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.


  1. Ben

    December 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

    I’m starting to really want Bledsoe. These are the playoff odds It gives the Bucks a 74% chance at making the playoffs (yes there are problems as it gives the Clippers almost a 3x better chance at winning the title than the Heat). The Bucks are looking at a 7 or 8 seed and if they can win 2 games in that series, Jennings will probably stay. And plus we could probably resign Bledsoe for under 8 million whereas we’d have to pay Jennings over 10.

  2. Snow

    December 22, 2012 at 9:33 am

    I have a question, if we do end up trading for lets say Bledsoe and get rid of Lopez, do you think we’ll pick up another center via Free Agency, by trading, or just have Smith/Davis playing C?

    • Michael McNamara

      December 22, 2012 at 10:19 am

      Well I think Davis is a center by next season. Monty even hinted at this during the week when he said that he wants to play Anderson and Davis together more because they will be the eventual starters at the 4 and 5.

      Smith can play some backup 5, but ideally I think you get a guy who can give you 10-15 minutes at the position and let Smith play mostly four off the bench. Guys who could do that and should be cheap this summer include: T. Mozgov, Z. Pachulia, Aaron Gray, Nazr Muhammad, Johan Petro, etc.

      • Snow

        December 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm


  3. gutta

    December 22, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Eric Bledsoe was supposed to be in the cp3 deal but he was injured at the time. You can’t trade injured players. I think we need an elite pg. Vasquez does not keep to the plays. He slows down the fastbreak. He has a hard time getting Anthony Davis involved.

  4. Mickey Chatman

    December 22, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Love the trade for parsons. I can see next season a lineup for the swamp dogs

    • MZURK

      December 26, 2012 at 1:48 am

      Would be pretty risky without a point guard.

  5. jar

    December 22, 2012 at 11:24 am

    I don’t like the fact we would be giving up our first round pick unless we get a really good player back in return.

  6. Mike P

    December 22, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I like every single one of these trades. I don’t want to become the Sacramento Kings. Bring in another vet who can play. It’s so hard to look at some of the athletes in this draft and say that, but I don’t think we need more young guys.

    In regards to Lopez, who is involved in many of these trades..

    I believe Jeff Withey, who is currently 25 and 30 on the NBA Draft sites I use, would be a nice long-term backup center. More athletic than Lopez, and an awesome shot-blocker. Would be nice if we could find a way to grab him, but you don’t break the bank for a backup, so just a thought

  7. Jordan J.

    December 22, 2012 at 12:02 pm

  8. Snow

    December 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    I wish we could pull off both the Young/Parsons and Bledsoe trades! That would help us out so much. Young is definitely underrated. I’m a big fan of his

  9. JayDogon

    December 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Yeah, I feel like the draft pick would be overrated on this team because we need either another “young vet” or just a veteran who can actually be a starter/solid contributor. Remember the Wizards looked like they could be a team on the rise with a lot of young talents with potential like Wall, Blatche, Mcgee, and Nick Young but it never materialized because they were all feeding off each other’s goofiness and it became an inmates running the asylum kinda deal. I like all of them but I think I’d do either the Deng or Lowry deal. It’s hard to choose between those 2. I’ll say Lowry because I think the SF free agent market will be better than the PG market will.

  10. Ken

    December 22, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    OKC never went for the quick fix and was patient and it paid off. So there is an argument for using the pick. No way would I trade for Lowry. He never led Houston to the playoffs as the starting point guard and he would be too old. Parsons and Young are good players but are they really going to make the Hornets an elite team? The elite teams tend to have two stars. Since Gordon at this point is unpredictable, I think we should use the pick since it is likely to be top five and try to obtain another star.

    • Michael McNamara

      December 22, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      To be fair, you named one of the only teams that formula has worked for. I can name you two dozen that were bad year after year, just stockpiling picks and continued to stink without ever coming close to the level OKC has reached.

      It is a formula that fails far more often than it succeeds, and have others have pointed out- nobody has ever won a title doing it that way, not even OKC.

      Look at Duncan’s success with the Spurs. He has never been in the lottery. He won early because he had vets around him who had been there before in Avery, Elliot, and Robinson. Then when those guys got old, he knew how to tin big in this league and he showed that to Manu and Parker. There was a culture of winning there and that team kept winning because of it.

