Now that the NBA Finals is over, and the Los Angeles Lakers claimed their 17th championship in franchise history, everything is back at an even playing field (sort of) as teams await the start of the 2020-21 season. And what better way to signify the true beginning of the offseason than analyzing reports that a team is willing to trade up/down in the upcoming NBA draft.
Insert the New York Knicks. One of the unluckiest teams in NBA draft history once again landed a pick that was drastically below their expectations heading into lottery night: No. 8. The Knicks haven't selected No. 1 overall since 1985 when they drafted Patrick Ewing out of Georgetown, and now, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the Knicks are willing to trade back if their guys aren't on the board.
LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman are reportedly their guys — two players who are widely expected to go within the top five, if not three.
With it being extremely likely that neither Ball nor Wiseman will fall to the No. 8 slot, what would it take for the Washington Wizards to trade up a single spot, from the No. 9 position, and why would they even consider doing so?
Wizards are all in on a prospect
Nine times out of 10, a team trades up in the NBA Draft if there's a prospect they believe won't fall to their current draft position. But in this case, with the Knicks simply one slot ahead of the Wizards, who's THE guy Washington loves that it believes the Knicks might love as well? Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard stated back in August that he believes there are "at least 15 players in the draft that can help." But which one have they circled as their "can't miss player?"
In order to assess any overlap in the Knicks/Wizards big board, we must look at team needs. However, with the Knicks there are so many holes across the board that it's hard to pinpoint a direction in which the team will draft. Best available? Need? Both expansive categories. With that being the case, consider the Knicks a true wild card at No. 8, especially if they choose to keep the pick, which quite possibly could end up with Washington having their "guy" at nine, poached.
For example, a lot of mock drafts have Washington selecting 6-foot-9 center Onyeka Okongwu out of USC with the ninth overall pick, however, that prediction is often accompanied with a note that states it wouldn't be surprising to see Okongwu go as high as third (see: Wiseman is hard to evaluate because he only player three games at Memphis). If faced with the situation that Okongwu is just a couple of picks away, what is Washington willing to do to bring him to the nation's capital?
With an opportunity like this in arm's reach, Sheppard's comments from back in August become that much more intriguing. "Everything is on the table for us to get better as a franchise," he said. "So, these picks, if we can take two picks and move up and somebody wants to do that, we'll entertain that."
What would Washington have to give up?
Also included in Berman's report was that the Knicks have "staged internal talks about swapping back with a team in the Nos. 12-15 range to gain a young player in his rookie contract while still making a lottery pick." No, Washington doesn't have a selection in that range, but it's fair to assume that the Knicks organization is more focused on the young player on a rookie deal opposed to where in the draft they move.
Think of it this way: Wouldn't the Knicks be more inclined to trade back closer to their original draft position? For one, if they get a young player on a rookie deal and only move back a single slot, there's a greater chance one of the players higher on their big board would still be available. The deal is essentially two draft picks (young player via trade + 2020 selection) with Washington's No. 9 pick being projected as a better player than one drafted in the 12-15 range.
That then introduces the question of which valuable young assets Washington has on rookie contracts. It's quite simple: Troy Brown Jr., Jerome Robinson, Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga. The order in which they're listed could certainly reflect the value of each player from highest to lowest.
Anything involving Troy Brown Jr. would have to return some serious assets. Brown, while possibly not the best fit in D.C., has the length, instincts and playmaking ability to have a long, productive career in the Association.
Jerome Robinson may be more in the Knicks' price range — a 21-year-old guard who has shown potential as a 3-point specialist.
Wagner and Bonga, while both showed flashes of production last season for Washington, would realistically be "plus-ones" in a deal done with the Knicks, or any team for that matter.
The draft is scheduled to go down on November 18th, let the games begin.