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The Price of #4

As posted a few days ago, there figures to be serious trade movement within the lottery. Teams like the Blazers have little space for question-mark talents, with a full rotation and the spectre of Rudy Fernandez looming. Others, like Charlotte and Milwaukee, seem more driven to find complementary veterans than spin the draft wheel again.

Miami will see vats of ink spent on their intentions with a Roseless #2 pick. Already today, Chad Ford asserts the concern Miami would prefer to step down a couple picks to select O.J. Mayo in lieu of Beasley. But Mayo won't be hanging around at #12, and I find it extremely unlikely Pat Riley would dismiss Beasley so quickly in the first place. (This is a man who knows the importance of having a dominant big man, and a man whose third best big at the moment is named Mark Blount.)

Too much hocus-pocus is required to consider sliding in to #2. But what about pick #4, Seattle's selection? Is #4 -- and assumedly the Jerryd Bayless which goes along with it -- attainable?


First, we have to consider motives. Do the Kings have a reason to move up? I think so, for these reasons.

  • Point guard is, at this moment, the need position. We'd all agree in considering power forward a second need position. But consider the options come November 1, 2008. Unless you resign Beno Udrih, you have no one to play the position right now. The predicted free agents will be either too pricey (Arenas, Baron Davis, Calderon) or too awful (Marbury [pending the eventual buyout], Smush Parker, Chris Duhon). If you do nothing with the power forward position this summer, you end with the status quo next November: Mikki Moore, Spencer Hawes, Kenny Thomas, possibly Shareef Abdur-Rahim, spots of Ron Artest. What's more frightening: starting PG Quincy Douby, or starting PF Mikki Moore? It's the former, every time.
  • Bayless is the prototype of Geoff Petrie's point guards. Remember, Petrie called Beno Udrih a "pure point guard." Bayless is a hybrid of Jason Williams and Mike Bibby -- fearless and fast, but an excellent shooter who can also play off the ball. Rick Adelman has erotic dreams about Jerryd Bayless. Basically, on potential, Bayless figures to be a better Bibby. Petrie traded for Bibby in the midst of a title surge and paid him $2.4 billion. You think he wouldn't want to snap up the Heir Apparent.
  • The talent at #12 is a bit frightful. I love Russell Westbrook, and I love Anthony Randolph. I fear neither will be around at #12, when all this pre-draft stuff shakes out. Nothing against JaVale McGee (intriguing), Donte Green (exciting), D.J. Augustin (solid). We, of course, have no clue what Petrie's thinking about all these guys and the dozen other whom could slide (either way) into this range. I imagine, like us, he likes Westbrook and Randolph (as I think we tend to like those guys in part because they remind of players we assume Petrie likes, if that's convoluted enough for you). Last year, Petrie watched the player he coveted, Joakim Noah, get snapped up one pick early. If Petrie sticks at #12, and he has a favorite or two, will his fingernails survive the first 11 picks? Is he willing to risk it again?

Do the Sonics have motive to trade down? Well, we know Sam Presti loves assets. Assets, assets, assets. He has 13 picks over the next three drafts. He pawned off Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West for low picks and expiring contracts. He seems to be biding his time, possibly under a mandate to cost cuts until the move to OKC has been completed. Most figure the big splash isn't coming this summer, especially considering it looks 50/50 on whether the team will be forced to play in Seattle next year.

That's more background than motive. Motive will depend on what has been offered. certainly, the #12 pick would have to be involved -- Presti isn't trading out of a top-5 pick for anything short of Kevin Martin, I'd think. But what else would the Sonics need to back out of #4? Let's look at the precedent, starting with the last lottery trade Presti was involved in.

2007 - Sonics trade Ray Allen and the #35 pick (Glen Davis) to Celtics for the #5 pick (Jeff Green), Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West.

This is a tough trade to take much away from, given the motives of the teams. Seattle wanted to get out of Allen's contract to clear the way for Durant. Boston needed a second All-Star to put next to Paul Pierce. Szczerbiak's value was low (given his contract) and West's sat in the middle range (cheap, but unspecial). If you assume Davis and West cancel each other out from a value perspective (#35 in a deep draft isn't something to shrug off), you're left with Allen, a 32-year-old multiple-time All-Star who makes a ton of money, for the #5 and an overpaid borderline starter. There's a sort-of baseline.

2007 - Bobcats trade #8 pick (Brandan Wright) to Bobcats for Jason Richardson and the #36 pick (Jermareo Davidson).

Another example of a team moving out of the first round for a borderline All-Star. Again, the #36 pick in a deep draft is too much to shrug off, especially considering the Warriors also controlled the #46 pick (Stephane Lasme). Richardson was expensive, which was an important consideration for Golden State but not likely important for Charlotte (who sat under the cap and in desperate need of a scorer). Golden State still looks like a huge winner in this trade, though Charlotte hasn't necessarily lost (they had a need at two-guard, and the next two-guard went #15 [Stuckey] or #16 [Nick Young], depending on perspective -- Durant was the only lottery-worthy two-guard by conventional wisdom).

