So much of the focus around the just-concludeddeals with the players who were acquired and what impact they’ll have on their new teams.
But every bit as important, in the grand scheme of the NBA, is what opportunities, positions and ideas those moves opened up. For every player moved, a hole was created. An opening is merely an invitation for a future NBA Draft pick.
So which teams saw their draft strategies affected most? Let’s break it down.
The Timberwolves, whose pick is right now somewhere in the middle of a loaded draft for point guards, chose to walk away from a Ricky Rubio-for-Derrick Rose deal. This tells us that they aren’t quite ready to give up on Rubio. Consider that if they had pulled the trigger on that deal, Rose’s contract is up after the season. They would be off the hook for the $29 million owed to Rubio over the next two years. The position would be open for whoever they could draft at their spot -- De’Aaron Fox? Frank Ntilikina? Maybe even Dennis Smith, or if the balls bounced their way, Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball.
Instead, if they wish to open up playing time for a high-end point guard, well, they’ll need to find someone willing to take a shot on Rubio and his creaky knees. It sounds like the Knicks were willing to be that team for the ability to be rid of Rose sooner -- a strange choice for a Knicks team that is also going to be in the lottery this year, but, well, the Knicks aren’t renowned for logic. We don’t know how many other landing spots the Wolves might have had for Rubio, but that they chose to walk away from the cleanest way they had of trading him suggests they might be looking at other positions this June.
Then there’s Indiana, which didn’t deal Paul George but reportedly has learned that George intends to pursue free agency after the 2018 season and head to Los Angeles. This should expedite both Indiana’s plan to build instead around Myles Turner -- a logical one, frankly -- and make their search for a dynamic wing capable of playing the three or the four more urgent. Miles Bridges makes more sense than ever in Indiana.
But the three biggest impact trades at the deadline, in terms of the 2017 draft, are the trio of teams who moved into the first round. The Nets now own the Wizards’ pick from the Bojan Bogdanovic deal. The Lakers own the Rockets’ pick from the Lou Williams deal. And the Kings own the Pelicans’ pick from the DeMarcus Cousins deal.
Let’s take each in turn. The Nets don’t have any obvious building block that would preclude an addition, so it’s hard to take much in the way of strategy from their deal in a specific way. Coach Kenny Atkinson talked at practice Thursday about his excitement over adding a young piece to add to their roster, specifically mentioning Caris LeVert (and not, incidentally, Ronde Hollis-Jefferson), but it is fair to assume they’ll be looking for the highest upside on a pick in the early-to-mid 20s. Perhaps Harry Giles, hoping for a recovery. Perhaps Isaiah Hartenstein, hoping for the next imported superstar, and without any hurry.
As for the Lakers, a late first-rounder may be just the place Magic Johnson looks to ameliorate one of the great mistakes of the last administration, namely looking at Timofey Mozgov as some kind of starting center anchor for years to come. Guys like Thomas Bryant, Tacko Fall, Zach Collins and maybe even Johnathan Motley could be there when Los Angeles makes its second pick of the first round. And frankly, no one makes a lot of sense in the top three when it comes to fives in this draft, so chances are good they’ll still need one by then.
The Kings, though: I mean, they need everything. Let’s assume for argument’s sake that they want Buddy Hield to be Stephen Curry. So the one is, well, occupied. For now. That leaves ... everything else? Let’s stipulate, I suppose, that Ben McLemore is part of the future as well, since the Kings rebuffed trade offers for him. Wings? Bigs? Additional guards? It’s all plausible. This is Sacramento. Assume nothing.