The Madness of Trading Down or Out in the Draft

Hey all. For my first FanPost, I want to address the madness of trading out of the draft (in some conditions) or trading lower in the draft (in most or nearly all conditions). I've looked our last 20 drafts, from 1994 to the present, and seen about our trading out pattern, which we have never really done with our first-rounder except for a veteran (as in, we haven't flipped a current-year first-rounder for a future-year first-rounder), as well as our trading up/trading down in picks. I want to stress two things here: I focus on the core of the trade, so if we trade a 2000 pick for a 2001 pick and [insert scrub here], I'm going to focus on the pick and not the scrub. Secondly, I occasionally say "we traded for the X pick and used it to draft [so and so]" when in reality, the team we acquired the pick from officially made the pick before the trade. This is because, although they made it officially, they picked who we wanted them to and so we really made the decision. This is true in the 2006 draft-day trade to acquire LaMarcus Aldridge, for example.

My central theses here are:
1) The Blazers should not flip their 1st-rounder for a future pick unless they also acquire someone who could help them right now - a legit starter for a position we need help at (allegedly SG and definitely C) or a sixth or even seventh man. Basically, they shouldn't flip their 1st-rounder if the key returning piece is future picks.
2) The Blazers should not flip their 1st-rounder for a later 1st-rounder this year if that's the key returning piece. The one exception I'd use on this is if we got 2 1st-round picks back, like if we traded the 10 to Atlanta for their 17 and 18, but they'll never take that.

Why? Three main reasons:
1) Later PICKS are never better than earlier PICKS. Sure, great players last till later, but if we had the 30th pick or the 57th pick in 1999, for example, we could have had Manu Ginobili, who went 57th, with either. But we also had 27 other options - the players picked in the middle - to choose from. For every story like that, there's the story you'll read below in 2005....
2) We tend to get caught up in "this is a strong draft/this is a weak draft", which are both arguments used to justify dropping lower in the draft to acquire a player of equal value + something else designed to justify the pick number disparity. For example, let's use the 12th pick. In other words, if it's a strong draft, the 10th pick is as good as the 12th. If it's a weak draft, the 10th pick is as good as the 12th. So let's trade the 10th pick for the 12th, and get the other team to give us something in addition to the 12th pick in exchange for our 10th, whether it's another pick, another player, or even absorbing a "bad contract" or any contract for cap space. This is BS - first off, it sounds good in all situations but as you'll see below, isn't necessarily true, and secondly, if the 10th is as good as the 12th, why would the other team throw in something to move up two unnecessary spots?
3) We fall in love with rankings and mock drafts. "Everyone's saying he'll still be available at 12" doesn't mean he'll still be available at 12. The 11th team might take him, and now we've traded from 10 to 12 knowing we'd get the guy we wanted anyway + some throw in, and now we have the throw-in and our next-best player choice. Sometimes, this drop-off can be substantial.

So here's my analysis of each draft starting in 1994 and working our way forward.

1994 - No trading down. Trailblazers select Aaron McKie with the 17th pick and Shawnelle Scott with the 43rd pick.

1995 - Original picks were 18 and 58. Acquired 19th pick in the Drexler trade from Houston. We packaged the 18th and 19th picks in a trade with Detroit to move up to the 8th pick. None of these are "down" trades, but we then traded the 8th pick to Milwaukee for the 11th pick in the same draft and a 1997 1st-rounder. This is not exactly what I was analyzing because it's a 2-for-1 in first-rounders. For reference, the 8th pick was Shawn Respert and the 11th was Gary Trent, so we ended up pretty good (though Respert was widely considered to be a far better player coming out of college at that time). Other players we could have had instead include 9th pick Ed O'Bannon (like Respert, widely praised and ended up being a huge bust) and 10th pick Kurt Thomas - the same one, he's been around that long. :D The 1997 1st-rounder ended up being the 20th pick, but we traded it long before that as a throw-in to acquire Isaiah Rider in the 1996 offseason. It was probably a necessary throw-in given that the other players we traded away were Bill Curley and James Robinson. So because it was a 2-for-1, I'm going to count this as a win. (Side notes: the 7th pick, never available to us because we never tasted higher than 8th, was Damon Stoudamire. 18th, which we traded away, ended up being Theo Ratliff; 19th was Randolph Childress. Michael Finley [21], Greg Ostertag [28], Eric Snow [43] and Fred Hoiberg [52] are the only other players who became important rotation players, and that 58th pick we traded away was the last pick in the draft, Don Reid.)

