If this is such a deep NBA Draft, as its been described by several observers, then why are so many teams seemingly anxious to trade their picks? Thats the question heading into Thursdays proceedings, as speculation abounds that, from the Bobcats No. 2 overall selection through the remainder of the first round, theres the potential for multiple transactions on the evening.
From lottery teams that prefer veteran help to the promise of a rookie to contenders desiring an injection of youth -- and organizations in between, trying to stockpile assets for a bigger move when free agency officially begins next week -- it appears that league commissioner David Stern might have to duplicate his trademark, There has been a trade routine frequently at Newarks Prudential Center. While the likes of Kentuckys Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Floridas Bradley Beal, North Carolinas Harrison Barnes and Kansas Thomas Robinson all have obvious strengths that should translate well to the next level, the only prospect regarded as a franchise-changing player is Chicago native Anthony Davis, the drafts lone lock as the top pick to the Hornets.
Therefore, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder approach is more prevalent than ever, with late entrants into the drafts upper echelon -- such as Syracuse guard Dion Waiters, who shut down his workouts early, but is nonetheless rising on the board, to the point that Cleveland, picking fourth, is rumored to be considering him, if they dont trade up to second -- sparking chatter and prospects who were considered near-elite just a month ago now having only a general, wide-ranging idea of where they might be selected, while standout veterans could also be jettisoned. For a team thats zeroed in a target, their legwork could be an exercise in futility, since whats happening above them, be it trades or a surprise choice, is almost guaranteed to be unpredictable.
One consensus has been reached: 2012 will yield a crop of NBA rookies with tremendous upside and at its floor, produce a number of solid contributors destined to be in somebodys rotation sooner than later. But whether the best bet is a proven, if unspectacular four-year senior like North Carolinas Tyler Zeller, a definite project with immense physical tools like Connecticuts Andre Drummond, an enigmatic type possessing off-the-charts talent like Baylors Perry Jones, an athletic one-year wonder without a winning track record like St. Johns Moe Harkless, a productive college superstar whose stock is plummeting because of an injury risk like Ohio States Jared Sullinger or a dominant small-school player who grades out as the best at his position like Weber States Damien Lillard remains to be seen.
In the aftermath of the draft, teams will likely be judged by what assets of value were acquired in trades, cap space that was freed up and what was stockpiled for future use in free agency just as much, if not more than, an evaluation of the actual talent that was drafted, partly a consequence of a more restrictive new CBA. At least for the time being, while it will still be counted as a coup to unearth a value-pick sleeper that can contribute on the floor immediately, a solid draft for league executives can also consist of waking up Friday morning with more financial flexibility, trade-able parts and a free agent-friendly destination, even if those things dont excite the local fans or directly impact winning.