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Three top-10 draft picks that may be available in a trade

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Kurt Helin and Corey Robinson recap the San Antonio Spurs winning the NBA Draft Lottery and try to put expectations on the Spurs if they draft Victor Wembanyama.

Don’t even pretend the No. 1 pick is available. It’s not. As in, even if you offer the current or one of the most recent MVPs for the chance to select Victor Wembanyama, the Spurs will hang up on the call. Fans may not grasp how high teams are on the young French star, but it is ridiculously high.

However, other lottery picks are available via trade. Not all these deals will get done, the prices will be high, but expect a trade — or trades — within the top 10 picks this season.

Here are three where there are early rumors and it is worth watching.

No. 3, Portland Trail Blazers

While a minority of the Trail Blazer fan base is gaming out Damian Lillard trades — to the annoyance of Lillard — that is absolutely not the plan in the Portland front office. The goal is to make a bold trade to bring in another star, someone to put next to Lillard, and compete deep into the playoffs next season.

How they get that star is a trade package centered around the No. 3 pick, plus some combination of Jusuf Nurkic, Anfernee Simons, and if need be Shaedon Sharpe (the Trail Blazers don’t want to trade him, but if the return is good enough they will not have a choice). The pick is the star of that deal because it will be Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller (the early conventional wisdom is the Hornets at No. 2 like Miller as a better fit next to LaMelo Ball). If Henderson is available, he has some real fans around the league, and maybe a team is ready to make a bold move for the star.

What the Trail Blazers want back is an All-Star level player at least, not future picks and role players. Lillard is coming off an All-NBA season, but at age 32 his window isn’t going to be open that long. If a team with a star is looking to shake up their roster, this could be the move.

No. 4, Houston Rockets

Houston’s ownership and front office are ready to take the next step out of rebuilding, which is what is behind the James Harden talk (which is real, he may not end up with the Rockets but league sources tell NBC Sports this is more than just smoke).

With the No. 4 pick, the Rockets — or whatever team has the pick — will very likely be in position to draft Amen Thompson, maybe the best pure athlete in this draft and a player with an incredibly high ceiling. However, he’s also raw, needs time to develop and there are questions (starting with nobody is quite sure how to rate the players coming out of Overtime Elite because, unlike college or the G-League, it’s an unknown competition level). He doesn’t fit the Rockets’ timeline.

But he could fit another team, one willing to send Houston the kind of veteran depth and star power Harden reportedly says he wants in the team he plays for next season. If there’s a team looking to pivot and bring in a player who could develop into a foundational piece, the Rockets will listen.

No. 10, Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks nakedly tanked the final week of the season to ensure they could keep their top-10 protected pick (otherwise it was going to the Knicks). The lottery gods helped out and Dallas gets to keep its pick.

Mavericks management wanted that pick badly because, with a depleted roster, it was maybe their most valuable tool to help bring in some veteran help around Luka Dončić. The buzz around the league is the Mavericks will try to trade this pick to add pieces around Dončić (and maybe Kyrie Irving, if they re-sign him). What they can get for the No. 10 pick is up for debate, but like the two teams above them on this list, the Mavericks are not looking for future picks or young players, they want guys who can help now.