The top pick in the NBA draft hasn’t been traded in two decades — elite talent wins in this league and you get that by being bad, winning the lottery and drafting it.
But there is no elite talent in this year’s draft class. So….
It’s been said by people around the league for a while that if a No. 1 pick were going to trade hands this would be the year. And the Cavaliers are going to explore it at least, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.
“You want to look at all your options and make the best decision for your team,” Cavs general manager Chris Grant said. “This is a valuable asset that we can add to the group, whether it’s in trade or keep it and add a player.”
The Cavs are in a favorable position to make a deal. The team has more than $20 million in salary cap space, the No. 1 pick plus the No. 19, No. 31 and No. 33 picks, and a roster with young prospects that could be used in a deal.
The Cavaliers want to be a playoff team next year — even owner Dan Gilbert’s lucky charm son Nick Gilbert said so up on stage at the draft lottery. The likely No. 1 pick for them this draft would be Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel — a player who will not be back until Christmas with a torn ACL and is a couple of years away from really meaningful contributions anyway. He doesn’t really help you make the playoffs next year.
But for another team Noel can be a good fit — especially one already thinking about losing a lot of games next season and being high in next year’s lottery and draft where there will be franchise changers like Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle. Noel would fit nicely with them in a few years. But you’d have to give up a quality asset (likely a big man or a slashing forward) who could help the Cavaliers with their short-term goals.
It probably still will not happen. It’s not likely a GM is going to surrender much to get the top pick in this draft, so the trend will continue and the Cavaliers will take Noel and think long term (then use that cap space to get the players they want for next season).
But it’s something to watch. For the first time since it happened to Chris Webber was drafted by the Magic and traded that night to Golden State, the top pick in the draft could be on the move.