A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, which explains why NBA teams continue to ship off future draft assets in exchange for current NBA players that can help them win now. It has happened time and again over the course of the last few years, despite mountains of evidence that unprotected or poorly protected picks really can come back to bite a team in the rear end.
This year’s draft lottery seems to come with an especially high amount of drama with several different scenarios that could play out in ways that do not help the teams that traded their picks.
We already know that the Brooklyn Nets will have to swap their elite selection with the Boston Celtics this summer as a result of a trade that took place four years ago. What that probably means is Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball is headed to what could be the Eastern Conference’s best team next season, and the even worse news is that Brooklyn doesn’t even get to swap first-round picks with the Celtics in 2018. Boston just gets that pick outright as a result of the same deal.
It’s fair to say that when this one is all said and done, Brooklyn fans are going to wish that former Nets general manager Billy King had never existed. They probably think that already.
Of course, they aren’t alone in their misery. The Los Angeles Lakers owe a pick either this year or next as a well, a result of the Steve Nash trade that ruined every NBA reporter’s Fourth of July in 2012, which occurred about an hour before most of the East Coast was preparing to set off fireworks. If the Lakers don’t land in the top three this year, that pick goes to Philadelphia. If they keep the pick this year, it goes to Philly next summer unprotected.
And then, of course, there’s the Sacramento Kings, who dumped a bunch of salary to the Sixers a couple seasons ago for a handful of goodies, including the right to swap picks this year should the Kings end up with a better pick than Philadelphia, which could very well happen.
The 2017 NBA Draft brings an extreme set of circumstances that frankly aren’t common, but that doesn’t mean these types of things haven’t happened before. It’s not that every traded “future draft pick” turns into a stud, but that’s how it happened for the teams on this list. These are “future draft pick” trades that still give fans of certain franchises nightmares:
Los Angeles Lakers “Magic” in the 1970s
In August of 1976, the New Orleans Jazz traded, among other things, a 1979 first-round draft pick as compensation for a trade that landed Gail Goodrich in the Big Easy. As it turns out, the Jazz stayed bad and that 1979 pick ended up being the top overall selection the year that generational talent Magic Johnson left Michigan State University.
After that one went down, no team should have traded a first round pick ever again, but it did not serve as any sort of deterrent. None whatsoever.
Cleveland Sends L.A. a “Worthy” 1982 Draft Pick
That actually wasn’t the last time the Lakers would trade for a future draft pick and end up on the right side of history. Back in February of 1980, before the ubiquity of home computers and cell phones, when the typewriter was king and everything the Los Angeles Lakers touched turned to gold, the Cleveland Cavaliers traded a future 1982 first-round pick and a player to L.A. for Don Ford and a 1980 first-round pick. Cleveland drafted Chad Kinch (not exactly a household name), while the Lakers used that future pick to haul in future Hall-of-Famer James Worthy.
There are seven Lakers jerseys in the rafters at Staples Center, and three-time NBA champion James Worthy is one of them. Kinch meanwhile, was out of the league after a year and unfortunately passed away at age 35 due to AIDS-related complications.
There are no jokes here, but it’s clear the Lakers got the better end of that deal.
Memphis Loses #2 Pick in 2003
The 2003 NBA Draft Lottery had to have been excruciating to watch for Memphis Grizzlies fans. The team, represented that year by Jerry West, was in a really nasty spot thanks to a 1997 trade that shipped away a future first-rounder for Otis Thorpe. It took forever to convey the pick because of the protections that were placed on it, but by 2003 it was only top-one protected.
The tension for that particular lottery was deep-seeded for fans of all lottery teams, mostly because it was the year everybody was hoping LeBron James would fall into their laps. So it was a small miracle when the Grizzlies were one of the last two teams standing while the pick envelopes were unsealed. West was one ping pong ball away from landing James in Memphis, but thanks to that stupid Thorpe pick he couldn’t even settle for Carmelo Anthony.
Thorpe played 47 games for the Vancouver Grizzlies that season and then was traded to Sacramento. James and Anthony have been, you know, way better than that.
