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Pressure to win now could spur pre-draft trade activity

POSTED: May 16, 2014 6:03 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


The Phoenix Suns, who just missed the playoffs this season, could be seeking veteran help.

CHICAGO -- The basketball portion of the pre-draft combine ended Friday with a growing sense that the period leading to the June 26 NBA Draft could include more trade activity than usual since several lottery regulars want big improvements now via a veteran rather than wait for another prospect to develop, executives and scouts told

The alignment of aggressive sellers with increased interest among potential buyers has created the possibility of major shifts over the next six weeks amid the obvious boost of the top selections having far more value than those who headlined what has so far turned out to be a poor 2013 draft.

"There are picks there that people will get excited about for a trade in a way people didn't get excited about the top picks a year ago," one general manager said. "I think there will be a lot of conversations."

More than in the past?

"Oh, yeah," he said.

The Phoenix Suns, who showed other lottery teams that anything is possible and that almost no one is as far from the playoffs as it might seem, are the most obvious of the front offices looking to deal. The Suns were that way leading to the February trade deadline as well, wanting immediate impact over future potential; now they will have their own pick in Tuesday's lottery, Minnesota's choice if it falls to 14, the No. 18 selection via Washington and No. 27 from Indiana.

The Suns do not want multiple rookies in 2014-15 as part of a roster that, depending on offseason moves, may already be dotted by prospects. Picks late in the lottery will draw some interest, picks plus existing players will generate more, and beating long odds Tuesday to move into the top three guarantees Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough will need to charge backup phone batteries.

Additionally, the Milwaukee Bucks will want to get back to the playoffs, although their exact thinking will not be known until new ownership makes a decision on whether to keep John Hammond as general manager or opt for a house cleaning. The Los Angeles Lakers have already made it clear their pick will be in play to stay in win-now mode around Kobe Bryant. The Sacramento Kings announced their intentions to accelerate the rebuilding plan by acquiring Rudy Gay during the season. The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off a particularly bitter season and prefer an aggressive approach now rather than going with patience and potential from the draft, even with a top-three pick.

"I'll buy that," a front-office veteran said of the notion that the lottery this year in particular involves several franchises that have run out of patience. "A lot of teams that have come through the rebuilding cycle will want more wins now than assets for the future. Maybe that does mean more trades."

One executive had another theory why teams could be more bold heading toward June 26: the front offices that tried to tank and put fans -- and their owners -- through a season as a doormat only to fall outsideof the top three or five may feel extra pressure to land a top pick anyway for their troubles. Those general managers may press to move up or bail out of the draft to get an established player who will deliver wins now and help them avoid the 2015 lottery.