The reason that the NBA Draft Lottery is so special is because of the shock and awe factor that comes with each new drawing. Some teams (like the Cavaliers or Bulls) leave feeling mostly disappointed, while others (such as the Pelicans, Grizzlies and Lakers) are totally ecstatic.
Whereas the Pelicans and Lakers have tons of leverage in swinging potential deals or acquiring talent–heck, they may even trade with each other–some front offices will have work to do if they want to have a chance to draft their preferred player of choice.
Still, there are a number of organizations that could benefit from getting fairly aggressive this summer.
Here are three teams that should try to trade up in the 2019 NBA Draft.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
Normally, a top-five selection would be just fine for any team. But this is one of the more top-heavy draft classes in years, and the Cavs apparently have a strong desire to select former Duke standout R.J. Barrett. In order to do that, they will most likely have to move into the top three.
Sure, Knicks scouts have reportedly fallen in love with Barrett’s teammate, Cam Reddish, but Barrett will almost certainly be the best player at the no. 3 position. How far is Cleveland willing to go to have the assurance of drafting him?
The Knicks need all the assets they can get right now. Barrett is not quite like Zion, but he still might go a long way in attracting those two free agents that New York so desperately craves this summer.
Meanwhile, Cleveland needs to continue to get younger and develop their talent. So they may in fact be ready and willing to ship Kevin Love (along with pick No. 5) to New York in an attempt to trade up. But the Knicks may not want to take on Love’s salary, opting instead to preserve their max-cap slots.
Could the Cavs coax the Grizzlies out of the No. 2 selection? It’s unlikely, as the Grizzlies are also in desperate need of young talent and also hold more leverage.
Drafting at No. 5 is certainly not the end of the world for Cleveland, but if they really want Barrett, they are going to need to go for broke to move into the top three.
2. Charlotte Hornets
Whereas the Cavaliers would not be overly disappointed at standing pat, the Hornets would be making an extremely questionable decision if they choose to hold onto the no. 12 pick.
Charlotte won just 39 games despite a career year from franchise player Kemba Walker, who is almost certainly already out the door given that he is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
There is a very good chance that the Hornets might be one of the worst teams in the league next year, and they should sell out and commit to a full rebuild. A number of teams in the top 10 might try to trade back, including Chicago and Atlanta (who have two picks in the top ten).
The Hornets have a number of interesting players (not to mention a high second-round pick) that they could dangle in addition to the no. 12 pick, including Malik Monk, Jeremy Lamb, Marvin Williams and Dwayne Bacon. Monk failed to make the expected leap in his second season, and may no longer be a feasible part of the rebuild, especially considering that the Hornets seem more intent on developing Miles Bridges.
Realistically, Charlotte should see if they can trade up between No. 7 and No. 10, which might give them an outside shot at landing the likes of Jarrett Culver, Cam Reddish, or Kemba’s possible replacements in Coby White and Darius Garland.
1. Miami Heat
The Heat are in an incredibly sticky situation. They have essentially zero cap space to spend on free agents this summer (mostly thanks to Hassan Whiteside), and the current roster failed to make the playoffs this season.
Miami sit at no. 13, right behind the Hornets, and could certainly benefit from trading up. Whiteside is on an expiring contract, which makes him a very valuable trade piece. Whether or not the teams in front of Miami value him as a crucial piece of a potential playoff contender is another question.
Whiteside is not the only player on an expiring deal. Point guard Goran Dragic is in the last year of his deal as well, and though he struggled with injuries this past season, he has quietly been one of the more effective point guards in the league in recent seasons.
How high would Miami be willing to trade up, and can they coax a team higher up the board to take on one or even both of these expiring deals?
They appear to have some leverage, and should commit to building around Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo, given that they are unlikely to be any better than an eight seed in the East next season.