Draft Night Moves

As the regular season comes to an end, we start to focus a little more on the draft.  It’s one of the few nights where every team has hope!  Regardless of how poor their season long performance was, Commissioner Silver can change the course of a franchise as he reads out a player’s name.

For those with skin in the game, it’s a crazy night.  Player’s don’t have a choice as to where they are going to work.  Team’s may not have a chance to select the player that fits their style best.  Fans fear that a small-college/foreign player may be introduced as their team’s selection.  The night has it all; drama, comedy, suspense, disappointment, confusion.  On a random Thursday in June, with every team reset back to 0-0, the NBA is the center of the sports and entertainment world.

There is a ton of work that goes into the preparation for that one night.  Teams have spent years collecting information on the potential player.  Agents have done their best to jockey for position and curry favors from the teams to get their players selected as high as possible.  The players themselves have put countless hours over nearly two decades, all for the chance to hear their name called.

As draft picks became ammunition and currency to facilitate player movement during the season, the frequency in which teams had multiple picks/no picks in a draft increased.  In the upcoming iteration, we have some imbalance in both rounds.  When this happens, there is a greater chance for picks to be moved on draft night as certain players slip into a target range where the market is a little more fluid.  It can happen if a young team has multiple picks and they want to “get off” some of their draft slots.  Or a veteran team wants to get into the draft to fill a role they want to develop with their core.

While the order isn’t set yet, we still have a pretty good idea as to which teams will have a surplus and which teams won’t have any picks in the 2018 draft.  Atlanta, Chicago, LA Clippers, Philadelphia, and Phoenix all (for the moment) have multiple picks in the 1st round.  Atlanta, Brooklyn, Dallas, Denver, OKC, Orlando, and Philadelphia all have multiple picks in the 2nd round…again, for now.  Miami, Milwaukee, and Toronto do not currently have any selections in the entire draft.  Let us take a guess as to what picks may be on the move, and why.

Starting with Phoenix; they’re projected to have the 1st, 16th, 17th, 31st, and 58th picks in the draft.  There is about zero chance they keep all of those picks.  Looking at their roster, they have one legitimate NBA starter in Devin Booker.  They must get a second guy with the top pick (assuming the ping pong balls fall the right way) that can contribute quickly.  With so many other young players on the team, it would behoove the Suns to get rid of their late 1st round picks and either; 1) package to move up, 2) package to trade for a veteran starter.  If the Cavs aren’t in love with anyone at 7, maybe they swap.  We imagine that Ryan McDonough will be working the back channels to find a trade partner for those picks.  If they can’t find anything, this is a spot where teams will draft and stash a high level European prospect and let him develop (see Dario Saric) for a couple of seasons, and stay off the salary sheets.  They’ll get a lot of calls for the 31st pick, seen by many as the most valuable pick as the team holds the leverage and there is still enough talent to be grabbed.  The 31st pick becomes even more valuable if there are a few teams that select some Euro-stashes and punt the talented players down a few slots.

Similarly, Atlanta is projected with 3, 18, 30 and 33.  That is an NFL GM’s dream right there!  It is not quite an NBA GM’s dream, but pretty damn close.  In this draft, they’ll be able to get an impact player at 3 and have high value assets in the other 3 slots.  They’re going to keep the 33rd pick for the same reason Phoenix will keep the 31st pick, great value…better than the 30th pick in terms of talent/cost.  The 18th pick could be dangled out as bait.  Packaging 18 and Miles Plumlee to get rid of his contract.  Or packaging 18 and a real player to get some veteran help if a team wants dump some salary on the Hawks.

Chicago is sitting at 8 and 21.  As we saw last year, they are not afraid to make some big moves on draft night as they packaged Jimmy Butler and 16 to move up to 7 (Lauri Markkanen) and nab Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn.  Maybe this is where Phoenix moves up and trades the 16, 17 and TJ Warren to go after Trae Young?  It would be kind of cool if Chicago ended up with 16, 17 and 21…

Assuming DeAndre Jordan opts in at $24 million, and Austin Rivers opts in at $12 million, the Clippers may stand pat at 12 and 13.  The way they move up is if someone misses out on their target in the top 6, and they like a guy at 7 that won’t be there at 12.  Another potential swap for the Cavs, Kings and Knicks.

The second round is less exciting, but only because the names aren’t as big.  It moves faster, with only 2 minutes in between picks, and generally speaking there are a few teams that hoard the majority of the picks.  There are 8 teams that do not have any picks, and may look to buy their way into a selection.  Jordan Bell and the infamous cash considerations trade may sound familiar.  While we’re on that subject…let’s talk about how that type of trade actually goes down and why the Bulls Front Office took unnecessary fire for it.  When a team is looking to get into the second round, they have a particular player they are targeting.  They’ll work the phones until they find a team that is willing to part with a pick.  The reasons for selling the pick vary, but these deals are done prior to the player being selected, and the team in the original slot selects the player for the new team with a virtual handshake agreement on the deal.  The original team doesn’t know who the new team wants.  They didn’t (most likely) trade Jordan Bell for cash.  They traded the 38th pick because the players they wanted in the second round were already gone.  And they added $3.5 million to the bottom line.

Anyway.  Teams get a certain amount of money to spend and receive each year.  As each transaction throughout the year need players/picks/cash going to/from each team.  Some teams don’t use any of their cash allotment during the season for the sole reason of buying into the second round.  It cost Golden State $3.5 million just to get the chance to pick a guy in the second round!!  The odds are generally against the team buying in, but that doesn’t stop them.  It’s like spending Monopoly money to get a guy your group wants.  It’s really a win-win situation.

Philadelphia has 37, 39, 56, and 60 in the second round.  They are no longer in asset collection mode.  At this stage of the process (RIP Sam Hinkie’s career) they are building a title contender.  They aren’t looking to add in bulk.  If there is a player who they really like, they’ll select him.  If he’s not there, expect a sale at 37 or 39 (no need to sell both when one will fetch you the total allotment) and a Euro-stash at the other.  56 and 60 may be flipped into future seconds with heavy protection if someone is trying to sneak in at the end.  The invention of the 2-Way contract does make these picks a little more attractive to hold onto, as you can guarantee the Blue Coats a couple of drafted players for those slots.  Which gain some favor with agents and the community.

Orlando has 35 and 41 in the second round.  As we saw with the new regime last year, they aren’t afraid to miss out on players like Kyle Kuzma, Semi Ojeleye and Jordan Bell after trading the 25th and 35th picks last year…they kept 33 and selected Wes Iwundu, who is solid.  The 25th pick ended up being a Euro-stash and 35 led to Memphis selecting Ivan Rabb, who knows if those will pan out.  One of these picks will be sold, as the Magic have done so in most recent drafts with multiple second round picks.

This intended to be a quick piece on the draft.  It did not end up that way.  As we get closer to that night, we’ll explore a little more of what may happen.  Once the order is set, the combine commences and players starting criss-crossing the country for workouts, we’ll take a few guesses at what will actually happen.  Until then, keep the hope alive.

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