A large part of the reason we haven't been all that enthusiastic about the 2015 NBA Draft is that a fair number of us are hoping the Golden State Warriors use their pick as sweetener to trade David Lee, which would clear a significant amount of salary cap room to help keep this team intact.
So naturally, when SB Nation began its annual blogger mock draft, the first thing I set out to do was to test out the market for David Lee (at least in the minds of fellow SBN bloggers). The results were disappointing — in that we didn't trade David Lee — but nevertheless interesting as our colleagues across the league did give us some insight about why draft night might not be ideal to make this deal. I wasn't very aggressive with counter offers or big packages because I honestly was more focused on the Warriors' title run at the time and I was far more interested in what value the basic package of Lee + 30 held among other bloggers.
Take the results for what they are.
In the end, we did end up trading out of the first round in a minor deal, primarily because the majority of the prospects on our board were still around (and at least partially because this was happening during the Finals and the draft was just about the furthest thing from my mind).
Why would nobody take David Lee?
The original deal I floated out there to the other faux GM s was David Lee and the 30th pick for a future first rounder. That gained very little traction. The one offer we did get from that was from Phoenix Suns blog Bright Side of the Sun: Lee + 30 for the Morris Twins.
Basketball and cap concerns aside, our interest in taking on a pair of brothers accused of domestic assault was minimal so we passed on that. And I'm not even sure BsotS was all that enthusiastic about the deal they offered to begin with, as described by Dave King.
You may have to take back bad contracts to get Lee off the team. I offered the Morrii during the mock draft, but that was really because it's just a mock draft and I wanted to shake up the fake team. In reality, I couldn't do that in good conscience. The Morrii's value is just too high for a dump.
Where I might have pulled the trigger was late in the mock draft. I'd acquired Brendan Haywood's $10 million non-guaranteed contract for Mook Morris' $5 mil and the #24 pick. Now, I had a good trade asset to give a team who wanted to shed salary. Like GS, for example. Now, swapping Haywood for #30 and Lee would basically mean swapping Mook Morris and cap space for Lee, #24 and #30. Not a bad deal, especially since Lee brings offense and rebounding the Suns don't have enough of, and insurance in case of a long league suspension to Keef Morris.
But then the majority my front office said no. They'd rather keep Haywood's $10 million non-guaranteed into July to see what else shakes loose in trades before turning to Lee. So I said no.
But just about everyone else turned down the offer immediately citing their own salary cap concerns and a desire to go into free agency with some salary cap flexibility. And after reducing our offer to Lee + 30 for two future second rounders, Dave King articulated why he'd wait until after the draft to consider the offer.
I never had cap room just to absorb $15 million for picks at any point. In fact, almost no team in the NBA has the cap room for that, especially during the draft. As a post-draft trade, I admit I'd rather spend the money elsewhere first, and then circle back to you after other deals fail. So maybe your Lee market will materialize after July in real life too...if this were real life, I'd tell you to hold on till late July and maybe we'd have something. If I still had no depth at PF by late July, I'd probably swap Hawywood's non-guaranteed contract for Lee and a future #1 (or a couple good #2s).
Long answer to a short question. No deal during the draft. Lee would basically be a fall-back in late July.
I think Dave sort of encapsulated what pretty much every other GM told us, whether it was a discussion about Lee + 30 for first or second rounders — the hypothetical optimism about free agency simply in a mock draft outweighed any interest in taking on Lee's contract. Interestingly enough, the only other team that expressed interest was Spurs blog Pounding the Rock but a) he didn't respond until just after we had to submit our pick (like a few hours late) and b) seemed to have the same struggle of persuading his other front office members.
Looking ahead in real life — when people become wildly optimistic about their future and that of their rookies on draft night — it seems that the likelihood of a trade would increase after the draft as people slam into the concrete reality of disappointment in free agency.
Why did we trade down?
By the time our pick came up, the following prospects that we had targeted were still around (in no particular order):
Of course there are others who could fit the Warriors' needs, but you probably get the point: if things go relatively as expected, the difference between the #30 and #34 pick will be negligible beyond the obvious financial considerations.
So when Silver Screen and Roll offered us the L.A. Lakers' #34 pick in the 2015 draft and a future second round pick for our #30 pick, I went ahead and traded out of the land of guaranteed contracts and into the second round because one of those guys would still be around and the hypothetical optimism of the mock draft made it even more enticing: this was only a first round mock draft so we could leave this at "we have options" and go about our way.
But I think this also presents an interesting discussion about whether the Warriors should go for a draft and stash (e.g. Guillermo Henangomez) vs. trading out of the first round/2015 draft altogether. Obviously, a draft and stash scenario saves the Warriors some cap room in the present if they allow Hernangomez to continue developing elsewhere for a couple of years. Yet a second round pick offers some financial flexibility while also offering the potential to add cheap talent without the financial burden -- if they could find a productive cheap talent (e.g. someone that could eventually contribute in limited minutes in a postseason situation as a rookie), that's very valuable in the event they'd like to move some more expensive veterans later in the season. If the second rounder can't contribute right away -- after summer league and/or training camp -- they have some ability to funnel him to Santa Cruz or simply let him go without any significant financial burden.
Of course, I'm not taking a hard-line stance on that: I could see the team going either way. But when you get down to the 30th pick, there aren't any guarantees of draft success and I'd probably err on the side of fiscal flexibility.
What do you think the Warriors should do with the pick? Let us know in the comments.