NBA AM: Who Wants To Move A Pick?

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Who Is Moving A Pick?:  Tuesday’s 2014 NBA Draft Lottery did not go as scripted with the Cleveland Cavalier hopping up from the projected ninth pick to the top overall pick. With Cleveland’s good fortune came some tough realities for other teams hoping for some lottery luck of their own; the biggest being that they may not be able to pick the player they ultimately covet.

Virtually every team that gets a top tier pick explores what that pick might be worth in trade simply as part of a due diligence process and in this draft class more than most, moving down a few spots could gain a team an equally promising prospect and possible additional assets. The odds that any of the teams at the top actually trade their pick is small, but here is what we know about the results and where the teams holding the top nine picks seem to stand:

#1 – Cleveland Cavaliers:
The Cavaliers are open for business. They are open to trading the top overall pick, but they want a bona fide All-star in return. Minnesota big man Kevin Love has been linked to the Cavs and he is absolutely a player the Cavs would move the top pick to obtain. The Cavs would require Love to opt-in to the final contract year of his deal as part of a transaction. It’s unclear if Minnesota or Love are open to that kind of deal.

The Cavs were not expecting a pick this high in the draft and have started to work through the process including scheduling visits and workouts with the top five or six guys. Early reports peg the Cavs as having eyes for former Kansas stars Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins.

There is a ton of uncertainty surrounding Embiid and his back and the Cavaliers are eager to understand what’s real and what is gamesmanship by his agent. Should Embiid pass Cleveland’s  medical evaluation there is a real strong chance he could be the top overall pick. If there are doubts or conflicting opinions about Embiid’s back, the Cavs would turn to Wiggins.

Duke star Jabari Parker is not out of the mix in Cleveland, but according to sources is a little lower on the board than Wiggins and Embiid. A strong workout could swing things in his favor, but it’s believed that if Cleveland keeps the pick it’s down to Embiid and Wiggins at this stage of the process.

Data: Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects

#2 – Milwaukee Bucks :
Like most teams at the top, Milwaukee will gauge what their pick is worth, but sitting at number two isn’t a bad situation for Milwaukee. They had been planning for a top tier pick and with the second pick they still could end up with the player that was near the top of their board.

The Bucks have had eyes for Embiid for most of the season, but it seems pretty clear that his agents are trying to steer him away from Milwaukee. That’s not going to stop the Bucks from doing their due diligence on him in the event that Cleveland passes.

Word from the Draft Combine was that Jabari Parker and Dante Exum were the top two candidates for the Bucks and both may be there when the Bucks select at number two. There is a sense that new ownership in Milwaukee is going to have a lot of say in where this pick gets used and as much as the current management may want to go with Exum and set them up going forward, there may be a desire from ownership to pick a named guy that the fans can connect with.

Whether its Parker or Exum, the Bucks will come away with a solid player, which is what they were hoping for.

#3 – Philadelphia 76ers:
Coming into the process the Sixers had eyes on Wiggins and Exum and there is a chance that both players are gone when they pick at number three. Sources close to the process say the 76ers are lukewarm on Embiid, but that does not mean they wouldn’t look at him hard or entertain a trade where they draft Embiid and trade him to move down to gain additional assets.

If Embiid is off the board when Philly picks it likely means one of the guys they like is there. There is a sense that Philly likes Exum a great deal and would have no issues pairing him with last year’s Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. Should Wiggins fall to the third spot, Philly likely grabs him. If Parker falls to three that might give Philly a little pause, but it’s believed they would take him as well.

There are a couple of dark horses in the 76ers scenario and that includes Indiana big man Noah Vonleh and Arizona star Aaron Gordon, both are said to be intriguing to Philly, but it would seem more likely that going with one of those guys would be part of a trade down scenario.

The 76ers seem like they are going to stay at number three and it seems like they will be ready to catch whichever of the top four prospects fall their way.

It is unlikely that Philly lets a great prospect get past them, even if it is simply to trade him later in the draft.

The 76ers endured a tough season of losing to get to this point and with two lottery level picks in their pockets the franchise seems poised to come out of the draft in really good shape going forward.

If Philly has proven anything in the Sam Hinkie era, it’s that they will be aggressive and creative, so don’t be surprised to see the 76ers jockey the third pick into a lot more if the players they covet are off the board.

