's more of a pipe dream than anything else.
Rockets: Chances are one of the two Houston picks is available...but if the right player falls a bit, it's easy to see them trying to trade up. But what team wants to give up a higher pick in this draft for more guaranteed salary. Like I said last week, this team is cap healthy. They can afford dealing a pick one way or the other as long as there's talent on the other end, which the Wiz are unlikely to surrender. But will a team comprised of Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Kyle Lowry and rookiees want to take on even more rookiees without at least trying to find something?
Mavericks: The Mabs are Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, future amnesty candidate Brendan Haywood and several not-so-terrifying backcourt prospects on rookie deals. Dallas is primed to be one of the big players for Deron Williams and if they're trying to clear out extra space, it's easy to see Marion being salary dumped, especially if they're looking to retain Jason Terry. But they are likely looking at their pick as their first decent (homegrown) draft asset since...I was in high school?
Timberwolves: Don't say Minnesota tanked for draft status this year, their unprotected first rounder belonged to the Hornets. There are several trade targets, with asterisks for each and every one. Darko Milicic is on a fairly reasonable contract for a backup defensive center and prior to his re-signing expressed a desire to remain in Minnesota. You've all heard Wesley Johnson is struggling...do you know just how bad? This is probably more informative. J.J. Barea called out teammates after surrendering a 21 point home loss to the Warriors:
"We've got a lot of guys that don't care. ... We're just going to keep getting L's until we get players here that care."
Ouch. No one knows exactly how the David Kahn/Rick Adelman dynamic is going to play out (and Adelman supported Barea to an extent). Trading/dumping one or even more players could easily be in the cards. But their pick? The T-Wolves are relatively cap healthy and in dire need of perimeter talent, so without talent coming back, this pick is probably out of play for DC. Potential Rudy Gay trade partner? Say David Kahn in the mirror three times.
Magic: Boy, if a team could ever use it's namesake. Still waiting on a new GM. A bevy of bad contracts, but I wouldn't take the #20 off their hands for anything more than Chris Duhon's or Quentin Richardson's contract. Of course if the Wiz don't draft Bradley Beal and Ernie looks at Jason Richardson and says, 'Oh, a veteran SG!'...buckle up.
Nuggets: A lot will depend on how Masai Ujiri handles JaVale McGee's contract situation, it's one sword of Damocles after another with that franchise. Such is life on a playoff (hell) team without a superstar. Kosta Koufos might be an interesting target for the Wiz, he's the one dead weight on the roster if they retain JMG (who is quite durable) who is signed past 2012/13. If EG is able to grab their first rounder, I would say that sounds about right. If he grab Jordan Hamilton, too, would that be reward or punishment?
Celtics: Well, Danny Ainge is about to go into
rebuilding reloading mode, and aside from clearing massive amounts of cap room it's anyone's guess how he intends to go about it. Ainge made his name as a GM assembling the Big 3 by drafting intriguing young talent and dealing while value was highest for established stars to complement the franchise player. Rajon Rondo looks like the franchise player of the future, and in a deep draft, the Celtics seem ideally placed, with two first rounders, to start the process all over again.
Hawks: As has been said before, Atlanta is a big trade target once again for the Wiz. Especially if Ernie drafts Bradley Beal and the ATL is willing (and it's not guaranteed) to pay their first rounder to salary dump Marvin Williams. This will probably end up costing the Wiz the later of their two second rounders...leaving the flexibility to package the other with this one to move up farther. If the team is shooting to move up as high as possible they can even package that theoretical pick with Rashard Lewis (if that seems at all sane/possible with Williams' contract on board) and trade up again, perhaps into the low lottery. No, I'm not high. Yes, it's the mother of all pipe dreams.
Grizzlies: Lots of high-priced players here, talk about cap problems...all speculation pointed to Rudy Gay being shopped, and well, yeah. Shopped doesn't mean dumped unless Heisley is desperate, and he very well may be if he's eyeing the upcoming luxury cap penalties in a few seasons with an especially powerful telescope. There's time...but who wants to pay roughly $53.5 million over the next three years to a player who isn't a superstar? That first round pick is highly expendable in such a trade, but it's extremely dependent on what trade partners present themselves, and whether they even view such a pick as an asset.
Pacers: Between re-signing Roy Hibbert this summer, looking forward to Paul George's contract while debating what to do when Danny Granger's and David West's contracts expire one might consider Indiana a candidate for a cap savings move...except George is the ONLY player currently under contract beyond 2013/14, depending on how you look at qualifying offers. This team is healthy, with plenty of room to add youth and this is a pick Larry Bird and Co. are going to make.
Heat: Miami is actually kind of an interesting case. Perhaps no other team's cap future depends on this postseason as much as Riley's squad. If failure strikes again in the playoffs and one of the Big 3 is dealt, they could very well take a flier on some of the mid first round talent that will certainly fall to the late first in the draft. That said, what falls to the late first almost certainly falls to the early second, but what do the Heat have worth targeting that the Wiz can actually afford?
Thunder: Not so much the case here. Oklahoma City is stacked with young talent with 1st round ballast already on board with re-upping crises festering in James Harden and Serge Ibaka...eminently available...but who's going after the NBA GM's analog of Keyser Soze?
Bulls: This team's time is right now. The last thing they need is a guaranteed salary weight while they're trying to find the right contending formula. Orlando Johnson couldn't hurt, right? But they may just dump the pick for a pittance. But these problems are overrated: having the best record in basketball, winning the division, number one seed...that's all that matters, yo.