The morning of the 2019 NBA Draft is finally upon us. The calm before the storm, some might say. Rumors have been swirling about various teams and their desire to move around in the draft, so whispers will likely turn into rumblings, and those rumblings will more-or-less turn into actual Woj bombs.
We’ve already been graced with such a treat, as it was reported early Wednesday that Mike Conley would be traded to the Utah Jazz for Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen and and Utah’s 23rd pick in tonight’s draft. It also included one more future first-rounder.
This trade all but dispells any rumors of Memphis trading their number two pick in this year’s draft. By trading Conley – the obvious franchise cornerstone and starting point guard – the Grizzlies can now put their focus on future point guard Ja Morant, the player they are expected to take second overall. With Conley off of the roster, Morant will likely be the day one starter and gobble up plenty of experience quickly.
That deal was only the second league-altering trade made since the conclusion of the 2018-19 NBA season, and a much smaller one to boot.
The bigger news came last weekend when the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to send their fourth overall pick, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis. The trade also included a few more future first-rounders from Los Angeles going to NOLA.
This deal made the Lakers the early odds-on favorite to win the NBA Championship. Combining two top-10 players in LeBron James and Davis will give them exponential scoring power on offense, and their defense will be considerably better with the length and athleticism of Davis – a two-time runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.
Both the Lakers and Jazz have obvious holes to fill with the departure of so many players for one each in return, so look for them to continue to pursue deals before, during and after the draft. They will also both be heavily active during the free agency period.
Another storyline to follow is, of course, the Pelicans and what they’ll do with their fourth pick. There are a handful of reports that claim the Pelicans have been shopping the Lakers’ fourth pick for either more assets or perhaps a player worthy of the high lottery selection.
Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington reported that the Pelicans and Washington Wizards have been involved in talks around Bradley Beal – so you can only assume the fourth pick must be involved.
A report from the New York Post has also surfaced recently stating that the Pelicans have explored moving up in the draft for a Zion Williamson/RJ Barrett reunion. This seems pretty unlikely, as the Grizzlies and Knicks both seem content to hold their picks, but you really never know. That story obviously leaked to the media for one reason or another, so it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on that situation.
Outside of Williamson going one to the Pelicans, Morant going two to the Grizzlies, and Barrett likely going three to the Knicks, there is plenty of uncertainty in this draft.
There are quite a few teams with multiple first round draft selections, so there is a chance that any of these teams can combine picks to move up or trade extra selections for players. Those teams are as follows:
Atlanta Hawks: 8th, 10th, 17th
Boston Celtics: 14th, 20th, 22nd
New Orleans Pelicans: 1st, 4th
Memphis Grizzlies: 2nd, 23rd
Cleveland Cavaliers: 5th, 26th
Detroit Pistons: 15th, 30th
San Antonio Spurs: 19th, 29th
The Hawks and Celtics may be the most likely of the three to wheel-and-deal, as three first-round picks for either team doesn’t do much.
The Celtics are in a very interesting spot with the sudden pre-eminent departures of both Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. They aren’t necessarily in full-on rebuild mode yet but without those two – their clear first and second best players – the team is completely different. Regardless, it is highly unlikely that three late first-round picks will end up on their roster, so trading at least one of them to better their roster with more seasoned talent could ultimately be what happens.
The Hawks are an incredibly young team with a bright future. Their eighth and 10th picks definitely mean more to them, but could also bring back something solid in return. While they are in full-on rebuild mode and could use a lottery pick (or two), look for them to move off at least one of those picks for a player that can help them burst into the playoff scene this year.
A team that has been aggressive in attempting to move up in the draft is Minnesota – currently selecting 11th. The Timberwolves have had talks with the Pelicans about moving up to the 4th spot, according to Marc Stein.
The Timberwolves have been aggressive in their attempts to move up in the draft from No. 11 and are among the teams that have discussed acquiring No. 4 from New Orleans, league sources say
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 20, 2019
Minnesota currently has two players on max contracts with virtually zero chance of any postseason success. Getting off of Andrew Wiggins contract would be huge in helping them fill out their roster with more suitable players, but Wiggins’ on-court production hasn’t been nearly enough for a team to take a gamble on his athleticism. The fact that both Karl-Anthony Towns and Wiggins are getting paid huge dollars and the team has had little success is a big issue. Usually when teams have two guys on max contracts, they are at least playoff-level good.
Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, they don’t really have the assets necessary to move all the way up to four in the draft. Dario Saric is a nice piece, but the one year remaining on his contract won’t guarantee he’ll be at his potential trade destination long term, and his talent isn’t quite move-all-the-way-up-to-four worthy. Getting rid of Wiggins’ contract would likely require the Wolves to move down in the draft rather than up, so maybe a team takes a chance there.
Regardless of what goes down later tonight, in the days preceding free agency, and once the free agency period opens on July 1st, one thing is certain. This year will be as crazy as any in recent memory. For the first time in over three years, the NBA feels about as open as ever. There are at least five if not 10 teams that all have a legitimate shot to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the season.
Some of the better teams still have holes. The Lakers need more shooting, the Jazz need a stretch four with Crowder gone, the Rockets need better team chemistry and less drama, and the Bucks need other playmaking options outside of Giannis. These issues and more could potentially be solved via multiple pathways later today and in the weeks to come.
Stay tuned as Basketball Insiders keeps you up to date with all things NBA offseason.
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