Story: 2014 Consensus Mock Draft Ver. 2.0

#4 – Orlando Magic:
The Magic are also very much open for business. They hold two lottery level draft picks, have a roster full of promising young talent and they have the creatively structured contract of Jameer Nelson ($8 million salary, $2 million guaranteed) and shooting guard Aaron Afflalo to dangle in would-be trades. The Magic may also have an ample amount of cap space in July to absorb a big contract if required.

The Magic have been linked to Golden State’s David Lee, although sources in Orlando down played that report as one of many things being presented their way. Take that to mean, it’s something they could do if they wanted to.

The Magic did not jump up in the draft, in fact they fell back a spot, but that fundamentally hasn’t changed what the Magic had planned for this draft which was to look at maybe 30 players in the draft pool. Five or six related to their top pick and at least 20 related to their 12th pick.

There is a sense the Magic would like to see Exum fall to them and that still remains a possibility, but at four they may have to settle for who else is there.

The Magic have been high on Wiggins and Parker all season, so if one of them is there at four the Magic likely grab them. The question becomes what about Embiid? If Embiid is there at four it likely means there are serious questions lingering about his back and would the Magic take the risk on Embiid given his potential?

The Magic have the luxury of a loaded roster and a promising big in Nikola Vucevic, so in theory they could draft Embiid, let him work through the medical parts of his rehab and develop him slowly. It all comes down to how bad is the injury?

Reports from Kansas during the Final Four pegged Embiid’s injury as a stress fracture which is called Spondylolysis, which is a small crack in the pars interarticularis portion of the lumbar spine. This injury usually heals normally with rest and rehab. The unknown in this equation is if the condition is really Spondylolisthesis, which is a recurring stress reaction, related to vertebra shifting forward and sitting on nerves. The surgical treatment for that is surgical fusion, which is a scary concept for NBA teams. It is believed this is the second time Embiid has had this injury, which is why there is so much debate and concern.

There is a sense that Embiid’s agent is playing this coy to steer him to the right team, however with such a huge unknown looming around his draft stock it’s hard to peg what’s real and what’s not.

Orlando could have the option of being the Embiid broker with the fourth pick, however if he is there it means three other teams passed on his back, because his potential as a player is off the charts.

There are a couple of dark horse candidates for the Magic with the fourth pick. If Wiggins, Parker and Exum are off the board the Magic may look at Marcus Smart and Noah Vonleh. Smart was a player the Magic thoroughly scouted last year; they are very familiar with his game and were high on a season ago. Vonleh may be more of a reach for the Magic who have similar size and position players on the roster already, but are said to be high on his character and his potential in the NBA.

The smart money says the Magic catch whoever falls to four. The Magic do have some assets to dangle to move up including the number 12 pick; however, sources close to the process don’t see that happening at this point.

The Magic expect to be busy with individual workouts all the way up to the draft and have been trying to schedule as many guys as they can, so they will be involved in a lot leading up to the draft.

#5 – Utah Jazz:
The Jazz are in a tough spot, mainly because at five, they won’t get any of the studs of the draft and will be left with picks from the next tier. There is a sense that the Jazz would like to move up or move back, which means the number five could be had.

The players that are projected possible at number five play positions the Jazz are either stocked at or have invested in. Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon would both need time at the four spot. Adding depth and versatility behind Derrick Favors might make sense, but do you use the fifth pick on guys that need minutes you don’t have to give? The Jazz drafted Trey Burke last year so do they add Marcus Smart and try and play him off the ball? Where does that put Alec Burks?

The Jazz have a need at center, is Vonleh truly a center at the next level? Do they slide Favors to center and pair him with Vonleh, Randle or Gordon?

The Jazz, like most teams outside the top four, have to wait and see what falls to them. If Embiid starts to tumble do the Jazz grab him at five and roll the dice?

There is a sense the Jazz are open for business in either direction, up or down, but they will due their due diligence on a ton of players.

The smart money says the Jazz slide back in this draft, especially if the players that really solve problems for them are gone.

There is also a scenario where the Jazz trade out of the draft completely, flipping the fifth pick for a proven veteran. That is believed to be very much on the table in Utah.

#6 – Boston Celtics:
The Celtics again found no luck with the ping-pong balls of the lottery, and like Utah now find themselves in wait-and-see mode.

The good news for the Celtics is there are a number of players that make a lot of sense for their roster: Vonleh, Gordon, Randle, Doug McDermott and Dario Saric.

The Celtics have been angling for Kevin Love in a trade with the Timberwolves and while the sixth pick isn’t nearly as a sexy at a top three pick, they are very much open to trading their pick and some roster players to get a proven player like Love.

