League executives and scouts tell Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com that there could be an unusually high number of pre-draft trades this year. Howard-Cooper’s sources say that some of the lottery teams have grown impatient with continued struggles, and would rather acquire proven talent than wait on the development of more young players. These “aggressive sellers” have enough interest from teams looking to add assets that a spike in pre-draft trading is a distinct possibility.
One potential seller is the Celtics, currently projected to pick at No. 5. GM Danny Ainge has regularly commented on the weaknesses of the 2014 class. Ainge has said that he doesn’t want to endure another losing season, and is willing to trade the team’s first round pick. He has also acknowledged that Boston needs to improve sooner rather than later to convince his star point guard, Rajon Rondo, to remain with the team beyond his current contract. Cleveland, projected at No. 9 currently, has used four top-4 selections in just three drafts following the departure of LeBron James. GM David Griffin is looking to move from “asset accumulation mode” to “target acquisition mode,” which could signal a willingness to deal away draft picks.
It should be noted that this past trade season was expected to include heightened activity, but after some early-season deals, the deadline came and went without any true blockbuster moves. No first round picks changed hands in-season, either. Many have pointed to the tightening cap and tax restrictions from the CBA as a reason many teams have been unwilling to part with draft picks for high-priced veterans. However, uncertainty about teams’ final lottery position for a hyped 2014 draft class could also have been a factor in cooling the market for draft picks. After the lottery settles the final draft order, teams will have a much clearer idea of which players will be available for any potential pick, which could make the prospect of moving up in the draft more appealing.