      The losing big in order to eventually win is not the formula. It sounds great on paper, and everyone points to OKC, but that is the exception, not the norm.

      • MidwestAl

        December 23, 2012 at 5:10 am

        We already have enough young, productive veterans to avoid the Wizards dilemma that you bring up.

        Gordon, Vasquez, Anderson, Lopez, Smiht are all young veterans who would provide talent and stability.

        Davis and Rivers (while young) are both very mature for their age and are going to be pseudo-veterans next year.

        There is absolutely NO issue keeping the pick and adding a young top 3 talent from this year’s draft. We need to stay the course and continue a slow rebuild. If we trade ANY asset it should be Eric Gordon to clear that nightmare of a risk off of our books.

      • 504ever

        December 24, 2012 at 8:15 am


        To be fair, most “formulas” fail if the goal is winning an NBA Championship. The exception, being in such a big market you can buy an NBA Championship, isn’t an option for the Hornets.

        But I think I am most bothered by your mischaracterization of Ken’s post as “losing big in order to eventually win” and then calling it a formula. Ken advocated two things: keeping the pick and/or trading it for a star (a higher quality player than listed here). Maybe the pick isn’t worth a star. Maybe it ends up being the 1st pick and can be traded for a star. (We don’t know yet.)

        Also, with our cap space available starting in the summer of 2013, we aren’t “losing big to eventually win”. We are losing big until we have cap space (and another likely high draft pick) to compete. We are a quality starting PG and SF (and possibly SG, depending on how you view Gordon) away from being a playoff caliber team. You yourself wrote a great article about possible summer pickups at PG and SF for reasonable money who would be quality starting players. Ken seems to be more with that program, which is a defendable option.

      • Michael McNamara

        December 24, 2012 at 8:51 am

        Fair enough, maybe I misunderstood his plan.

        I know there are dozens of ways to do this (a rebuild) and I try to look at all of them in this Missing Piece series, but the one I have the hardest time believing in personally is adding another top 5 pick this summer and looking at him as a future star that will help the process.

        With regard to the money in free agency, this is where I believe trading the pick now helps as well. I think you are able to attract a higher caliber player if the Hornets were to get Lowry or Deng this year and play .550-.600 ball for the remainder of the season.

        Regardless, I still think the Hornets are in a better position long term than most because of Davis and Anderson, but how they play it these next 8 months will determine what level of contenders they are in the future. Can’t wait to see which road they take

      • mateor

        December 24, 2012 at 3:01 pm

        I don’t know why you feel this way. Sure, it hasn’t worked out for the Wiz or the Kings. But thosemrganizations are in trouble from top to bottom, with zero useful veteran pieces or salary flexibility.

        Jordan and pippen were both top five. Bird, McHale were top five with parrish no.8. Magic and worthy were both first overall two years apart. Ralph sampson, Hakeem and Rodney McCray all top three within a two year span. And of course, OKC.

        All of these player were drafted by the team they got famous with. Two top five picks in a short span works out, especially with an additional top ten pick in the mix. Add Anderson, whatever we get out of EG, and max money together, and the world is ours.

      • Michael McNamara

        December 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm

        First of all, you need to go back 25-30 years for some of those examples. Secondly, some of your facts are just plain wrong.

        Pippen was taken in the mid-first round.

        Celtics and Lakers got most of those top picks through sheer stupidity by other teams giving them unprotected 1sts- they were not bad teams that earned those picks. Lakers were a top flight team when they got Magic and then later Worthy, hence the title in Magic’s 1st year.

        Celtics got Parish and McHale via stupid trades by other teams. They did exactly what I propose here- they traded a #1 overall pick in a package that got them four-year veteran Robert Parish and a later pick, which they used to get McHale.

        The OKC blueprint is still the exception, not the norm IMO. Sacto has multiple top 5 picks and they are garbage. Cleveland has three on their roster and they are a bottom three team in the league. Washington has a couple and they are hot garbage and so on and so forth.

        Meanwhile, you look at a team like Golden State who has a couple of top-10 picks in Curry and Barnes, coupled with veteran acquisitions in Lee, Jack, and Landry and they are finally getting back to respectability because the young guys dont have to put so much on their shoulders.

        I understand wanting to believe in the Thunder model, but if you stand back and go team by team objectively, you see that older players win in this league and for every OKC, there are 6-10 times as many teams that tried to go that route but it doesn’t work out because there is no culture there and no vets there to show them how to play the right way.