John Paxson Fleeces Isiah Thomas in 2005
In one of Chicago’s greatest trades of all time, John Paxson managed to trade Eddy Curry, a player they were not likely to re-sign anyway, for a slew of players and picks that ended up helping them build a future Eastern Conference Finals team. In that deal, the Knicks sent Chicago, among other things, an unprotected first-round pick in 2006 and the right to swap picks in 2007.
While Chicago didn’t keep him, that 2006 ended up being LaMarcus Aldridge, selected second overall, while the following year the Bulls swapped the #23 pick for New York’s #9 pick, and ultimately used it on Joakim Noah. One of the second-round picks in the deal ended up being Omer Asik, and another was used to help trade up for Thabo Sefolosha. All those assets came via trades for future draft picks, and all of them proved miserable for Thomas, who seemed to bail out the Bulls a lot in the mid-aughts.
The Clippers Dump Their Way Out of Kyrie Irving in 2011
The 2011 trade deadline was maybe the greatest trade deadline of all time, with Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams all getting shipped off to new teams in February. The trade that has resonated most in the six years since, however, has been the one that sent an unprotected pick and the salary-dumped Baron Davis to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon.
It saved the Clippers a boatload of cash, and as then-Clippers GM Neil Olshey explained after the fact, the team felt like they were heading in the direction of playing like a perennial playoff team and felt the cap space was more valuable than entertaining “a kid that’s 19 years old with one year of college experience.”
So L.A. ended up with the 8th-worst record in the league, giving them only a 2.8 percent chance at landing the top pick, which they of course did. That pick then went to Cleveland, who drafted Kyrie Irving, who many may recognized as “a kid that’s 19 years old with one year of college experience.” Today, Irving is a bona fide superstar and NBA champion, while Davis has been out of the league for years. Los Angeles survived the blunder, and it clearly didn’t rattle Olshey’s confidence as he moved onto Portland, but that one’s gotta sting, no matter how much Olshey may want to justify it.
The Nets Gift-Wrap Damian Lillard for Portland in 2012.
In a similar salary dump, the Nets sent Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and a 2012 first-round pick (top-three protected) to Portland in exchange for Gerald Wallace. The Nets wanted to be good, and they wanted to clear cap space to make a run at Dwight Howard, so they used the pick to clear out the funds.
That pick was the sixth one in the deep 2012 NBA Draft and landed the Blazers one of the league’s elite scorers, and all Portland had to do was pay a little extra money that summer. Totally worth it.
So how will this year’s owed lottery picks pan out for the teams that traded them away? Chances are that at least one of them will regret it deeply, but that’s the way professional sports go. Many owners and front offices are much more concerned with players that can help them win immediately rather than the possibility of a future draft pick panning out. Draymond Green, for example, came as a result of a toss-in second-round pick in an old Troy Murphy trade, but how many second-round selections have anywhere near that impact in the NBA?
It’s not a guarantee that even first-round talents will be immediate contributors. When that draft pick ends up being a high one, though, it stings, and it stings for a long time.
You know what they say, though: that which does not kill you, only makes you stronger. Unless, you know, that thing comes in the form of LeBron James. Then he’s going to kill you over and over and over again.
NBA Sunday: Kristaps Porzingis Sure Looks Ready To Be The Franchise
The Knicks hope Kristaps Porzingis can become their franchise. Thus far, he seems up to the challenge.
He stood in front of his mentor, isolated, just like they used to do in practice.
He’d seen the jab steps before and the head fakes—they were nothing new. And when Carmelo Anthony mustered the acceleration he still has in his 33-year-old legs to drive around Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony knew he had the 7-foot-3 Latvian big man beat.
Anthony triumphantly rose to the basket and delicately attempted his right-handed layup. Before he knew what hit him, though, Anthony’s shot had been sent to the free throw line.
The message was clear—Kristaps had taken the torch.
“It was fun,” Porzingis said about his confrontation with Anthony. “We went at it in practices a lot and one-on-one after practices.
“It was a lot of fun knowing what he was going to do and try to stop him.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder were much closer to the NBA Finals than the Knicks were last season, and removing Anthony from the Knicks and pairing him with Russell Westbrook and Paul George gives the Thunder a triumvirate that can at least conceivably challenge the Golden State Warriors. They are perhaps the only team in the entire league with enough firepower and defensive pieces.
