The big news of the NBA summer, perhaps the biggest non-LeBron James related summer news of the past decade, was Kyrie Irving getting his wish to see his six-year stint in Cleveland come to a close.
The Cavaliers, giving into their point guard’s demands, shipped him off to Boston in exchange for 2nd Team All-NBA guard, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and the last remaining Brooklyn pick the Celtics received in exchange for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett once upon a time.
There has been a certain lore surrounding the draft picks the Brooklyn Nets sent to Boston in one of the most ill-advised trades (aside from maybe James Harden to Rockets back in 2012) since the Hornets swapped Kobe for Vlade Divac.
The “Brooklyn picks” were the most sought after trade chips and every single hypothetical scenario where the Celtics acquired a superstar involved them and often ended with “Oh, no. Can’t include the Brooklyn picks.”
And now, with only one left, it has come into the possession of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Picks that had Celtics and potential trade partners salivating over the next LeBron James they could materialize into have yielded James Young, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Not exactly franchise changers and in a top heavy 2018 draft it doesn’t appear this pick will be that either.
Since for once the Brooklyn Nets are not the worst (or 2nd worst, sorry Sixers) team in basketball.
This offseason has seen the Brooklyn Nets become the welcoming home to salary dumps and the assets that get attached to make that happen. They’ve gotten former 2nd overall pick, De’Angelo Russell (who is still only 21!), as payment for taking Timofey Mozgov’s massive contract and they also acquired Allen Crabbe and DeMarre Carroll.
And all of a sudden you add three (sorry Moz) legitimate NBA players to a team that has Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jeremy Lin (sigh), Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie and all of a sudden you’ve got a watchable roster with championship aspirations. I mean, mid-lottery (that’s kind of generous) aspirations.
As it sits, ESPN projects the Nets to put together a whopping 29.5 wins that is good for the 4th fewest and if that holds they’d have an 11.9% chance at the number one pick. And with four true blue chippers (Michael Porter Jr., Marvin Bagley III, Luka Doncic, and DeAndre Ayton) and not another sure thing, it’s going to take some luck for this pick to pay off.
Especially for a team that landed the #1 pick not too long ago and ended up with Anthony Bennett (who is out of the league) for their trouble, it is not a foregone conclusion that the Cavaliers just acquired the golden ticket to jumpstart their post-LeBron years.
The fourth worst team in the NBA will have a 11.9%/12.6%/13.3%/9.9% chance to land one of those top 4 guys and that’s far from a sure thing, especially since Brooklyn falling into that place would very much surprise me.
Not only because they are much improved from previous seasons, but for this primary reason:
They are the only team with no incentive to lose.
The caveat that comes with having a bad team’s first round pick is that they become the one team in the bottom third with no reason to purposely chase losses.
They have NBA caliber players to go along with a competent coach in Kenny Atkinson and a GM superstar in the making, Sean Marks, and that recipe does not often lead to top-5 picks, top-10 sure, but not in that sweet spot Cavs fans are hoping for.
With the Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks (tank baby, tank!) and maybe the Phoenix Suns ending up in the same vicinity in terms of wins, the fact these clubs own their picks creates a greater likelihood of resting players, experimenting and uh…well…tanking.
And when you consider those things at once, it seems far more likely the Cavaliers will end up with a Robert Williams or Mohamed Bamba caliber player to pair with an overpaid Isaiah Thomas to guide their post-LeBron years.
Don’t hold your breath Cleveland, your next savior isn’t coming in 2018.
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