The 2016 NBA draft, which will take place Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, will follow that same form. Once Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram go off the board with the first two picks, as expected, there is no consensus on how to rank the next several available players. The combination of an unclear draft board and five teams — Philadelphia, Boston, Phoenix, Denver and Toronto — holding a combined 14 of the 30 available first-round picks should lead to plenty of attempted wheeling and dealing as things unfold.
Here is a look at several teams to watch on the trade front Thursday night:
General Manager Danny Ainge is always ready to make a deal, and this year shouldn’t be any different. Ainge was willing to move several first-round picks to Charlotte for Justise Winslow last year, and with Boston heading into this summer with boatloads of cap space, a roster with 11 players under contract already for next season and eight draft picks (including three first-rounders), it’s impossible to see Ainge sitting on his hands Thursday night.
There is already talk about the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers engaging in trade talks surrounding Sixers center Jahlil Okafor going to Boston for the No. 3 pick, a move that would make lots of sense for both teams. But whether that move happens or not, no team should be more active as this year’s draft unfolds than the Celtics.
With Toronto coming off its first appearance in the Eastern Conference finals, the Raptors are ready to try to upgrade their roster this summer to become more competitive against LeBron James and the newly crowned champion Cleveland Cavaliers. The best assets they have to make an upgrade are their pair of first round picks — Nos. 9 and 26.
The Raptors already have several young players, so it’s hard to argue they need more of them. So if they can package one or both of those picks to get a veteran ready to play for them now, it’s easy to see General Manager Masai Ujiri making such a move.
Back at this year’s trade deadline, the Pistons traded their first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for Donatas Motiejunas, a versatile big man with three-point shooting range who was a perfect fit for how Coach Stan Van Gundy wants to play. More importantly, Motiejunas was going to be a restricted free agent, meaning the Pistons would have control over what happened with his next contract, giving them the chance to keep him in Detroit for the next several seasons.
That trade, however, was voided after there were issues with Motiejunas’s physical. If Detroit is able to get a similar kind of player Thursday night, though, the No. 18 pick could wind up going elsewhere.
With Tom Thibodeau now running things in Minnesota, and with a roster already populated with youngsters, the Timberwolves have been a popular target of trade rumors involving their No. 5 overall pick — the last time this team should be picking anywhere near that high in the draft for the foreseeable future.
A popular rumor has been Chicago sending star guard Jimmy Butler to Minnesota to reunite him with Thibodeau, but given the animosity between the coach and the front office during and after his tenure there, it’s hard to see the two sides reaching any kind of accord. But should a player similar to Butler shake free, it could prompt Minnesota to make a move.
This season, the Nuggets already had a roster arguably overstocked with young talent, including eight players age 25 or younger. Now, with three more first-round picks in this year’s draft — Nos. 7, 15 and 19 — Denver finds itself with an intriguing choice: Does it continue to fill this roster with young talent, hoping to eventually land a superstar? Or does it package some combination of picks and players to chase a difference-making talent?
At some point, the Nuggets will have to pick a path to travel. And given the composition of the roster at the moment, they would seem like a prime target to try to pool together some of their many assets to make a run at some of the attractive pieces available. One who makes some sense: Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who loved playing for Nuggets Coach Mike Malone before he was fired in 2014.