1996 - No trading down. Trailblazers select Jermaine O'Neal with the 17th pick and Marcus Brown with the 46th pick.

1997 - Original picks were 18 and 48. We kept 48 and drafted Alvin Williams. We also had the pick that was unknown at the time we traded it away in the Rider trade but that was discussed above, so really we only had 18 at this stage of the game (postseason, pre-draft). We used the pick as part of a draft-day trade, drafting Chris Anstey and trading him and cash to Dallas for Kelvin Cato. Below that 18th pick but above the 48th one, meaning players we traded away the opportunity to pick, include Scot Pollard [19], Anthony Parker [21], Bobby Jackson [23], Jacque Vaughn [27], Stephen Jackson [43] and God Shammgod [46, mentioned only for his name]. Kelvin Cato was a short-term rotation player for us; ostensibly there was a dropoff in talent after the first round if you look at the names taken (other than Captain Jack) for younger, potential rotation players.

1998 - Original picks were 18 and 47. Acquired NYK's 1998 1st-rounder and TOR's 2007 2nd-rounder (yes, you could trade 9-year-away picks back then) for Chris Dudley in October 1997. That pick ended up being 16, so we had 16 and 18 as well as 47. We then traded all 3 picks in the trade deadline deal that acquired Damon Stoudamire, which in general was a good trade since was the established veteran acquisition. Not applicable to the rule as a result. (Side notes: 16 ended up being Bryce Drew, 18 Mirsad Turkcan and 47 Tyson Wheeler. However, other rotation/otherwise relevant players from 16 on included Radoslav Nesterovic [17], Ricky Davis [21], Tyronn Lue [23], Al Harrington [25], Nazr Mohammed [29], Ruben Patterson [31], Rashard Lewis [32], Rafer Alston [39], and Sean Marks [44].)

1999 - Original picks were 27 and 56. We traded 27 along with a 2000 2nd-rounder for Bonzi Wells, who was the 11th pick the year before for Detroit (a damaged-goods lottery bust or a drafted-into-a-bad-situation-but-could-blossom-here sort of situation, at least those were the options at the time). Bonzi was still young and it could have been viewed as a step up at the time. We had previously traded away 56 all the way back in 1991. Also doesn't apply to the rule above, because we traded out but for a rookie-contract who was a higher pick only one year before. Bonzi also was better for us than the actual 27th pick would have been, Jumaine Jones. But as a side note, players available at 27 included .... Scott Padgett [28], Francisco Elson [41], and Manu Ginobili [57]. Actually, we could have had Ginobili with our second rounder at 56, who ended up being Tim Young.

2000 - Original picks 28 and 57, but 57 was traded away in the Bonzi trade. That's okay, it ended up being Scoonie Penn. We kept 28 and drafted Erick Barkley, so not applicable. (Side notes: Available players included Marko Jaric [30 - relevant only because it would mean Adriana Lima courtside at games], Eddie House [37], Eduardo Najera [38], and Michael Redd [43].

2001 - Original picks 19 and 50, we kept them both and drafted Zach Randolph and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje. Did trade away Steve Smith for Derek Anderson, Steve Kerr and a 2003 2nd-rounder, which seems like a loss because Smith helped win San Antonio a championship but then again so did Steve Kerr and 3 players is better than 1...

2002 - Original picks 21 and 51. Traded away Greg Anderson for a second-rounder which ended up being 43, kept all 3 picks and drafted Qyntel Woods at 21, Jason Jennings at 43 and Federico Kammerichs at 51.

2003 - Original picks 23 and 54, the one we acquired from San Antonio in 2001 ended up being the 58 and final pick. Kept all picks, drafted Travis Outlaw at 23, Nedzad Sinanovic at 54 and traded away 58 along with Steve Kerr.... back to San Antonio where he ended up helping them win the championship for players not including a pick.

2004 - Original picks 13 and 46. Acquired the 23rd pick for Bonzi Wells, kept all three picks and drafted Sebastian Telfair [13], Sergei Monia [23] and Ha Seung-Jin [46].

