Trade or Draft: What Every 2024 NBA Lottery Team Should Do (2024)

Trade or Draft: What Every 2024 NBA Lottery Team Should Do

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    Trade or Draft: What Every 2024 NBA Lottery Team Should Do (1)

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    The upcoming 2024 NBA draft is a time of opportunity.

    And opportunity can mean many things beyond selecting a prospect and hoping everything goes right.

    Additionally, the annual offseason talent grab gets the trade market going, and this year could be more active than most.

    While obvious sellers aren't the easiest to find, there is an abundance of would-be buyers hoping to extend championship windows. Others meanwhile hope to re-open those windows or accelerate their ascension—and a bunch of these win-now shoppers boast a rich enough asset collection to get a deal done.

    With conditions potentially right for a wave of wheeling and dealing, let's spotlight all 12 teams in possession of at least one lottery pick and determine whether they should keep or move the pick.

1. Atlanta Hawks

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    The Hawks should absolutely treat their lottery luck like the jackpot prize it was. This franchise has badly needed more blue-chip talent to get out of the rut it's faced ever since reaching the 2021 conference finals—two playoff trips, zero series wins over three seasons.

    Even if there isn't an obviously transcendent mega-talent atop this draft, this class will produce some stars. And Atlanta has the proverbial pick of the litter as the only organization guaranteed to get the player holding the top spot on its big board.

    Now, the Hawks still have to decide who that player is. It feels like this will come down to swingman Zaccharie Risacher or bouncy big man Alex Sarr, but this could be one of those years where the No. 1 pick isn't known until it's actually announced.

    As long as that player is being announced for Atlanta, though, the Hawks should feel they did the right thing.

    Decision: Draft

2. Washington Wizards

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    ESPN's Jeremy Woo reported that the Wizards will "look at all options on the trade front." Although that is standard procedure—the best front offices consider all possibilities when building a roster—it still feels a little reckless.

    Washington faces the largest-scale rebuilding project in the Association because it waited so long to put the Bradley Beal era out of its misery. Bilal Coulibaly is hopefully a long-term keeper. Maybe Deni Avdija earned that distinction with his breakout performance this season. But that's honestly it when it comes to players the Wizards should feel totally comfortable about keeping for the future.

    Washington needs more potential-rich prospects in the worst kind of way, and moving down the draft board could make them increasingly difficult to find.

    The Wizards shouldn't even need to debate this pick unless the Hawks don't select one of the top two prospects on Washington's big board. But if both clubs are in agreement that Risacher and Sarr lead this class, then this might be the most stress-free selection of the draft.

    Decision: Draft

3. Houston Rockets

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    Houston's No. 3 pick feels as available as any in this lottery.

    ESPN's Jonathan Givony relayed an expectation for the Rockets "to heavily pursue trade opportunities," while The Athletic's Sam Vecenie shared the same sentiment that Houston "will explore trade scenarios involving this selection."

    It feels like a no-brainer, provided, of course, that the trade market offers up whatever Houston is hoping to get.

    The Rockets already boast one of the league's richest prospect collections, and at a certain point, there won't be enough money and minutes to go around. Not to mention, Houston's active 2023 offseason indicated a clear desire to compete sooner rather than later, so if the Rockets can use this pick along with some of their other draft assets and young talent to nab a needle-mover, that's a move they likely make 12 times out of 10.

    Decision: Trade

4. San Antonio Spurs (and No. 8)

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    If Victor Wembanyama's sensational debut season was any indication, his NBA takeover may be more a matter of when than if.

    And if the Spurs want to help fuel his rise, they certainly have the trade chips to target an accelerator.

    As ESPN's Jeremy Woo reported, San Antonio is "exploring all options" as the league's only team with multiple top-10 picks.

    The Spurs can and should poke around for a premier playmaker, and they might already be doing so. Woo added that rival teams have connected San Antonio to Darius Garland, who could seek out a scenery change if the Cleveland Cavaliers agree to a contract extension with Donovan Mitchell.