        The team that embodies this more than any and the one I always think back to are the early 90’s Mavs, who took Jason Kidd, Jamal Mashburn, and Jimmy Jackson in the top 5 and even though they had all the talent in the world, they never put it together because there was no veteran presence, no leadership. I agree that a guy like Shabazz Muhammad has a much higher ceiling than a guy like Luol Deng, but Deng makes Davis, Rivers, Gordon, and Anderson all better players, Muhammad does not, and that is why I want a veteran over a 19 year old.

      • mateor

        December 24, 2012 at 9:16 pm

        Nope. Pippen was fifth overall. And who cares how those teams got the picks? All I am saying is that several top ten picks over a few years is historically a fine blueprint. To say it isn’t just because of the Kings and Wiz is discounting history.

        And to discount it because of it being 25 years old is disengenuous as well. Those teams won 90% of the available championships between 80 and 2000. We can’t use too much of the data from the last decade because those players haven’t vested yet. I will cede you the early part of the decade with Shaw and Kobe, but until then, championships were built on the backs of multiple years of top five or top-ten picks that were home grown talent.

      • mateor

        December 24, 2012 at 9:21 pm

        I just want to add that I don’t want all rooks here. But I don’t think davis and rivers is enough. And if you are going into trade a potential top five pick, you better do better than Gerald Wallace.

        I do not particularly believe in the ‘Thunder Model’. You can’t count on drafting that well, that consistently. I get it. But we have money saved and some great vet contracts already. I want to keep our picks, stay away from FA past their prime (28+) and never sign a RFA. Is that too much?

        I think if this team does that and stays healthy, we have a decade of contending starting then year after next.

      • Michael McNamara

        December 24, 2012 at 9:44 pm

        Hey- to each their own. This is exactly why front offices disagree all the time. Each course of action has its pros and cons. Examples when it worked, examples when it failed. No one way is the best formula.

        It’s just personal preference for me as I see where this team is right now. But I will continue to cover the draft prospects with no bias, scouting them thoroughly, an rooting for us to take the best one if we go that route. As of now, I am liking Shabazz, Marcus Smart, Ben McLemore, and Alex Len, but I need to watch more of Anthony Bennett and I think Otto Porter and Alex Poythress can be good picks if our pick is later in the lottery.

        I would stay away from Zeller and would look to trade Noel if he became the hot prospect and we had the #1 pick

      • 504ever

        December 24, 2012 at 11:37 pm

        I agree with to each his own.

        I also want to point out the veteran player you seek may already be on the roster: Eric Gordon. Maybe he will end up being the franchise cornerstone Dell envisioned and lead us to a .500 play in the remaining games. Then we end up signing Jeff Teague and his 16 PER and Chase Budinger as his 17 PER. At that point all we need is a backup SF, and our line-ups look pretty strong.

      • xman20002000

        December 25, 2012 at 3:17 am

        OKC isn’t a model considering the timing of the transaction and move from Seattle, if that is correct.. They restructured dumped veteran players. Then they move to Oklahoma drafting Hardin, Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka… So in reality they drafted well several years ago… Those players aren’t 19 anylonger.. The oldest player is Collison at 32… and the rest young adults.. no kids… Their rookies don’t start…

      • MZURK

        December 26, 2012 at 2:12 am

        I’m with Michael on this one. We actually seem to be regressing with the youth movement, judging by our record at least. The draft is such a crap shoot, and anyway, it’s not like we’re loaded up with draft picks. We only have our single first rounder each year and no 2nd rounders until 2015 I think. If we wanted to build through the draft, we should have stockpiled more draft picks. It’s a bit late to start acquiring them now because we don’t have much of value to use as trade bait.

        As bad as things are right now, I think people don’t even realize just how good things are compared to how they could have been. We completely lucked into the nr. 1 pick and Anthony Davis and got as high as 10 with our second pick only because of unlucky injuries to Minnesota’s top 3 players in the second half of last season. If we had had just normal luck, we probably would have drafted around nr. 4 overall and ended up with somebody like Thomas Robinson or Harrison Barnes as well as a 12 to 16 pick instead of Austin Rivers–promising players to be sure, but let’s face it, without Anthony Davis, we’d probably have trouble competing in the D League. That’s the problem I have with the current youth “plan” and how it has worked out so far.