2006 - Blazers trade #7 pick (Randy Foye) to Wolves for #6 pick (Brandon Roy).

Yes, the Blazers moved up one spot at the cost of nothing. The Wolves had a deal to get Foye from Memphis at #8 (with a minor sweetener, reportedly) in exchange for Roy. Kevin Pritchard stepped in, snapped up Foye, and held him ransom for Roy straight up. Pritchard got Roy straight up. Kevin McHale still has a job.

2006 - Blazers trade Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff's Massive But Not Yet Expiring Contract, and a future second to Celtics for Raef LaFrentz's Massive Contract, Dan Dickau, and the #7 pick (Randy Foye).

Boston gave up their #7 pick for one season of cap relief (Ratliff versus LaFrentz), a highly questionable point guard (the equivalent of Acie Law or Nate Robinson in value at this point), and a future second. There's no telling what Boston really thought of Telfair at the time, so it's hard to gauge how important the cap relief (which would have been expressed as $24 million saved [luxury tax included] in 2008-09 had Ratliff not subsequently been traded). Of course, there's also the possibility reigning executive of the year Danny Ainge knew time was ticking and valued the contract with one less year even more highly as a potential cornerstone of a major deal. That, however, is pure assumption.

2006 - Blazers trade Viktor Khyrapa and #4 pick (Tyrus Thomas) to Bulls for #2 pick (Lamarcus Aldridge) and conditional 2007 second (which was rolled over to 2008).

A fairly serious swap, such as the one we're contemplating. However, the Bulls wanted Thomas and were just trying to get something extra with him considering most believed he'd survive the #3 pick (which Charlotte inexplicably spent on Adam Morrison). Portland seems more the opportunist than aggressor in this particular trade (as opposed to the Minnesota/Portland deal). Moving up two spots in the high lottery cost a marginal edge-of-the-rotation player with some potential.

2006 - Grizzlies trade Shane Battier to Rockets for Stromile Swift and the #8 pick (Rudy Gay).

Battier seems heavily valued by Darryl Morey, more valued than he'd be to you or I in June 2006. (Turns out Morey was right; Battier's vital.) Swift exists as contract dollars wasted in Houston, so it's a favor of Memphis to take him back. However, he's also required per the CBA and trade rules. There weren't many other options for Memphis but Swift. Houston clearly seems like the aggressor in this trade, valuing a strong defensive role player over the #8 (who ended up taking two years to develop). However, both sides (by virtue of Swift's bad contract) admit the #8 is more valuable than Battier, which leaves this murky.

2005 - Jazz trade #6 pick (Martell Webster), #27 pick (Linas Kleiza) and a future first (which I've lost track of) to Blazers for #3 pick (Deron Williams).

This is the closest scenario we've gotten to our own. Note that this trade happened before draft day ... a couple days before. Most folks (and certainly these two GMs) knew Bogut and Marvin Williams would be going 1-2. Utah really wanted Deron, and Portland really needed to begin stocking the cupboards. (And if memory serves, they really liked Webster). Conventional wisdom says Portland got hosed, and the franchise was in quite the precarious position, so this would seem to represent the upper limit of optimism.

So what are the findings we can take from this?

  1. High lottery picks (Portland in 2005, Chicago in 2006) typically only get traded for other lottery picks.
  2. Cap space has been important to Sam Presti.
  3. We have no idea what the #12 pick is worth.

Can we save Presti some cap space? Well, Presti's already lost most of his bad contracts. He'd like to shed Earl Watson and/or Luke Ridnour, surely. Watson is owed $12.8 million through 2010; Ridnour's owed $13 million through 2010. Donyell Marshall might be a candidate for inclusion, though he expires next season ($5.9 million). But the Kings have almost no one in exchange for Watson or Ridnour in which Seattle would save money, unless you include Shelden Williams.

Here's what I think might get you in the door with Seattle:

#12 pick, #42 pick, Shelden Williams, Francisco Garcia, and a conditional future first for the #4 pick and Earl Watson.

(It doesn't work on the trade machine, but would on July 1.)

It's not clear to me Seattle would pull the trigger on this. In fact, it's pretty clear they would not. But it's the only thing which works. Unless you can convince McHale that he can't live without Brad Miller, or Presti that Garcia is the futhamuckin' truth, or you pray Minnesota and Seattle pass him up and you find a way to work with Memphis at #5, it seems there's no chance Bayless ends up in a Kings jersey.

Yes, that was just 1,700 words for nothing. Brilliant!