The Long and Winding Road of an NBA Draft Pick

Have you ever paid attention to exactly how your favorite team acquired its players? To be sure, at least a few of them were free agents, but that’s no fun. What’s infinitely more fun is the ones who were acquired in trades, via the draft, or, even better, both.

Take, for instance, the case of Norris Cole. Norris Cole was taken by the Miami Heat with the 28th pick of the 2011 draft. That pick actually belonged to the Heat originally, but it went on a journey that would make Odysseus jealous.

Again, that pick was originally Miami’s, but they sent it to the Toronto Raptors to complete the Chris Bosh sign and trade. From there, the Raptors sent it to the Chicago Bulls for James Johnson. There it stayed until draft night. That’s when things get interesting.

The Bulls executed a draft-night deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves that netted Chicago the 23rd pick, which became Nikola Mirotic, in exchange for the 28th pick and the 43rd pick, which became Malcolm Lee. The Bulls, by the way, had previously acquired that second rounder in the Carlos Boozer sign and trade the previous summer. The Wolves, meanwhile, only had the 23rd pick to give up because they had, that same night, traded a future second rounder, the 20th pick — Donatas Montejunas — and Jonny Flynn to the Houston Rockets for the 23rd pick, Brad Miller, a future first, and the 38th pick, which became Chandler Parsons.* The Wolves would then send the 28th pick to Miami for cash, the 31st pick — Bojan Bogdanovic — and a future second rounder.**

*The Rockets would then reacquire Parsons for cash, because god forbid anything make sense in the NBA.

**Proving once and for all that the NBA was far more entertaining when David Kahn was running a team, the Wolves would flip the 31st pick as well, to the then-New Jersey Nets for a future second rounder and cash.

Impressive, isn’t it? All that wheeling and dealing, only for the pick to end up right back where it started.

In case you’re wondering why I’m bothering to bring this up, I started thinking about how screwy some trades can end up when I saw a tweet stating that the Oklahoma City Thunder had traded Eric Bledsoe for Cole Aldrich. This struck me as wrong, so I went digging for the details. As it turns out, they were two separate deals, and both of them have fairly wide-ranging consequences.

You ready? Let’s dive in.

First, let’s focus on Bledsoe. His end is shorter. Bledsoe was taken with the 18th pick of the 2010 draft. That pick was originally Miami’s — those blasted Heat again — and was sent to OKC along with Daequan Cook as the Heat desperately tried to clear enough space to afford their Big Three. In exchange, the Heat got the 32nd pick, which became Dexter Pittman.*** The 18th pick was then sent to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for a future first rounder. That pick would then be sent to the Boston Celtics in the deal that got them Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson.**** That pick would become the 22nd pick in the 2011 draft, which would be used to take Fab Melo. So…that worked out well. And Bledsoe, as you’re probably aware, was eventually traded to the Phoenix Suns in a three-team trade this past summer, which sent Jared Dudley and JJ Redick to LA, Caron Butler and Bledsoe to the Suns and assorted second-rounders to the Milwaukee Bucks. Butler would then be traded to the Bucks in a separate deal later in the same offseason because reasons.

*** How, exactly, the Thunder ended up with that pick in the first place is complex enough that I’m not really sure I even understand it. If you really want to know, you can read about it here. But I don’t recommend it.

**** It’s worth noting that Jeff Green was taken with a pick that was originally Boston’s before they made the Ray Allen trade in 2007. The NBA: It’s FANNNNNNNNNN-tastic.

So that’s Bledsoe. The Aldrich trade is also fun, and still has ripples going on today as well. Aldrich was taken with the 11th pick in 2010, which came via the then-New Orleans Hornets along with Morris Peterson’s expiring contract. In exchange, the Hornets got the 21st pick — Craig Brackins — and the 26th pick — Quincy Pondexter.***** Pondexter would be traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Greivis Vasquez, who was taken with the 28th pick. The Grizzlies, of course, had that pick because the Los Angeles Lakers had traded it to them for Pau Gasol in 2008. This is so much fun. Since then, Vasquez has been traded to the Sacramento Kings in the Tyreke Evans sign and trade, then to the Raptors for Rudy Gay. Beautiful.

***** The pick that became Pondexter came via the Phoenix Suns, who gave the then-Seattle Supersonics first rounders in 2008 — Serge Ibaka! — and 2010 in exchange for taking Kurt Thomas off their hands. In return, the Sonics sent back a 2009 second rounder, which they’d acquired from the Orlando Magic in the Rashard Lewis sign and trade. The Suns took Emir Preldzic and sent him to the Cleveland Cavaliers for cash.

Look at all the teams and players I’ve just named, and remember that I started with three — THREE — individual draft picks: the 11th pick in 2010, the 18th pick in 2010, and the 28th pick in 2011.

Another fun one is Ty Lawson, who was taken 18th overall in 2009. You are probably aware the Timberwolves traded that pick on draft night to the Denver Nuggets. What you are most likely not aware of is that the Wolves acquired that pick from the Heat, in a trade that sent Antoine Walker, Wayne Simien, Michael Doleac and cash to the Wolves with that pick, and Ricky Davis and Mark Blount to the Heat. Ricky Davis and Antoine Walker! Now, in return for the pick, the Nuggets gave the Wolves a future first from the Charlotte Bobcats, which they had previously acquired in 2008, when they sent the 20th pick — Alexis Ajinca — to Charlotte. That pick would become 16th in 2010, which would become Luke Babbit, who was traded to the Portland Trailblazers along with Ryan Gomes for Martell Webster.

So there you go. I’ve discussed four draft picks, and named 20 franchises. TWENTY. That’s two-thirds of the league. Two-thirds! NBA GMs, please get your acts together. You have a problem, and you need help.

Caleb Nordgren

Caleb is a proud Chicagoan still adjusting to life away from the big city. He's a journalism student at Michigan State, the Editor of Pippen Ain't Easy and can be found at any given time on Twitter, talking about basketball and generally being sarcastic.