Rookies are rarely good. As far as short-term planning, NBA teams generally shouldn’t overreact to whom they draft.
But there are so many borderline decisions each offseason. A draft pick could tilt the scales just enough to the change the outcome, turning a 45% decision into a 55% decision.
Here are nine NBA veterans who appear more likely to change teams as a result of last night’s draft:
John Collins (Hawks)
Atlanta was already pushing the limit of building-block bigs with Collins and Clint Capela. Now, the Hawks add No. 6 pick Onyeka Okongwu, a center/power forward from USC.
Collins is probably the odd man out.
He’s seeking a big contract extension, and Atlanta was reportedly hesitant even before picking Okongwu. Trading for Capela just before the last trade deadline and drafting Okongwu look like preparation for trading Collins.
Though Okongwu is injured – a big deal considering training camp is right around the corner – the Hawks even already have Dewayne Dedmon to provide immediate depth at center.
Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, Lonzo Ball (Pelicans)
Who knows how much New Orleans wanted Bledsoe and Hill in the first place. They might have been just matching salary in the Jrue Holiday trade, which was primarily about securing a haul of draft consideration.
Lonzo Ball, who’ll be eligible for a contract extension this offseason, has shown signs of discontent with the Pelicans. He just hired Rich Paul as his agent, which doesn’t necessarily mean he wants out. Paul could negotiate an extension. But so could any agent. Ball knows Paul is the guy to hire when you want to leave New Orleans.
No. 13 pick Kira Lewis only adds to the crowd at point guard, making it less tenable to give everyone enough minutes to keep them even temporarily happy.
Malik Beasley (Timberwolves)
The Timberwolves’ core is comprised of only Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell – and maybe Anthony Edwards. The No. 1 pick would almost always be a centerpiece. But in this draft, Edwards might have just been the most appealing supporting piece available.
Definitely not part of Minnesota’s inner core: Beasley. The Timberwolves drafting another shooting guard No. 1 saw to that.
Minnesota could still keep Beasley in restricted free agency. He played awesomely down the stretch following a trade just before the deadline.
But with Edwards atop the Timberwolves’ priority chart at shooting guard, it’d be easier to let Beasley leave.
Beasley reportedly rejected a three-year, $30 million contract extension from the Nuggets. And that was before he took off with Minnesota. And before he faced legal issues. Beasley’s situation is now complicated.
Edwards’ is simple. He’s the No. 1 pick and Timberwolves’ preeminent consideration at shooting guard.
Devonte' Graham and Terry Rozier (Hornets)
The Hornets now have an identity: LaMelo Ball.
He was the biggest name and arguably best prospect in the draft, and Charlotte got him at No. 3. Instantly, the Hornets are building around the high-upside point guard.
Where does that leave Graham and Rozier?
Rozier wants to be a starting point guard, and it appeared he’d get the job when joining Charlotte in free agency last year. But Graham came out of nowhere to supplant him. The Hornets used enough two-point guard lineups to get by. Their backcourt was their strength, which isn’t saying much but isn’t nothing, either.
Charlotte won’t necessarily act quickly. Rozier has two more seasons on his contract, and Graham is eligible for an extension that – even at the highest-allowed amount – would be team-friendly. The Hornets tend to get paralyzed when faced with difficult franchise-altering decisions. There also might be benefits to not genuflecting to Ball.
Joe Harris (Nets)
Brooklyn could very well still re-sign Joe Harris in free agency. But the Nets just traded the No. 19 pick for another shooting guard in Landry Shamet.
Do they know something about Harris’ intent to leave? Do they prefer the cheaper Shamet and plan to let Harris walk?
Or are they just preparing in case Harris leaves?
You can never have too much 3-point shooting. Harris and Shamet could both provide floor spacing/efficient shooting around Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (and maybe James Harden).
But this trade at least raises antennas about the possibility of Harris signing elsewhere.
Aron Baynes (Suns)
By completing the Chris Paul trade before free agency opened, Phoenix forewent about $16 million of cap space and the $4,767,000 room exception.
Instead, the Suns will have the mid-level exception ($9,258,000), bi-annual exception ($3,623,000) and ability to exceed the salary cap to re-sign Dario Saric and Baynes through Bird Rights.
So, obviously there’s more imperative on keeping Saric and Baynes. Except it appears Baynes could depart.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:
Whoa Jalen Smith is interesting for the Suns. NBA execs fully expect Aron Baynes to leave Phoenix (with New Orleans as a distinct possibility) so Smith can fill that stretch-5 role. I fully expect Monty Williams to use some double-big lineups too. Smith can stroke 3s like a wing. https://t.co/GwBxQiWtJR
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) November 19, 2020
Drafting Jalen Smith, a stretch big from Maryland, No. 10 only reinforces that perception.
D.J. Augustin (Magic)
Jonathan Isaac‘s season-ending injury could change priorities in Orlando. The Magic might be more content to take a step back next season.
Orlando is invested in Markelle Fultz at point guard, and Augustin provided a safety net at the position. But if willing to accept losing, why pay to keep a 33-year-old Augustin in free agency? Why not just hand the reins to Fultz?
That call gets easier with No. 15 pick Cole Anthony prepared to slide in behind Fultz.
De'Anthony Melton (Grizzlies)
Melton will be a highly intriguing restricted free agent. Another team could try to poach him with a big offer sheet.
Again, few rookies contribute positively. The last pick in the first round generally can’t be expected to do so. But No. 30 pick Desmond Bane is already 22. He’s sturdy with a good feel for the game. Though his ceiling is fairly low, he profiles as someone more likely to contribute early (which is not to say likely).
Bane would make it just a little easier not to match an offer sheet. (Or Memphis could easily keep both.)
If Memphis lets Melton leave and Bane proves unready for rotation minutes, Grayson Allen would provide a fallback.