2005 - Admittedly, my entire thesis grew out of analyzing this draft. Our original picks were 3rd and 35th. We traded away the 3rd pick to Utah for the 6th and 27th picks, as well as a 2006 first-rounder - which Utah had, but from Detroit. This trade was made in June 2005, just after Detroit lost in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, so we knew the pick was going to be low in 2006. This is a clear trade-down - 3rd is good, you assume 6 is almost as good and 27 fills in the gap and hopefully then some. The third pick was Deron Williams. The 6th was Martell Webster. The 27th was Linas Kleiza. We used our 35th on Ricky Sanchez and traded Kleiza and Sanchez for Jarrett Jack. Also available between 3 and 6 were Chris Paul and Raymond Felton. The 2006 pick ended up being Joel Freeland, by the way, but we'll get to that in a second. Essentially, we traded away Chris Paul or Deron Williams, along with Ricky Sanchez, for Jarrett Jack, 28-year old Joel Freeland, and Martell Webster. This is one of those situations where the team that acquires the best player wins the trade, and we were not that team.

2006 - Original picks 4 and 31, and we'd acquired 30 in the Webster trade from 2005. Traded Viktor Khryapa, a minor draft-day acquisition post-draft for Eddie Gill in 2004, along with the 4th pick to Chicago for the 2nd pick, giving us access to every player not named Andrea Bargnani, who was the 1st pick, instead of all but two not named Andrea Bargnani. In practical measures, this really means that we got access to LaMarcus Aldridge and Adam Morrison, as we'd have had access to everyone else with the 4th pick, and wisely (of those two) ended up with Aldridge. Best player wins the trade, so even though we lost Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa, we got Aldridge, and Aldridge > Thomas to the point that we occasionally hear about acquiring Thomas to back up Aldridge. We used 30 on Joel Freeland and Eurostashed. Used the 31st pick on James White and traded him for a 2007 2nd rounder, a 2008 second rounder, and a contract they wanted to lose in Alexander Johnson, so that's a 2-for-1 and we didn't care about the cap implications of Johnson. The other big trade was another up trade in the second part of Pritchard's huge maneuvering... we traded away Ratliff, Telfair and a 2008 2nd-rounder for Dan Dickau, Raef LaFrentz (RLEC!) and the 7th pick in this year, 2006 on draft day as well, and then immediately traded one pick up to the 6th pick with Minnesota. The 7th pick we traded away was Randy Foye, the 6th was Brandon Roy. Roy (+ ROY) > Foye. (Side note - you may be wondering why Minnesota would make this trade. 1st-round draft picks get a fixed starting salary on their rookie contract, which is higher based on how high the pick was. So if Minnesota wanted Foye more than Roy, they could pick him at 6, or at 7, and pay him less at 7.) Doesn't affect the thesis, but think about this from Chicago or Minnesota's perspective and it does sort of add some weight. This, by the way, was the first Kevin Pritchard draft.

2007 - Original picks were 1 and 37. We acquired 42 in the James White dradt-day trade from 2006. Acquired 52 in the way-back trade in October 1997 for Chris Dudley. Along with Aldridge, we acquired a second-rounder from Chicago in 2006, hich ended up being 53. Kept 1, drafted Greg Oden. Kept 37, drafted Josh McRoberts. Traded 42 and cash for the 30th pick, which ended up being the rights to Petteri Koponen. This was a trade up, that helped our stock because Koponen was actually an asset in the trade to acquire Raymond Felton, and eventual 42nd pick Derrick Byars took 4 years to play, played one year for San Antonio and played a total of 37 minutes in his NBA career. Kept 42 and drafted Taurean Green. Traded 53 to NYK for a 2008 second-rounder.

2008 - Original picks 13 and 33. We'd acquired a 2nd-rounder from Indiana in the 2006 James White draft-day trade, and a 2nd-rounder from NYK in 2007 for the 2007 53rd pick we'd picked up in the Aldridge trade, which ended up being 55 ane 36 respectively, so we had 13, 33, 36 and 55. We kept the 13th pick and drafted Brandon Rush, but 2 weeks later we traded Rush along with Jarrett Jack and Josh McRoberts to Indiana for Jerryd Bayless and Ike Diogu (who, by the way, was a local undrafted kid we could have signed outright as a free agent for the minimum 2-3 years before). Bayless was the 11th pick, so this was a move up (and a win). The Blazers also bought the 27th pick from New Orleans, which we used to draft Darrell Arthur. We then traded the 27th and 33rd pick (Joey Dorsey) to get the 25th pick, Nicolas Batum. Again, a trade up and a win. The 36th pick was traded to Chicago for a 2009 2nd-rounder from Chicago (NYK's pick), 2010 2nd-rounder from Chicago and a 2009 2nd-rounder from Denver. This may seem like an incredible turnaround for one second-rounder, and it was. However, that 2nd rounder we traded away was Omer Asik. Still, 3-for-1 is a good trade at the time. The 55th pick was Mike Taylor, and we flipped him to the Clippers for a 2009 2nd-rounder.

