The Cleveland Cavaliers received unprotected rights to the 2018 NBA Draft pick for the Brooklyn Nets from the Boston Celtics in their trade.
Last season, the Celtics also owned draft rights from the Nets and landed the No. 1 overall pick. They then traded down and grabbed Jayson Tatum with the third overall selection although they may have selected him with the first pick.
Boston used the pick they would have received from Brooklyn next year to land Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers. If the Nets have improved during the offseason, how much will this pick be worth? And if the franchise stays as underperforming as they were last season, could a potential No. 1 pick help persuade LeBron James to stay in Cleveland?
Brooklyn acquired 2015 No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Brook Lopez. They also added Allen Crabbe and DeMarre Carroll, getting assets back in return for taking on the large salaries from the Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors respectively.
In the draft, the Nets selected big man Jarrett Allen from Texas and already had developing young talent with Caris Levert as well as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Spencer Dinwiddie. This depth has veteran point guard Jeremy Lin convinced that this team is going to make the postseason.
Many stars have changed teams and now play for franchises on the West Coast, which makes the Eastern Conference far less impressive. Michael Pina offered his relatively optimistic opinion on the Nets (via Vice Sports):
“The Nets could have a better record than the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, and New York Knicks. That isn’t necessarily good enough for the postseason, but it’s a massive jump from where they were a year ago. Brooklyn is clearly more interested in resembling a competitive squad than tanking through the 2019 season when they finally have their own first-round pick.”
It’s not unreasonable to think Russell could develop into a better player in Brooklyn, which would make the Nets a potential contender. But is this team much better than last season? Brooklyn has one of the hardest schedules in the NBA.
Realistically, though significantly more interesting, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Lin correctly predicted the playoffs. As such, they would likely be a lottery team. Regardless, the Cavaliers have inherited whatever selection the Celtics (via the Nets) would have otherwise received.
Regardless of whether Isaiah Thomas and LeBron James re-sign with the Cavaliers on longer deals, the pick will be a difference-maker in how this trade will be remembered.
The 2018 NBA Draft may not have the depth of last season, where someone like Dennis Smith Jr. (an early favorite to win Rookie of the Year) would be around at the No. 9 overall pick. However, the prospects are top-heavy, which means one of the first few players could be a future star.
We wrote about the five most likely players who could be selected at No. 1 overall. Depending on what kind of season Brooklyn will have, Cleveland could eventually top college prospects Michael Porter Jr. or Marvin Bagley III and build for the future.
European star Luka Doncic is also considered more than likely to declare for the NBA as well. Or the Cavaliers could use the potentially valuable trade chip as an asset in another future deal.
Would the New Orleans Pelicans be interested in Kevin Love and the No. 1 pick for Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins?
Even if no other trade is made and the Cavaliers lose stars to free agency in the 2018 offseason, they can build around young depth a year early with a lottery pick and restart a cycle similar to what led them to No. 1 picks like LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in the first place.