Count Your Lucky Stars
Why teams should think twice before moving top players for Draft picks.
Trade 5—Year: 2007
Celtics Receive: Kevin Garnett
Timberwolves Receive: Two first-round picks, Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff
At the time this seemed like a really nice package for Minnesota, even though they were giving away their franchise player. Of the players they picked up, only Jefferson really panned out, though, and they ended up trading him to Utah. Green is starting to figure it out this year with the Nets, but only after bouncing around between four teams and playing in the D-League.
As for the picks, they netted the Wolves Jonny Flynn and Nikola Pekovic. Flynn, selected sixth overall in 2009, hardly worked out for them. He had a nice rookie campaign in Minnesota (13.5 points and 4.5 dimes), but fizzled out after that and has struggled to get significant minutes anywhere since. Pekovic, on the other hand, is starting to look like a real player. The Yugoslavian is averaging around 16 points on 55 percent shooting to go along with 9 boards per game in 24 starts this season. He’s hardly the guy anybody thought would succeed, but Pek has pleasantly been giving a relevant TWolves team great toughness down low this year.
Trade 6—Year: 2007
Celtics Receive: Ray Allen
Sonics Receive: One first-round pick, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West
The move that brought in the second piece of Boston’s Big Three cost them the fifth overall pick of the 2007 Draft, Jeff Green. While Allen has been extremely successful in Boston, Green gets an ‘incomplete’ for his career grade thus far. He proved to be a very useful player in Oklahoma City, but struggled to find his role in Boston after a mid-season trade a year ago and now finds himself recovering from substantial and possibly life-threatening health issues. Hopefully he can come back healthy, and if he does, he’d rank as high as any of the first-round picks mentioned here.
Bobcats Receive: Jason Richardson
Warriors Receive: One first-round pick
It’s easy to picture Richardson as the three-point specialist he’s turned into in Orlando and not much else, but Golden State sent away a star player in this deal. He averaged 16 points, 5 boards, 3 assists, 2.2 threes and more than a steal per game in his last year with the Ws, and was just a year removed from averaging over 23 a game.
In return, the Warriors picked up the eighth pick in the ’07 Draft, Brandan Wright. After averaging 4 points per contest in two of his three seasons with Golden State, he was dealt away to New Jersey for an expiring contract. Simply put, the super-athletic Wright was a bust, though he’s picked up his game a little coming off of Dallas’ bench this season.
Trade 8—Year: 2006
Nuggets Receive: Allen Iverson
76ers Receive: Two first-round picks, Andre Miller and Joe Smith
This was a mid-season deal which saw Philly trade a guy averaging 31.2 points per contest during that season. It was over a fraction of the season (15 games), yes, but The Answer averaged 33 per game the previous year. Suffice to say Denver better have shipped something pretty great to the Sixers in return. Not so much. Miller was definitely a rock solid player with Philadelphia, but hardly replaced AI.
Neither did the picks—sharp-shooter Daequan Cook and Petteri Koponen. Cook’s name is recognizable because of the decent role he’s carved out for himself in OKC, but he’s hardly a difference-maker. As for Koponen, do I really need to get into it?
Trade 9—Year: 2004
Nuggets Receive: Kenyon Martin
Nets Receive: One first-round pick, Vince Carter
Raptors Receive: Two first-round picks, Aaron Williams, Eric Williams and Alonzo Morning
This wasn’t an actual three-way trade, but it might as well have been. The Nets scooped up three first rounders from Denver for K-Mart, then flipped two of them to Toronto in the Carter deal before any were actually used.
How did the picks turn out? Well, Toronto wound up with Joey Graham and Renaldo Balkman for their franchise player while the Nets selected Marcus Williams with the pick they held onto from the Martin trade. Yikes.
Trade 10—Year: 2004
Knicks Receive: Stephon Marbury, Penny Hardaway and Cezary Trybanski
Suns Receive: Two first-round picks, Howard Eisley, Charlie Ward, Antonio McDyess, Maciej Lampe and Draft rights to Milos Vujanic
At the time of the deal, Hardaway, Eisley, Ward and McDyess were all veterans with a little left in the tank. This deal was obviously centered around Marbury and the picks, which turned into Gordon Hayward (yes, all these years later) and Kirk Snyder. The Suns don’t get to reap the benefits of Hayward, having shipped that pick to Utah, while Snyder wasn’t exactly a high-impact player. The pair of picks were traded alongside Tom Gugliotta for Keon Clark and Ben Handlogten in February of 2004. Neither Clark nor Handlogten played in the NBA again after the deal.
Let’s recap. The picks received for Deron Williams, Ron Artest, Jason Kidd, Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Jason Richardson, Allen Iverson, Kenyon Martin, Vince Carter and Stephon Marbury ultimately turned into (in rough order from best to worst)… Ryan Anderson, Nikola Pekovic, Jeff Green, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, Daequan Cook, Omri Casspi, Greivis Vasquez, Donte Greene, Jonny Flynn, Damion James, Brandan Wright, Renaldo Balkman, Julian Wright, Marcus Williams, Kirk Snyder and Petteri Koponen with one pick still to be used.
By my count, that’s five starting-caliber players, six role players, three bench warmers and three busts. Sure some of those guys at the top are fine NBA players and may even improve going forward, but the fact that Ryan Anderson tops this list is astonishing to me. Not one guy has played in an All-Star Game, and, with the exception of Kanter, I’m not sure any of them ever will.
Teams know that they probably won’t receive face value for a very good player when they trade one away. That’s why teams are so reluctant to do it. Once in a while there are deals like the one in which Chicago shipped Eddy Curry to New York for picks that turned into Joakim Noah and LaMarcus Aldridge, but the Vince Carter-type trades are far more common.
The players acquired alongside picks haven’t made much noise either. Al Jefferson has turned into a potent scoring threat in the post and Marc Gasol developed more rapidly than anyone could have imagined, but after those two, there isn’t much. Harris and Miller are solid point guards, but hardly filled the voids left by the exiting stars they replaced. Derrick Favors still has a lot to prove and the rest of the group is mainly made of cap-fillers, veterans or busts.
The lesson to be learned here? Hang on to your best players. This season the Magic decided to “roll the dice,” in Dwight Howard’s words, that he’ll stay beyond next season rather than move him for a handful of Draft picks. The Suns did the same with Steve Nash. History says that was probably the smart move.