Tenth Pick Tournament Finals: Damian Lillard vs. Trade Up

Published: June 26, 2012

Sixteen have been widdled down to just two as Damian Lillard faces off against the option of Trading Up in the Tenth Pick Tournament

Damian Lillard

(by Mason Ginsberg)

Note: Just a reminder to make your decision about Lillard based on the assumption that he will be available when the Hornets select at pick #10, even if you think he might not be.

“Trade Up” is Lillard’s finals matchup? Seriously? I’ll get into my final Lillard case in a second, but I mean come on, we can use elementary school math to determine the champion already! I know all of you remember the transitive property, right? Well, let’s rewind to the first two rounds of the tourney:

In this quadrant of the bracket, Lillard breezed by Trade for Vet in the opening round and then smoked Kendall Marshall in the second round, winning by triple digit votes each time. Trade up couldn’t even get past Marshall in the first round! Now, this silly “trade up” notion, which is purely hypothetical and in no way a guarantee to work out, is somehow facing Lillard in the finals? Give me a break. Simply put: if Marshall > Trade up and Lillard > Marshall, how could Trade Up > Lillard possibly be accurate? Answer: it isn’t.

Just in case you’re not sold on that basic math, also note the inherent uncertainty surrounding the notion of “trading up.” Instead of choosing for the Hornets to select a player, you would be supporting an idea with no defined result. How can a hypothetical trade proposal that may not even come to pass win this tournament? Mike may suggest a certain trade, but the reality is that you wouldn’t be voting for whatever trade he proposes, only for the undefined idea of trading up in the draft. Are you really comfortable with voting in favor of a trade about which we currently know nothing? For instance, pretend you are voting for your favorite flavor of ice cream. One is a flavor that you enjoy, and the other is hidden. If you enjoy option A, why take a chance on choosing option B when, for all you know, option B could taste terrible? Well, that’s what you’d be doing if you vote for an unknown trade up over a fantastic prospect in Damian Lillard.

Now that the lunacy surrounding “trade up” has been accounted for, let’s recap all of the reasons that Lillard has shot up every NBA team’s draft board over the past few months, and also why he is the perfect third piece to go along with Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis.

Round 1 (victory over “Trade for Vet”)

  1. Lillard is easily the top PG in this year’s draft class and is projected to be a top-10 pick by every single major draft analysis website.
  2. He is a hard worker with a great work ethic and great stamina
  3. He is a great shooter with excellent range
  4. He has above-average wingspan for his 6’2″ height and has great lateral quickness, both instrumental assets on defense, where he has the tools to fit right into Coach Monty Williams’ defense-first game plan

Round 2 (victory over Kendall Marshall)

  1. Despite opponents consistently devising game plans focused solely on stopping him, Lillard was still able not only to succeed, but to do so while producing some of the best and most efficient numbers in all of college basketball.
  2. Against the top NCAA tourney seed that Weber State played this past season – 7th seeded Saint Mary’s – Lillard scored an incredible 36 points on 18 shots, playing 36 of his team’s 40 minutes, and at one point scored 21 straight points for the Wildcats.
  3. Out of all all college players from 2009-10 through 2011-12, only three finished seasons with a PER over 33.5 and a true shooting percentage over 60% – Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried (3rd place in 2011-12 NBA ROY voting), and Lillard.
  4.  Out of all guards with usage rates of at least 30% and turnover rates under 12%, none had a higher player efficiency rating than Damian Lillard (34.0).

Semi-Finals (victory over Austin Rivers)

  1. With Lillard as Eric Gordon’s backcourt mate, the Hornets would have another perimeter scoring threat to divert defensive attention away from Gordon.
  2. In the pick and roll game, Lillard’s ability to smoothly pull up off the dribble from deep range makes it difficult for his defenders to go underneath the screen, while his burst off the dribble allows him to turn the corner quickly and get into the paint.
  3. Combine that last point with the fact that he’ll be running said pick and rolls with Anthony Davis, and you have a virtually unstoppable offensive play on your hands.
  4. Lillard shot 89% from the free throw line and 41% from the 3-point line, both excellent indicators of future shooting success.

There you have it, folks. When it comes to voting for a known vs. an unknown, the smart move is almost always going with the former; in this particular situation, that known happens to be a future stud point guard in Damian Lillard, which makes this decision potentially the easiest one you’ll have made throughout this entire tournament.


