The Missing Piece: Gauging the Value of our First Rounder

Published: December 22, 2012

The New Orleans Hornets currently have  a record of 5-21 and if the NBA lottery were to be held tonight, they would have a 15.6% chance at the #1 overall pick and a 47% shot at a top three pick. But what is a pick like that worth just a third of the way through the season? If Dell Demps and company have done their due diligence and don’t love this upcoming draft or if they just hate the idea of adding another 19 or 20 year old to the youngest team in the NBA, then perhaps they look to move the pick now for a young veteran that can help them expodite this rebuilding process.

To try and figure out what kind of value such a pick would have on the trade market, we can look back to deals in the last few seasons that were somewhat similar. The first one that comes to mind for most people would be the Nets deal for Gerald Wallace at the trade deadline last season. The Nets were sitting at 15-29 at the time, with the sixth worst record in the league when they made the move. Wallace was four months shy of his 30th birthday at the time, on the last year of his deal (declined P.O. for following year), and was having his worst season in six years at the time the Nets traded for him. His numbers were solid  but not spectacular, as he posted a PER of 15.9 and put up 13.3 points with 6.6 rebounds that year in Portland. When all was said and done, the Nets got a solid starter who helped them keep Deron Williams, which in turn has helped them become a likely playoff team this year, while the Blazers got Damian Lillard with the pick. Practicaly the definition of a win-win.

Going back a little further, the Nets traded a sure fire lottery pick just a year earlier in a deal that landed them superstar Deron Williams. They gave up a young stud in Derrick Favors, along with a pick that at the time was slated for top three, a starting point guard in Devin Harris, and another future 1st rounder (from GS) for a guy who was arguably a top-10 NBA player. The Nets pick turned out to be #3 that year and with it the Jazz took Enes Kanter. The second first-rounder will likely go to Utah this year, as it is top six protected and Golden State is playing good basketball.

The final trade we can look at is Toronto’s offseason swap of its first rounder for Kyle Lowry. The pick is top three protected and would only go to Houston if it was in the lottery, ensuring that the Rockets would get a pick between 4 and 14. The pick has since been traded to OKC as a major piece of the package that landed James Harden.With regard to the type of player that the pick secured, Lowry was coming off a season where he average 14.3 points, 6.6 assists, and 4.6 rebounds in just over 32 minutes per game. He was 26 at the time of the trade and had a fantastic contract, with two years and just under $12 million left on the deal.

So now that we have some recent examples of what a sure-fire lottery pick could fetch, let’s take a look at some guys around the league if they decide to sell their pick before the trade deadline.

Kyle Lowry, PG, Toronto Raptors

How ironic would this be after Toronto just gave their pick up for him a couple of months ago? The fact is, however, that the Raptors are a .500 team when Jose Calderon starts and their head coach Dwayne Casey has flat out said that he won’t commit to either guy as his starter right now. The Raptors could look to move Lowry, especially if they can get a couple of pieces at positions that can help them win now.

The Deal (Cavs get Hornets pick)

The Raptors get a great backup PG in Vasquez and perhaps the best center in the Eastern Conference right now in Anderson Varejao while the Cavs get a guy in Ed Davis who has taken off recently plus a potential top three pick from the Hornets for a 30 year old center who likely won’t be around when this young team finally develops into a contender. Plus, they get to become even worse, which means that their own pick could land at #1. Potential for two top five picks this year to add to their young core. Meanwhile the Hornets upgrade from Vasquez to Lowry, improving their perimeter defense immensely while still having nearly $15 million in the offseason to go after a small forward this summer.

Eric Bledsoe, PG, Los Angeles Clippers

Bledsoe might be the most sought after commodity on the market right now, as teams see a 23-year old point guard oozing with potential on both ends of the court. Bledsoe is currently #2 in PER among point guards and he ranks first in the entire league in steal percentage. Combine that with the fact that he is only in year three of a five year rookie scale contract, and you can see why it is going to take quite a haul to land him.

The Deal (Magic get right to swap 1sts w/Hornets)

In this trade, the Hornets give the Magic the right to swap first rounders in 2013. If the Magic actually finish with a better pick and do not swap, they get the Hornets pick in 2014. This deal gets the Clippers a guard to replace Bledsoe, along with two guys playing the best basketball of their career to back up Blake and DeAndre Jordan. Meanwhile, the Magic add more picks to aid in their rebuild. The Hornets meanwhile, solidify their backcourt and would go into free agency with almost 19 million dollars to spend on a small forward and a 4th big.

Luol Deng, SF, Chicago Bulls

Deng has struggled a bit this season as he has been forced to be the primary scoring option now that Derrick Rose is out. But as a secondary scorer, Deng is fantastic and his leadership and defense are elite. Pairing Deng with Gordon would give the Hornets the best defensive wing duo in the league and his mid-range game would allow for a fantastic kick out option when you put Gordon in the pick and roll and have Davis rim run while Anderson spots up for three.

The Deal (Portland gets Hornets pick)

The Blazers are in the middle of a youth movement, so they swap Aldridge for Taj Gibson, pick up a young center in Lopez to tutor Meyers Leonard, and get the Hornets pick, which could put another big talent next to Lillard. The Bulls, meanwhile, get Derrick Rose an All-Star in his prime to try to compete with Miami and New York. And if they amnesty Boozer this summer, they could have some money to add to an amazing core of Rose, Aldridge, and Noah. Meanwhile, the Hornets add an All-Star small forward who is only 27 and is an elite perimeter defender without giving up anyone from their current core. In this scenario, they would still have a little over 8 million under the cap plus some exceptions next summer to spend on a backup big and a third guard.

Chandler Parsons, SF, Houston Rockets/Thaddeus Young, F, Philadelphia 76ers

Chandler Parsons is a do-it-all kind of player that fills the stat sheet and would give Monty a lot of versitility on the wings. He can hit from deep, rebound at an above average level for his position, and create for others. Thaddeus Young, meanwhile, is an extremely talented combo forward who is somewhat misused in Philadelphia. He offers similar rebounding to Aminu, but his on-ball and rotation defense is fantastic and his offense has improved every year he has been in the league. One or both of these guys would drastically improve the Hornets perimeter offense and defense.

The Deal  (Houston gets Hornets pick, Philly gets Houston’s pick)

The Rockets have been in love with Bynum for years, and if they believe that they can re-sign him, they make this deal to set up a tremendous core for the long run. Meanwhile, the 76ers sell on Bynum rather than risk getting nothing for him and they give the difficult decision of whether or not to give him max money to the Rockets. Their GM Daryl Morey is not afraid to take a big risk if he loves a player, so it works out perfectly. Meanwhile, Philly gets two centers who can help them now, along with a mid-first rounder. The Hornets solidify the three and four position with this move, as Parsons and Young can split the minutes at three, while Young also gets minutes at 4, giving the backup five minutes to Jason Smith and the steadily improving Greg Smith. And since Parsons contract is so great, the Hornets would still have over 11 million in cap space next summer to add depth to what would be an already solid roster.

 The Missing Piece is a weekly feature that you can find every Saturday, only on For past installments, click here.


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