        It’s only with great luck that we are 5 and 21, and it could have easily been a lot worse.

        Building through the draft always sounds great, but reality can be harsh.

  11. mateor

    December 22, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Patience…we have Anderson and cap room to spend on vets. Keep the picks. Patience. Whenever teams rush rebuilds I think they regret it.

    If you are building off of tyreke Evans and Jimmer, you are going to struggle, pure and simple.

    • chris

      December 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      Except Smart has lost that team and is giving minutes to retread vets and not Evans, Jimmer, or I. Thomas.

      • mateor

        December 24, 2012 at 2:50 pm

        Do you think that he might be right to have lost patience with this wildly miscast ‘franchise’ players?

        Not that smart has a place leading an NBA club either. But he should be playing Isaiah Thomas. I have seen my fill of A.Brooks in his stint at Houston.

    • MZURK

      December 26, 2012 at 2:16 am

      We will need to distribute that cap space among several players. $15 million isn’t that much if you have to divide it up among 5 or 6 players, etc. Unless the Hornets are willing to go significantly over the cap. But I doubt that would be the case.

      Further, some of the cap will be eaten up through salary increases.

  12. Cris

    December 22, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I think Kyle Lowry is probably the most realistic option given that Toronto dont really know what they are doing with the PG position. I see Eric Bledsoe as abit of an insurance policy for the Clips should CP decide to go elsewhere next summer, its probably not likely but I think the Clips may want to have CP wrapped up before trading Bledsoe. Chicago would feel they are still in their championship window, Luol Deng is an important part of that and I dont see him going anywhere.

  13. 504ever

    December 22, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    I don’t like giving 3 starters for 1, and I count the pick as a starter. So the deal for Bledsoe is out for me.

    I still question the value of trading the pick now, versus playing the season out, making other in season trades and trading the pick later (if neccessary) with certainity about who it will be.

  14. mojart

    December 22, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    if we can put a trade that will send us cousins….i know the guy is a headcase right now but if he we can have some personnel here that can make the guy right (monty hoping) this guy is a beast.

    • 504ever

      December 23, 2012 at 5:45 am

      You know Cousins was just “supended indefinitely” by the Kings, after being suspended in November and earlier in December by the NBA????

      On top of that, we don’t need help at C or PF. Bigs are our strength, and we suck everywhere else. So, if anything, we need to trade a big (Lopez?) for a SF, PG or possibly SG (depending on how you view Eric Gordon’s returning).

      • J

        December 23, 2012 at 11:40 pm

        Cousins a good player but he’s a “Lohan” and you don’t want that type of drama on your team.We need a big center and im talking about big body center like Al Jefferson because Lopez is so slim at center if Lopez played in the 80s he would fit because most centers were slim except for Hakeem,Robinson,Eaton and Ewing.

    • xman20002000

      December 25, 2012 at 3:44 am

      I read where Cousins was suspended for a day.. and the Heat are interested in him… What would they give up for him..

  15. J

    December 23, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Them HornAints are going to finsh 32-50 or if theres a mid season trade and a healthy Gordon 40-42

  16. J

    December 23, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    THe 2013 draft is the waekest draft in years I like Cody Zeller poormans Ric Smits and Alex Len poormans Shawn Bradliey

    • MZURK

      December 26, 2012 at 2:17 am

      Yep, that’s the flip side of this past draft being so strong. Next year won’t be that great.

  17. Brandon

    December 24, 2012 at 12:14 am

    I wouldn’t trade a top 5 pick for any of the above mentioned players. The hornets could miss out on a guy like shebazz. None of these players will turn this team into a contender like shebazz could in a few years.

    • Brandon

      December 24, 2012 at 1:00 am

      The only trade that I could get behind is the one for Bledsoe because the hornets would still have a lottery pick from the swap.

  18. xman20002000

    December 25, 2012 at 3:31 am

    We don’t know what Demps has in mind… No one expected to win much this year with kids who should be in college just the league.. I wonder what is going on with Miller… Aminu might play better with EG.. let’s see.. In reality Vasquez changes the offense or is he a shooting guard…

    But the Thunder have a team they got lucky and that front office is pretty smart… Again, getting Hardin, Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka in the draft is also lucky… And to get better we will have to trade players… We can’t get a consistent 10-15 ppgs a game out of our SFs…

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