Trade Up

(By: Michael McNamara)

For me, this is a simple case of supply and demand. The fact is that this Hornets roster has been cleared out and is going to be built around a foundation of Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon, leaving three positions that need to be filled- a big, a small forward, and a guard who can compliment Gordon. It should be the Hornets goal to leave this draft with one of those three pieces. I have argued all along that the Hornets will not likely find themselves in this position again- with such a high draft pick in such a good draft class. So, it is imperative that the Hornets take advantage of this opportunity and get not only the best player available, but the most difficult piece to obtain. Harrison Barnes and/or MKG meet both of those criteria.

I don’t think I will get much argument from 90% of you that Lillard is the third best prospect of these three, and that if somehow all three were available at ten, you would want the Hornets to take one of the two guys not named Lillard. So, then what I must do is convince you that: a) It is possible to move up to get one of those two guys and b) the price of getting the better prospect is worth it in the grand scheme.

First, let me simplify the trade that I am proposing. I am targeting one team and one team only, Sacramento and their fifth pick. Some of the latest mocks have MKG available at number 5, while the majority of the others have Barnes. Either way, I want that pick and I will be willing to sacrifice in order to get it. The trade is as follows:

Al Farouq Aminu, Gustavo Ayon, and #10 for #5 and Francisco Garcia’s expiring contract (If it is MKG who is still on the board, I would even be willing to throw in a top 7 protected future first-rounder)

Sacramento has been working out prospects all week that are projected to go at the end of the lottery, and in this case they get one of those players plus a small forward that could potentially start for them and an intelligent big man to help balance out their roster. I know most readers don’t want to give up “all that”, but I live in a world in which in takes two teams to say yes to a trade. You gotta give to get.

Before I get to the poor argument that this is a ‘3-for-1’ trade, let me first address why I think it is so imperative that we pursue a small forward over a point guard in this draft. Below is the list of the top ten point guards set to hit the free agent market either this year or next:

1.) Chris Paul

2.) Deron Williams

3.) Steph Curry

4.) Brandon Jennings

5.) Jrue Holiday

6.) Ty Lawson

7.) Goran Dragic

8.) George Hill

9.) Darren Collison

10.) Jameer Nelson

Honorable Mention: Devin Harris, Jose Calderon, Steve Nash, Andre Miller, Chauncey Billups, Aaron Brooks, Jeff Teague, Eric Maynor

Now, let me show you the list of the top 10 available small forwards this summer and next:

1.) Nic Batum

2.) Jeff Green

3.) Dorrell Wright

4.) Grant Hill

5.) James Jones

6.) Kyle Korver

7.) Omri Casspi

8.) Donte Greene

9.)  Jeremy Evans

10.) Andres Nocioni

Honorable Mention: Numbers 2-10 should have been the honorable mention. Yuck!

I am not exaggerating just to win this debate. These are seriously the best small forwards on the market this year and next. Remember what I said about supply and demand? The Hornets will be able to fill that point guard position one way or the other. In addition to all those free agents, you have another point guard demanding a trade (Kyle Lowry) over in Houston. What is the urgency with Lillard? Why is everybody clamouring to get an unproven small school kid that struggled against big conference schools, when the league is literally overflowing with point guards. Relax, we’ll get our point guard. A point guard is fruit cake on Christmas Eve, while a small forward is TIckle-Me-Elmo. You get the impossible to find first and pick up the overstocked later.

As for what we give up, yes on paper it is initially a 3-for-1 trade, but these trades are not made in a vaccuum, away from all other acquisitions. Demps will get two other players to take the spot of two guys with limited ceilings. He has shown that he could do that- he can take Craig Brackens and cash from the Knicks and turn that into J-Smitty and Gustavo. He will always be able to replenish our bench with quality finds who Monty develops.

What he can’t just whip up out of thin air is elite talent, so he has to take every opportunity like this one and fully maximixe it, because who knows if he will ever get this chance again. We all get attached to role players because we sit through 82 (or 66) miserable games and watch them put their best foot forward for our favorite team, but you have to be objective here and admit to yourself that they are just role players who are more than capable of being replaced. Other teams have these guys and you don’t value them because they are not on your favorite team. You would burst out loud laughing if you heard a Wizard fan say they “didn’t want to give up Trevor Booker” to get a star. Or if a Warriors fan didn’t want to give up Jeremy Tyler because of his potential.

Be objective. Come to terms with who Ayon and Aminu really are. Then look at that list of point guards and small forwards available again. Then, evaluate MKG or Barnes vs. Lillard. When you do that, you will come to the same conclusion I did- the Hornets have to do whatever it takes to trade up and grab one of these future studs at number five. Point guard can wait.

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