The annual NBA Draft night supposedly belongs to youthful players and the NBA’s destitute franchises, however, it's also casino night for NBA general managers. Draft night is an excuse to put on their rented tuxes, gulp down a 40 oz., then starting wheeling and dealing at the tables. Half the night is about making risky trades for rooks, vets, bench plants and expiring contracts.
Most of these trades will be forgotten in five years, but some may be immortalized as the progenitors of a championship team. Almost 60 years ago, the St. Louis Hawks’ decision to trade Bill Russell to Boston changed the fate of two franchises, and the obscure swap between Seattle and Chicago blew Scottie Pippen the Windy City’s way. We have no inkling of how the ripple effects will alter these franchises, but each and every trade creates a chain reaction. Here’s how we see it.
New Orleans Pelicans receive Jrue Holiday, No. 42 (Pierre Jackson); Philadelphia 76ers receive Nerlens Noel’s draft rights; Top 3 protected 2014 1st
76ers: New Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie is homewreckin’ like Alicia Keys. His first move as general manager was to walk in the Sixers front office and decide he didn’t like the architecture, drapes, carpet, or their 23-year-old All-Star point guard. His labeling of the Andrew Bynum era as a failure was very telling of Philly’s intentions, but Jrue Holiday was the brightest spot in a dark season. Trading Holiday after his first All-Star Game appearance is one of those moves that will define Hinkie’s tenure as general manager.
The Philadelphia 76ers must like doing things the hard way..Not only do they appear to have an affinity for painful losing seasons, but they also have an obsession with centers with knee injuries. After they wasted a miserable year on a center with bad knees, it would seem they’d like to move forward from their bleak season. Instead, they invested their future in the problematic knees of Nerlens Noel.
Noel is youthful enough to recover from the ACL injury he suffered in February, but there are lingering concerns that his history of knee injuries dating back to high school could come back to haunt them Bynum-style down the line. Michael Carter-Williams is no Holiday; but he’s not a scrub, either. His upside is worth keeping an eye on.
Pelicans: On New Orleans’ end of the equation, Eric Gordon’s incessant trade requests should cease immediately. The basketball gods are finally showering him with blessings because the Pelicans are building this squad the right way. Last year’s Anthony Davis pick planted the seeds, but the 2013 Draft is their photosynthesis draft. After years of being buried in the Western Conference’s cellar, they can finally see the light at the end of that tunnel and the team is blossoming.
Holiday’s arrival raises questions about the future of Doc’s son in New Orleans. Austin Rivers never resembled a true point that could mesh with Gordon, but Holiday is one of the top five up-and-coming guards in the league right now. Gordon, Holiday and Davis are a dangerous trio in the West. Watch out for the rise of the Pelicans. You can laugh at their team name, but folks won’t be chuckling when their starting five step on the court.
Boston Celtics receive three first-round picks plus Keith Bogans, Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans; Brooklyn Nets receive Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry
Nets: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The arrival of KG and Pierce also throws gas onto the Nets and Knicks burgeoning rivalry. It’s the second intra-state rivalry that Danny Ainge has instigated this week. His willingness to allow Doc Rivers safe passage to the Clippers will likely result in Chris Paul opting to return to Clipper Land to torment the Lakers faithful.
The Nets window to win a title is incredibly small. Their decision to pair a young inexperienced coach with an old roster is unique. It’s even weirder to see Jason Kidd coaching cats that were his playoff foes two months ago. A few years earlier this would have been an epic video game roster. Unfortunately, that video game is NBA Live 2007. What this does do is give Boston’s Bucket List trio of Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Paul Pierce one last opportunity to get their revenge on Ray Allen the Miami Heat in the playoffs.
Celtics: Danny Ainge has a hoarding problem. The Celtics doomsday clock is inching towards midnight and he’s been stockpiling draft picks in their Cold War bunker. Unfortunately, none of them appear to have much value, as they’ll all likely be late first-rounders.
