It’s no secret that this year’s draft is completely stacked, with names like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid being thrown around as potential franchise savers. On the other hand, there are several players who will be free agents in the 2015-16 off-season that are likely to leave their current teams. In order to prevent receiving nothing for a departing player, many teams trade the exiting star in favor of rebuilding. The most recent high-profile version of this scenario occurred when Dwight Howard made it clear that he would not remain with the Orlando Magic. He was traded to Los Angeles in a three-team deal that brought several role players and picks to the Magic.
The question this year is whether or not teams should trade their picks for Kevin Love, who will potentially leave Minnesota next summer and pick a team of his own. Love is an elite player with the size and skill to play in the post, block shots and make three-pointers. In his six years in the league, however, he has never been on a playoff team. His potential suitors or teams he might be interested in include New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, all teams that will have decent cap space, can offer him a chance at the playoffs and a large fan-base. Most notably, Los Angeles seemingly has good odds of landing him since he was born in California, attended UCLA and his dad was a former Laker in the 70’s.
There are two major risks to consider. The first is that even if the Lakers (or any team) acquired Love, there is no guarantee he would actually sign in free agency. He could walk for nothing, just as Dwight Howard did this past summer, which this time would mean the loss of a high draft pick in a loaded class and wasted trades to build around Love’s play style. The other risk is that giving up the pick could potentially mean giving up a player that may turn out even better than Love. While that’s a long-shot, it is certainly possible. In addition, such a swap could seem like an unwise move considering that Love could easily sign in free agency anyway, making it possible for a team to get Love and keep its pick.
Los Angeles is certainly no stranger to this kind of situation. Once upon a time they traded Vlade Divac, one of the better centers in the game, to the Hornets in exchange for the 13th pick in the draft. That pick turned out to be Kobe Bryant. The Lakers had indicated interest in him, so the Hornets picked him for Los Angeles in exchange for Divac. Now this is certainly a rare and unlikely scenario: not every draft-pick turns into one of the greatest players ever to grace the game, as was the case with this particular trade. But the potential is certainly there.
This exact situation is a little bit more complicated. Los Angeles is currently looking at a potential top five pick. They currently sit at number six, but have roughly a 10-11 percent chance of landing the number one pick. If that happens, or even if they break the top three, they could land a future franchise player, and potentially sign Love the following year, making it seem unwise to trade the pick. However, many fans in Los Angeles are disgruntled by what may be their worst season ever. Fans looking to capitalize with one more Bryant championship might want to see the Lakers take the quick fix and score Love as early as possible. Yet it seems that this would be an unwise move. The Lakers have enough cap-space to purse someone Carmelo Anthony level this off-season and woo Love the following year, or pursue a mid-level player this summer and Love plus another mid-level player the following year. If they keep the pick they ensure the possibility of the most stacked outcome possible, not to mention ensuring the future of the franchise with young talent. It remains to be seen what the team will do, or any of the draft lottery teams for that matter, but it will certainly be interesting to see what happens on draft night.