    Getting Garland might require one of these picks, but given the strength of San Antonio's pick collection and the less-than-stellar reviews of this class, it might not interest the Spurs or the Cavaliers to include both. Which is great news, because this young nucleus needs some expansion. Devin Vassell is an obvious keeper, and there are other potential candidates who could grow into that status, but the Spurs aren't so rich with prospects that they should pass up the opportunity to add at least one.

    If San Antonio isn't trading for a playmaker, then drafting one is a must.

    Decision: Draft at least one

5. Detroit Pistons

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    The Pistons have been so bad for so long that there must be a major pressure to right the ship.

    Their past five seasons have delivered a wholly atrocious 290 losses. And for context, no other team has suffered more than 246 defeats during this stretch.

    Still, Detroit should ignore all urges to search for a quick fix—at least as it pertains to this draft. Yes, it was a gut punch to be handed the No. 5 pick for the third consecutive year. No, this isn't a super-stacked class. None of these are valid arguments for giving up the opportunity to add another young, high-ceiling prospect.

    The Pistons need to give their new front office a fresh opportunity to build this roster to their liking. That starts with this fifth overall selection, which could deliver someone who is awfully interesting. Whether it's a floor-spacer like Reed Sheppard, a connector like Matas Buzelis, a defensive anchor like Donovan Clingan, a two-way swingman like Tidjane Salaun or anyone else valued in this range, there's a chance the Pistons pull someone out of this draft who winds up trailing only Cade Cunningham in terms of importance to this franchise.

    Decision: Draft

6. Charlotte Hornets

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    There is a budding young core taking shape in Buzz City, but it needs more buddies.

    LaMelo Ball, Brandon Miller and Mark Williams should be a solid foundation to build around—provided Ball and Williams stay healthy at some point—but that's only a start.

    The Hornets have a chance to add a significant puzzle piece with the sixth overall pick, and that's far too enticing to consider swapping out the pick for whatever the trade market has to offer.

    Charlotte could go virtually any direction in this spot, although if it's sold on Williams, adding another interior big probably isn't in the cards. Still, Ball can share the backcourt with another shot-creator, Miller is interchangeable with other two-way wings and the rest of this roster features no major obstacles for an incoming prospect to clear.

    Decision: Draft

7. Portland Trail Blazers (and No. 14)

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    This shouldn't be a discussion, right?

    Less than a year ago, the Blazers were still trying to build a winner around Damian Lillard. Now, they're just getting words on the paper for what will eventually become their post-Lillard chapter.

    It is perhaps worth mentioning, it seems as if there's some desire to compete. Beyond the buzz from ESPN's Brian Windhorst saying as much, there's also the fact that none of the remaining veterans—Jerami Grant, Malcolm Brogdon, Deandre Ayton, Robert Williams III—have been shipped out for future-focused returns yet.

    Still, the best days ahead for the Blazers may not arrive until Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe, who are 20 and 21 years old, respectively, approach their primes.

    That could be years away from happening, meaning Portland should be stockpiling all of the prospects it can get.

    If the Blazers want someone who can contribute sooner than later, they could spend one of these picks on an older prospect like Dalton Knecht or Devin Carter. But they need to throw at least one dart at a sky-scraping ceiling.

    Decision: Draft both

9. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Read any piece of forward-thinking NBA analysis, and you'll see some reference to how absolutely loaded the Western Conference could be next season.

    The return of a hopefully healthy Ja Morant is a big reason why, since his last two (mostly) healthy seasons both produced winning percentages north of .620.

    If the Grizzlies have their turbo-charged floor general back, they could again rank among the conference heavyweights. And that probably doesn't create the highest odds of an incoming rookie seeing significant minutes, particularly one selected in the back half of the lottery.

    Memphis is reportedly aiming to move up, per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor. And if doing so would deliver, say, Donovan Clingan to fill that Steven Adams-sized hole at center, the Grizzlies could get great mileage out of the deal. But they should also be poking around for available veterans, since someone who can hit the ground sprinting might be needed if Memphis is as good next season as it looks like it can be.