2009 - Original picks 24 and 56. Previously acquired picks included New York's 2nd-rounder from Chicago in the Asik trade [38], Denver's pick in the Asik trade [55], and the Clippers' 2nd-rounder in exchange for last year's final draft-day pick [33]. So we had 24, 33, 38, 55 and 56. We traded 24 and 56, along with a 2010 2nd rounder (ours, not the one from Chicago in the Asik trade) to Dallas for the 22nd pick, moving up. We used that pick on Victor Claver. (Side note: the 24th pick was Byron Mullens, but that's not a statement as to the pick's value, as we could have had Mullens at 22 - this one ends up beng a wash rather than a move up). 33 we used on Dante Cuningham, 38 on Jon Brockman, who was packaged with cash and Sergio Rodriguez to immediately trade to Sacramento for 31, Jeff Pendergraph. Instead of Pendergraph we could have used that as another opportunity to get DeJuan Blair, eventually taken at 37. 55 we kept and used on Patty Mills.

2010 - Original picks 22 and 51. Had previously acquired a 2nd-rounder from Chicago in the Asik trade that ended up being 44, so we had 22, 44, and 51. Used 22 on Elliot Williams. Flipped 44 and cash to Golden State for 34, which we used on Armon Johnson and could also have used on (picks taken between 34-44) Landry Fields [39], Lance Stephenson [40] and Devin EBanks [43]; the 44th pick ended up being Jerome Jordan, who played in NYK a year and then the D-League. I know there's a lot of haters of Armon Johnson but we got more out of him than NYK got out of Jerome Jordan. The 51st pick had been traded away the previous year when we flipped Byron Mullens for Victor Claver, and it ended up being used on Magnum Rolle, who hasn't yet played in the NBA. It should be noted that this was the last draft of Kevin Pritchard.

2011 - Early in the year we traded Jerryd Bayless for New Orleans' first round pick. It ended up being the 19th pick. Our original picks were 21 and 51. We traded that 19th pick away in the Gerald Wallace trade, which cost us an opportunity at Donatas Motiejunas ... or an opportunity to have Nolan Smith (who we drafted at 21 since Paul Allen wanted him so much) AND Kenneth Faried [22], Norris Cole [28], Cory Joseph [29], Jimmy Butler [30], Chandler Parsons [38], or Isaiah Thomas [60]. 21, as mentioned, we used on Nolan Smith. We also kept 51 and used it on Jon Diebler. (Side note: We acquired a future second rounder for Tanguy Ngombo from Minnesota after acquiring Ngombo in the Felton trade, where we also traded a future 2nd round draft pick to Denver, so that was a wash.) Finally, this is the year we traded away our protected 2013 1st-rounder to Charlotte in the Gerald Wallace trade.

2012 - Original picks 11 and 41. We traded Marcus Camby for Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a 2nd round draft pick which ended up being 40, and we traded Gerald Wallace to New Jersey for Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and their 1st-rounder, which ended up being the 6th pick. We used 6 on Damian Lillard, 11 on Meyers Leonard, 40 on Will Barton, and 41 on Tyshawn Taylor, who we promptly traded to New Jersey for cash.

2013 - Due to missing the playoffs and the lottery not making us too low in the picks, we got to keep the first-rounder traded to Charlotte in the acquisition of Gerald Wallace for another year. As you know, it's the 10th pick. Our second-rounder is the 40th pick. We acquired the 39th pick from Minnesota and the 45th from Boston in trades as well.

In summary, we've seen quite a few trade-downs, including Charlotte getting lucky that Byron Mullens was still there and all they lost was Victor Claver; Portland trading away Deron Williams or Chris Paul for Martell Webster and Jarrett Jack, Chicago trading away LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas, and Minnesota trading away Brandon Roy for Randy Foye. When we've traded out, we've lost out on Omer Asik, a guy we now talk about signing (for way more money than a rookie deal) or trading for.

The Blazers need to keep the 10th pick, and if they're going to trade it, it needs to be for an established, relatively young veteran; for 2 current-year first-rounders such as from Atlanta, or, best of all, to move UP. (And for the record, no, I would not suggest trading the 10th pick for whatever pick people think Oladipo will be available at if it means losing Aldridge/Lillard/Batum/Matthews/established value.)

Thoughts appreciated, comment away.

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