So no, the Knicks may not be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy anytime soon, but at the very least, the franchise seems to be in good hands—the big, soft hands of Porzingis.
As young NBA players come into their own and attempt to fulfill the lofty expectations that everyone has of them, the third year is the charm, almost invariably. And in that that year, a young player can’t control the other pieces that are around him—that’s why they shouldn’t be judged by their team’s wins and losses.
In that third year, a young player also can’t really control the frequency of his injuries. The simple truth is that many 21 or 22-year-old players simply lack the hardened bones of a fully grown adult that most men become after the age of 25.
But what the young player can prove is that he is prepared to shoulder the burden and take the fight to anyone who stands before him. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks epitomizes this ideal better than any other young player in the league. He is absolutely fearless and it’s a pleasure to watch.
So is Porzingis.
Since the influx of European-born players began about 20 years ago, we have seen our fair share of “soft” European players. His talent aside (which is considerable), Porzingis has proven to be anything but, and that by itself can help players go a very long way.
In what must have felt like the longest summer ever, Porzingis saw the franchise that drafted him undergo an overhaul that resulted in a light beaming so brightly on him, you would have thought the third-year forward was starring in a Broadway musical.
Say what you want about Porzingis, but he has already done all that he can to notify everyone that have anything to do with the Knicks that his bony shoulders aren’t indicative of the weight he’s capable of carrying.
And in Oklahoma City, against his mentor, Porzingis did the heavy lifting.
“I saw energy,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said after his team’s opening night loss.
“He was great moving. He played 38 minutes, and maybe last year that would be a struggle. He would maybe get tired, and get some silly fouls, but even toward the end on that 37th or 38th minute, he was still up hollering, moving, blocking shots and getting rebounds, so he had a great game and we expect a lot more of that from him.”
Being a Knicks fan is something that nobody should wish on their worst enemy. The franchise has made scores of maneuvers that lacked wisdom and seemingly gone out of its way to alienate people beloved by the franchise. On top of it all, Knicks tickets are among the highest in the entire league.
Fans as passionate and dedicated as Knicks fans deserve a team they can be proud of and a front office that dedicates itself to putting winning ahead of petty feuds and politics.
The hiring of Scott Perry may signify just that.
So when the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony and ended up getting back 10 cents on the dollar for his value, everyone should have prepared for a long season in New York City.
Coming in, Knicks fans once again found themselves in the unenviable predicament of having to talk themselves into believing that Ramon Session, Michael Beasley and Tim Hardaway were capable of giving this team feel good moments. And while they certainly are, they will surely pale in comparison to the amount of losses that the club accrues along the way.
If there’s one thing the Philadelphia 76ers have taught everyone, however, it’s that the losses don’t necessarily need to be in vain.
So heading into this season, what Knicks fans should have been looking forward to and hoping for is nothing more than the installation of a culture that’s marked by effort, communication and selfless basketball—the hallmarks of the Golden State Warriors.
Aside from that, yes, they should have also come in with the hope that Kristaps Porzingis would take an appreciable step forward and prove himself to truly be a capable franchise cornerstone.
To this point, from the way he holds his head highly, despite a win or a loss, and the way he competes to the best of his abilities, despite his limitations. For now, it’s really all that could reasonably be asked of him.
When it was all said and done—when Porzingis looked the Knicks’ past in the eyes after the Thunder had soundly defeated his New York Knicks—Carmelo Anthony probably told him that he was proud of him and that he wished him all the luck in the world.
He probably told him to continue to work on his game and hone his craft and to block out the background noise.
And above all else, Carmelo probably told Kristaps that he believes he is capable of being his successor.
With his nodding head and serious demeanor, Porzingis, in all his glory, listened intently. Even more so, he believed every word.
It doesn’t take all day to figure out whether the sun is shining—it’s an adage that remains as true in basketball as it does on a May Day in New York.
For Porzinigis, the bright sky and the beaming sunlight—he’s basking in it all. Not only has he becomes the Knicks’ franchise by default, he believes he’s capable of shouldering the burden.
In this town, that’s more than half the battle.
Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”