The Celtics are absolutely in consolation prize mode in this draft at number six. If they stay there they will end up with a solid NBA prospect, but this draft isn’t shaping up how Boston hoped when the season ended.

The Celtics are absolutely one of the teams to watch if Embiid takes a tumble, mainly because they have some experience drafting injured players and seem to be OK with the risk-reward scenario associated, especially with the sixth pick.

The dark horse pick for Boston could be Bosnian big man Jusuf Nurkic. He measures in at 6’11.5 in shoes, with a monster 7’2’ wingspan and averaged 11 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in the Adriatic league this season. Nurkic is considered the second best NBA center prospect in the draft. If Utah doesn’t grab him with the fifth pick, Boston might be where he lands with the sixth.

Story: Potential Trade Destinations for Kevin Love

#7 – LA Lakers:
There were a couple of players that seemed perfect for the Lakers – Embiid being the first, Exum being the second and barring something silly occurring both should be long gone when the Lakers draft with the seventh pick.

Like the Celtics, the Lakers are actively exploring the trade market looking to flip their pick into a veteran player, the problem is the seventh pick isn’t sexy at all in trade talks.

The smart money says the Lakers stay right where they are and draft the best player at seven. That looks to be one of Smart, Vonleh or Randle with the possibility of McDermott and Saric on the outside of the bubble.

Smart makes the most sense going forward because he can play right away. Vonleh may have some serious upside and could be a nice anchor piece for the Lakers future but will need some time to develop, where Randle could be the best all-around player of the bunch.

The Lakers are open to moving up or down in the draft, however with just four players on the roster (Robert Sacre, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Kendall Marshall) they do not have a lot to offer as a sweetner in a deal.

#8 – Sacramento Kings:
The Kings are absolutely open for business, but the problem for Sacramento is who really knows what they are selling? The eight pick really does not have a lot of appeal yet, its value becomes more apparent after picks start coming off the board.

The Kings are one of those teams that could move down or out of the draft for the right veteran players as they view themselves in win-now mode, or at least want to be in win-now mode.

Given what the eighth pick looks to be, they could be towards the bottom of the list in terms of teams trying to move a pick.

There are some interesting prospects that look to be available at number eight, including Gordon, possibly Randal or Vonleh and Saric would be in interesting fit in Sacramento especially if Rudy Gay opts out of his contract.

Eight is also where McDermott, Nik Stauskas and James Young become possibilities. The latter two would be a bit of a reach at eight but both would fit in nicely with the Kings.

As the 2014 NBA Draft starts to take shape the value of the Kings pick might increase. The smart money say they will be drafting with the eight pick, but if they could find a deal that gets them a proven player they seem more than open to it.

#9 – Charlotte Hornets:
The Cavaliers were not the only team to get some lottery luck, by virtue of the Cavs moving up, everyone else moved down and that moved the ninth pick back into Charlotte’s pocket, where it was expected to be Detroit’s pick.

The Hornets find themselves with a lot of options that make sense for them. McDermott fits how the Hornets want to play as does Young and Stauskas. Gordon could still be on the board at nine and that would be a huge get for the Hornets. Saric could also be here for the Hornets and he could be a ready-to-play right away guy in a very Hedo Turkoglu kind of way.

The Hornets are one of the teams open to moving up, so if Utah wants to move to nine there may be a deal to be made here.

The Hornets are playing with house money on this pick as they were not planning for it.

Now that they have it, they are being active in exploring what it can return either in terms of a draft prospect or a veteran player or some combination.

The Hornets have had affections for Orlando’s Arron Afflalo for some time. It’s doubtful that the ninth pick gets Orlando off the dime on Afflalo, but some combination of assets that includes the ninth pick might get consideration.

The Hornets would rather come out of this draft with a proven player, that’s where McDermott becomes interesting for Charlotte if they cannot find a trade they can consummate.

Most pick related trades happen on draft day, mainly because teams tend to go down to the wire on what they ultimately want to do in the draft. There have been a few cases where picks have been traded before the draft, although the majority of deals involving picks happen on draft night or later.

Deals that move off salary usually get consummated on draft day, however don’t become official until July when the new salary cap year begins and teams with ending contracts convert those deals into cap space.

Those kinds of deals that involve draft picks usually result in a team drafting a player specifically for another team and trading his draft rights to the acquiring team at some point in early July.

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