When ping pong balls failed to put someone like Trey Burke or CJ McCollum within the Jazz’s draft reach, fans immediately started hoping for a June trade that would do so.
Not so fast.
The history of draft trades confirms how hard it is to get into the top 10, and doing so almost always requires giving up real assets. Combining later picks (like 14 & 21) doesn’t do the trick, so the only way the Jazz get a Burke/McCollum type of point guard is by giving up something of real value: one of their young core players or some of their cap space.
Don’t believe me? I scoured 10 years worth of draft history to analyze the economics of scoring an extra pick or moving up, and below are my findings, based on 53 past cases.
I included any trade where a team acquired a new 1st round pick or moved up within the draft to obtain a first round pick, but only when the trade occurred immediately pre-draft or during the draft. I didn’t include player trades conducted throughout the year that also included picks. Different economics apply to picks in this situation as the supply & demand of a draft pick is completely different because teams’ motivations to deal are different at other points in the calendar.
For example, in February 2004 the Jazz scored a pick that would become the #9 in 2010 (Gordon Hayward) because they were willing to take on Tom Gugliotta’s contract in exchange for two guys whose salaries were being paid by insurance. No way that trade happens with a top 10 pick in June, so I left these kinds of trades out.
Here’s what I found out.
The Cost of Top Ten Picks
My first takeaway here is that top 10 picks don’t move very often leading up to draft day. There are only 13 examples in the last 10 drafts of a team trading up or in to land a top 10 spot. The other takeaway: doing so is costly. Multiple picks just doesn’t cut it.
Five of the 13 were teams already in the top 10 trading up to a more favorable spot, and even then they paid a premium to do so. For Charlotte to move up two spots from #4 to #2 in 2004, they had to throw in the #33 pick (valuable as you get fringe first-round talent without guaranteed money) and they had to agree to absorb Predrag Drobjnak in the expansion draft. Similar story for Memphis in 2008, moving from #5 to #3 for OJ Mayo only after they gave up three rotation players and absorbed loads of bad salary from Minnesota.
The other eight were all (to some degree) true rebuilding trades: deals where they gave up an All-Star or multiple starters in order to start over with young talent. For example, Seattle gave up on the Ray Allen era for a consolation prize of the #5 pick and two overpaid sub-stars in Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West. Minnesota had to give up two starters AND take back three bad contracts to land the Ricky Rubio pick. There are many more trades like this one: give up a star or multiple starters, take back bad salary and a team MIGHT give you a 2-10 pick.
The one anomaly in this group was a 2004 trade that landed Luol Deng in Chicago. The Bulls only had to give the Suns a future protected pick, Jackson Vroman and $3 million in cash. A lot of history says that a future pick and an end-of-bench guy shouldn’t be enough to get you a top 10 pick. Maybe the cash did the trick for the Suns, who were paying their top 4 guys $49M for a lottery finish and would pursue Steve Nash that same summer.
In every other example, teams had to give up at least two of the following: a top 10 pick, capable players, or cap space to absorb bad salary.
The bad news for the Jazz is that it seems impossible to get into the top 10 without giving up one of the young guys AND sacrificing some cap space. So if you like Burke, you have to ask yourself if you like him more than Alec Burks or Enes Kanter, because that would almost certainly be part of the price tag.
Want more? I kept going in my study and also looked at the cost to acquire later first round picks. Check out today’s bonus content to see what picks in the teens and twenties usually cost a team on draft night.