Tom Penn was an assistant general manager with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2006 when they struck a deal with Houston before the draft.
If LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay or Brandon Roy was available when the Rockets came on the clock at No. 7, the Grizzlies would send veteran Shane Battier to Houston for the pick. Gay was still there when it was time for the Rockets to pick, so the Grizzlies had a deal.
If only it were that easy.
Because of the complex machinations behind getting a trade involving players already under contract approved, the deal could not be announced immediately. So Commissioner David Stern announced that the Rockets were picking Gay, and the UConn swingman came out from backstage and donned a Rockets cap.
In the interim, the story leaked out and it wasn’t until much later in the night that all the steps were completed to allow the teams to officially announce the trade. That kind of limbo is commonplace on NBA draft night, creating confusion for players and viewers about who is going where.
“I think we need to change this process on draft night to clean up the awkwardness because it’s terrible,” said Penn, now an analyst for ESPN. “And it gets worse every year because of our connectivity and the social nature of things and the fact that facts leak out in real time now.”
In the NFL, trades are made quickly and announced immediately, but normally those deals only involve current or future draft picks.
In the NBA, veteran players often change teams as part of draft-night deals. When that happens, teams must disclose that player’s medical history, the league has to make sure that the trades conform to the NBA’s complex collective bargaining agreement rules and both teams have to conduct a trade call to finalize the deal.
The league is looking at options to expedite the process, but wants to avoid rushing deals through that may fall apart upon closer examination.
“I think we need to be able to do sort of conditional trade announcements,” Penn said. “If one of these things does fall apart on a technicality, everybody will understand it and we’ll just undo it. It would be a more honest way to do it.”
Here are five spots to watch for potential deals on Thursday night:
—No. 1: The Cleveland Cavaliers are reportedly trying to decide between Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker for the first overall pick. They also are taking calls on trade offers and are looking to make a splash in an effort to entice LeBron James to come back home. The Cavs were interested in dealing for Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love, but Love has given them the cold shoulder so far.
—No. 3: The Philadelphia 76ers have two picks in the top 10 and GM Sam Hinkie already has a reputation as a wheeler and dealer in just over a year on the job. If the Sixers decide to pass on Joel Embiid, the Kansas big man who just had foot surgery, they could be looking to move up for Wiggins, or down to accumulate assets and continue their rebuild.
—No. 5: The Utah Jazz have a frontcourt stocked with good, young talent. And by the time they land on the clock, the best players available figure to be power forwards like Indiana’s Noah Vonleh and Kentucky’s Julius Randle. That has prompted speculation that the Jazz will try to move up for a chance at grabbing Parker.
—No. 6: The Boston Celtics have two picks in the first round and also covet Love. But the Wolves have rebuffed their advances so far. Would packaging Nos. 6 and 17 be enough to get the No. 1 pick from Cleveland, which they could in turn try to flip to Minnesota for Love?
—No. 11: The Denver Nuggets are coming off a disappointing season in GM Tim Connelly’s first year on the job. They want back into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, and the 11th pick in a deep draft is one of their more attractive assets to help Connelly make something happen.
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