    Decision: Trade

10. Utah Jazz

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    While unloading current contributors for future assets at each of the past two deadlines, the Jazz consistently sent the message that being kinda good wasn't nearly good enough.

    That same mantra should continue guiding this franchise, which probably means making the 10th pick is more beneficial than giving it up.

    Now, the "probably" qualifier is big, because the Jazz have the kind of trade-chip collection needed to swing a blockbuster. And if the right star is available, Utah will have to consider pouncing, particularly because Lauri Markkanen is in the heart of his prime and perhaps capable of co-starring on a really good team.

    HoopsHype's Michael Scotto previously reported the Jazz were expected to explore converting some of their trade chips into "star talent."

    Trading for an older star wouldn't make sense with where Utah is at, though, and adding a mid-tier option wouldn't be enough to help this club scale the conference standings. So, finding the right trade fit is tricky at best.

    It would probably behoove this front office to simply select the best player available at No. 10 and continue waiting for the right player to hit the trade market.

    Decision: Listen to Offers, but Probably Draft

11. Chicago Bulls

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    Given Chicago's stubborn commitment to chasing maximum competitiveness—even with ample evidence suggesting that may never amount to more than play-in participation—there is certainly a scenario in which the Bulls try shopping the 11th pick for some type of proven producer.

    That already sounds disastrous, even without knowing how that hypothetical deal would take shape. The Bulls, who weren't a playoff team the past two seasons and last won a postseason series in 2015, only had three 25-and-under players among their top-10 scorers this season. And one of them was Patrick Williams, who's about to enter the often unpredictable, always thorny world of restricted free agency.

    There should be "young help wanted" signs plastered around the United Center, if for no other reason than the Bulls' brass would know that doing anything with this pick other than investing it in one of the draft's 11 best players would be a waste. Getting a wing or multi-dimensional big man would be ideal, but if the best player is clearly a guard, Chicago should grab him and figure out the fit later.

    Decision: Draft

12. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Options feel limitless in the Sooner State.

    The Thunder were one of this season's youngest teams and one of its best. They were a 57-win powerhouse that pushed the eventual Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks to six games in the conference semis. They have a superstar in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And they have a slew of budding stars and rock-solid role players around him.

    Oh—and they're sitting atop the league's deepest pile of draft picks, too.

    Very seldom will you find a team this talented, this young and this flexible.

    All that said, because they're already so close to the top, they should see whether they can find that finishing piece. Ideally, that player would fit this team's timeline, but exceptions could be made for an established, elite-level veteran whose contract comes off the books before the likes of Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren need massive pay raises.

    The Thunder can and should be selective in their search, though, because if the right player isn't available, then adding another cost-controlled contributor to this core could make a lot of sense.

    If Oklahoma City makes the pick, it has the freedom to do anything from addressing a specific need (likely, size or shooting) or feeling it has enough depth to take a huge swing on a risk-reward prospect with massive potential.

    Decision: Trade for a Star or Draft

13. Sacramento Kings

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    Because Sacramento's 2022-23 rise was so sudden—in one year, the winning percentage spiked from .366 to .585—it might be tempting to chalk its inability to secure a return trip to the playoffs as the growing pains of a young group.

    Unfortunately, the Kings really aren't in the growing-pains stage. They're fully committed to the win-now-or-very-soon combo of De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, both of whom are 26 and older and earning enormous amounts of cash. Their runway isn't endless. The takeoff needs to happen pretty quickly.

    The Kings seemingly know it, too, as ESPN's Jonathan Givony reported there's "quite a bit of trade talk" regarding this pick.

    In a perfect world, Sacramento would package this pick with additional assets for an impact two-way wing or a high-end backcourt partner to pair with Fox. But if that can't happen, the Kings should still try shopping the pick and a mid-sized salary or two (think, Harrison Barnes and/or Kevin Huerter) in search of a consistent support player who offers perimeter shooting and defensive versatility.

    Decision: Trade

Trade or Draft: What Every 2024 NBA Lottery Team Should Do (2024)

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