While many basketball fans are busy enjoying 30-plus-point blowouts in the conference finals, other fans (mostly us followers of below-average or even downright pathetic franchises) are looking towards the off-season. How sweet it is once the NBA Draft Lottery is over and we get a sense of who our team will be looking at with whatever draft slot they landed.
What’s even more sweet are the totally unavailing trade predictions that follow. This is where I come in. Here are a few possible trades we could see either during the NBA draft or prior to.
1) The Obligatory Paul George Trade
Now, here I will kill two birds with one stone as I’ll cover the possibilities of both the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers trading their first-round pick for PG13.
The No. 1 pick is a big deal. You have the pick of the litter, you have first dibs and most importantly you’re more than likely needful of a top-tier player to drag you out of the cellar.
Well, two of those ideas apply to the Celtics, however, that third thought is completely unsuited for Boston since they’re the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference. With Danny Ainge at the helm for Boston, he proved — to quote Kevin Garnett — “Anything’s posssibbllleeeee”. He aided in the team capturing an NBA title for the first time since the ‘80s in 2008 and flipped his “Big Three” for first-round draft picks (one being this No. 1 pick I’m talking about now.
But, that’s not where it ends for Ainge and his Celtics. The team also holds the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick for next season and also holds rights to the Los Angeles Clippers first-round pick (top-14 protected) and the Memphis Grizzlies first rounder (top-eight protected) in 2019. *begins slow clap* I mean damn that guy is good.
So, what’s my point? The Celts have a lineup with All-Stars in Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford, but also have plenty of young talent with names like Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart. This is a team whose only limiting factor is the fact they have to face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
So, they give up the top pick in this year’s stacked draft class for a veteran who could possibly help them compete against The King.
The Cavs swept George’s Indiana Pacers club, but in those four wins, the average margin of victory was just four points. In James’ two games against Boston, their average margin of victory is 28.5. Obviously that number is inflated due to the 44-point win, but still the numbers don’t lie.
The Celtics won’t compete with James next year or even the year after by adding a scoring guard such as Markelle Fultz when they already have a point guard in Thomas who averaged over 23 points per game this year. So, to me, this trade works out for both teams as the Pacers are at risk of losing George next off-season anyway.
The only question I have is whether the Lakers can possibly pass on Lonzo Ball. He’s a Lakers’ fan who (according to his father) is wholly expecting to be drafted by the Lakers. Hell, LaVar is already predicting his son to lead Los Angeles to the playoffs next season. Also, Magic Johnson has stated his interest in going after George next off-season when he’s a free agent. This would allow the Lakers to add George without losing their draft pick.
But, the Lakers already have a point guard in D’Angelo Russell. They also have building blocks in Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram so perhaps they’re ready to throw their chips on the table and go all-in on next year. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2013 and in Laker Land that’s just unacceptable.
The Lakers hold the rights to the Houston Rockets 2017 draft pick also so they’ll still come away with some first-round talent even if they trade the No. 2 pick. The biggest issue, though, is that LA barely kept their pick this season and will lose their first-round selection to the Philadelphia 76ers next year.
- Jimmy Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers
While the third pick in the NBA draft isn’t as appealing as the first or second, it’s still a top-three pick. Also, if the Chicago Bulls negotiate well, they could potentially snatch one of the 76ers first-round picks they possess in 2018 (Lakers) or 2019 (Sacramento Kings) or at the very least swap rights.
Butler averaged career-highs in points (23.9), rebounds (6.2) and assists (5.5) this season as he led the Bulls to the eighth seed in the playoffs. Butler also had his best ORtng in a season (123) and beat his best Value over Replacement Player by 50% as he improved on his 4.2 in 2015/16 season and had a 6.3 VORP.
Butler would be placed next to Ben Simmons in the back-court and could potentially have Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor in the front court to alleviate some of the scoring pressures that he had in Chicago. Butler, 27, is coming off his third straight All-Star season and is under contract for the next two seasons and has a player option for 2019/20 worth just under $20 million.
Adding Butler to a youth-charged lineup could be exactly what the 6ers need to return to the playoffs.
The Bulls may not be ready to let Butler walk, but in a draft loaded with talent, Josh Jackson out of Kansas or Jayson Tatum from Duke could be quality substitutes.
3) The Minnesota Timberwolves trade down
With building blocks in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, along with Zach Lavine, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio, a seventh pick in the draft may not be what the T-Wolves need. If they could trade down in the draft and add a veteran forward or point guard in the process, that’d be a win.
This year, the top five picks are, by consensus, expected to be head and shoulders above the rest of the lottery picks and the T-Wolves got the short end of the stick when they landed right outside of that range. They can, however, get a mid-teen pick and possibly add a flier at forward such as Lauri Markennen or Ivan Rabb. They could also add a guard, such as Frank Ntilikina.
The Wolves have the foundation of a playoff team in the making, but luck wasn’t on their side this season as Wiggins got off to a slow start and Lavine went down with a knee injury. The team may not need another play-maker since they already have Wiggins and KAT, but some complementary pieces could be exactly what they need to take the next step.
Featured Image: 2016 Panini Instant NBA card #316