This was a loyalty trade for Pierce and Garnett. They didn’t get much in return, but they did the right thing for KG and Pierce. Aside from Havlicek, Russell and Bird, Pierce is one of the most prolific Celtics in the history of the franchise. Think about that for a second. Twenty years ago, they would have ridden it out, but in the salary cap era, you don’t pass out $15 million contracts to legends on losing teams. Watch your back, Kobe.
The Celtics are in limbo, though. They may not be bad enough to enter the Andrew Wiggins race, talented enough to make the playoffs, or attract big-time free agents (ahem, Dwight.)
Dallas Mavericks receive two second-round picks for Kelly Olynyk
Celtics: Danny Ainge knows talent. He’s drafted well and made wise decisions in free agency over the years. But Kelly Olynyk has the most pressure of any late pick for a playoff squad. Larry Bird isn’t walking through that door, but Olynyk could be a pretty good birthday party impersonator. It remains to be seen whether he can approach Bird’s (or at least Pierce’s) impact. He’s a late bloomer, but he has an intriguing skillset and backstory.
No pun intended, but Olynyk should have the green light in Boston. Unlike in Dallas, there won’t be many scorers for him to defer to. He could be Raef LaFrentz or Brook Lopez. If he doesn’t show promise, Rondo may seek his own path out of Beantown.
Mavericks: Ainge is a helpful guy. The Mavs weren’t trying to take on any extra salary (see above), so the Celtics were kind enough to take the pick, that became Olynyk, off their hands. So what did Dallas get out of the deal? (See below)
Dallas Mavericks receive (No.18) Shane Larkin’s draft rights; Atlanta Hawks receive (No. 16) Lucas Nogueira's draft rights, Jared Cunningham and Mike Muscala
Hawks: Lucas Nogueira’s Ch-Ch-Chia fro is the rightful successor to Josh Childress’ pick-swallowing hair. Although he was No. 1 on social media Thursday night, not much is known about Nogueira, except that his game needs water, nurturing and time to grow.
If he gets a chance to play minutes, Jared Cunningham will fill the highlight-manufacturing void that free agent Josh Smith leaves behind in the Highlight Factory.
Mavericks: Shane Larkin is basically Dallas throwing up the white flag on their hopes of signing Chris Paul. If Dwight Howard entertains the idea of playing in Dallas, Larkin would likely be the point throwing him oops for the near future. Howard has reportedly ruled out returning to the Lakers, while the Mavericks and Rockets are jockeying to be No. 1 in his free agent sweepstakes. If the Mavericks do sign Howard, there’s a sliver of a chance that LaMarcus Aldridge could also be on his way home. American Airlines Center will be Dallas’ largest mega-church this July, because those hopes may rest on a wing and a prayer.
Minnesota Timberwolves receive (No. 14) Shabazz Muhammad and (No. 21) Gorgui Dieng; Utah Jazz receive (No. 9) Trey Burke
Timberwolves: The Timberwolves won this exchange and were the draft-day champions. Trey Burke and Ricky Rubio would have been a 2009 Draft redux. That was the night David “Khaaan” drafted Ricky Rubio, Johnny Flynn and Ty Lawson and buried Minnesota beneath the Western Conference for years to come. However, Flip Saunders did not repeat that mistake. Rubio’s passing is going to set the table for Shabazz’s scoring to finish the meal. Meanwhile, the selection of Gorgui Dieng gives Minnesota a mobile eraser around the basket.
Russ Smith and Peyton Siva were integral to Louisville’s national championship, but Dieng’s long arms and court awareness lifted their defense to national championship glory. Pairing his shot-blocking ability with Nikola Pekovic’s rebounding and Kevin Love’s all-around All-Star ability may push the Timberwolves back into the playoffs.
Jazz: Burke is the best pure passer in this draft. He fills a major hole for them, but wasn’t worth two picks. Mo Williams was their starting point guard last season, so something had to be done. There’s a false perception that Burke is an undersized score-first guard. However, Burke had the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the nation during his sophomore season at Michigan.