Ever since the Suns acquired an unprotected pick in 2021 from the Miami Heat in 2015 for Goran Dragic at the trade deadline, this asset alone has helped change multiple franchises now. After a late night Woj bomb from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Philadelphia 76ers cashed in their chips to pair impending free agent Tobias Harris with Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, and Ben Simmons for the long-term chasing championships.
Sources: Clippers and Sixers have agreed to trade Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott for Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, 2020 first-rounder, 2021 unprotected 1st via Miami and two second rounders.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 6, 2019
When former General Manager Ryan McDonough originally shipped off a disgruntled Dragic almost four years ago to the day, who knew that one pick could lead to such widespread domino effects.
After patiently holding on to the unprotected 2021 pick for 3.5 years, McDonough sent it to Philadelphia on draft night this past June for Mikal Bridges. The former Villanova Wildcat was expecting to stay home, but Phoenix held Bridges in high regard.
McDonough and his team in the Suns’ front office wanted to move the pick for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but it was overruled by owner Robert Sarver according to Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro. Little did McDonough know that he would end up being fired 3.5 months later after orchestrating one of the biggest nights in Suns franchise history.
Anyways, when surveying how one pick has changed four franchises, just notice how impactful each move was at the time.
Feb. 2015: Dragic to Miami for 2018 and 2021 (unprotected) first-round picks = two playoff appearances
June 2018: Rights to Mikal Bridges to Phoenix for rights to Zhaire Smith and 2021 unprotected pick = vital 3&D wing between building blocks Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton
Feb. 2019: Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott to Philadelphia for Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, 2020 1st, 2021 1st unprotected = Sixers creating championship-contending Big 4 of Embiid, Butler, Simmons, Harris
?: Los Angeles uses 2021 1st unprotected for (insert name here)
Now, the Clippers have the lottery ticket for whatever move they want to make next. And with all the rampant rumors surrounding the Anthony Davis saga, which includes two teams from Los Angeles being on his preferred list, don’t be surprised if this is a late power play.
If New Orleans balks at all-in offers from the Lakers over the next 24 hours, the Clippers now enter the picture for Davis alongside Boston. Creating a package centered around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Montrezl Harrell, plenty of picks including the 2021 unprotected, and salary filler actually competes head-to-head with other top offers.
Along the way, this pick alone is being used as an accelerator to franchises hoping to improve. Miami started it off sending it to Phoenix — which ended with short-term success but long-term questions when asking about their future by 2021 — but the next two moves involving it saw possible franchise-altering moves go down.
Even though he’s a rookie, Bridges is older than the rest of the Suns’ young core. The 22-year-old wing will definitely be paramount to their rebuilding efforts from all angles. Early results show this deal was the correct one by Phoenix, especially when factoring in the notable “double draft” being moved back to 2022 at the earliest.
For Philadelphia, the efforts of “star hunting” has led them to aggressively go for it right now. The 76ers turned Robert Covington, Dario Saric, expiring filler, and 2019-2021 first-round picks (2019 = Shamet; 2020 and 2021 = unknown) for Jimmy Butler and Harris over the last three months. That’s a steep price, but one that could reap huge benefits in the playoffs.
Finally, with the Clippers, they now join the New York Knicks as two teams capable of signing two max free agents this summer. If Los Angeles trades Danilo Gallinari, who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020, they will have close to $79 million in cap space barely trumping New York’s figure. Whether it’s Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant or one of them paired with Davis, all possibilities are on the table now for Los Angeles’ second squad.
The proverbial lottery ticket from 2021 is the gift that keeps on giving. It helped Phoenix obtain the ideal glue guy piece in Bridges, and now Philadelphia cashed it in for the chance at title runs throughout the 2020s. Los Angeles seems to have grand plans to lure superstars away from LeBron James while still being in Hollywood, so they now have ample ammunition to stay flexible.
Welcome to the wild 24/7 arms race that is the NBA.