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NBA Draft: Trading the Pick

What kind of return would the Wolves be looking for if they were to trade their pick?

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

One of the options that the Wolves before them is to trade the #7 pick to either move up, down, or out of the draft entirely. The NFL has a famous draft pick value chart in which teams, and fans, are able to ascertain the type of value that they should be expecting to receive for a draft pick.

There is no such standard format for this in the NBA, however there was an interesting draft value chart put together by Nick Restifo, which you can check out here, which places a value on each pick based on a player’s projected VORP, or value over replacement player. Nick has, since having written this article, been hired by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

How the evaluation system works is Nick took all of the players who were drafted at a draft position and averaged out their two best years by VORP, as this accounts for players who had long or short careers. The model is then smoothed to account for weird variations like the #3 pick having a higher value than the #2 pick.

The end result is that the #7 pick has an expected two-season average, of their two best seasons, VORP of 5.14. So this is the type of value that we will try to find if the Wolves do trade the pick.

Trading the pick for a player

The value for the #7 pick was much higher than I expected it to be. There are not many players in the NBA who have a VORP about 5. From 2010 to 2017 there are only 52 such players, or rather players who have achieved this type of season. All of the players on the list, save Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, have been All-Stars. It’s hard to imagine any team trading an All-Star level player straight up for the pick.

This kind of deal makes more sense when a team has a pick in the mid-teens, such as when the Wolves traded the #18 pick in 2012 for Chase Budinger (who later was traded for Damjan Rudez).

Trading the pick for another pick

This is where things get a little wonky, as it is very hard to determine the value of future picks, considering one has to take into account the relative future success of any given team, the lottery odds, and the types of protections on a pick. For example, how would we rate the future picks that the Celtics just received from the 76ers? There are too many complicating factors. So I will just ignore that for now.

But if we want to get equivalent value, the Wolves could receive multiple later picks that would add up to the 5 VORP that the #7 pick holds. The only real team that could do that would be Portland, as they hold onto the #15 and #20 pick. However, that is a bit less at around 4.85 than the Wolves current value of 5.14. Not to mention, when looking at this specific draft, there is a real talent drop off after the Wolves pick.

Trading the pick for a pick and a player

This is probably the most plausible option, as we can find a team that has both a pick that they could trade as well as a player could fit in with the Wolves. For example, if the Nuggets combined their #13 pick with Wilson Chandler, who had a VORP of 0.7 last year, that would get them to a combined value of around 4. That is not quite the same value of the Wolves’ pick, but the Wolves could value Chandler at a level higher than his VORP due to his fit with the Wolves roster.

Overall, it will probably be hard for the Wolves to find equivalent value for their pick this year, when utilizing this draft trade value chart, as the #7 pick is very valuable, especially in a deep draft class of this caliber.

What do you think would be a theoretical, and realistic return that the Wolves would be happy to receive for the #7 pick?