Big summer starts quietly on Draft night

NBA.com Global on Jun 22, 2018 01:30 PM
Big summer starts quietly on Draft night
Arizona's Deandre Ayton, center, is introduced before the NBA basketball draft in New York, Thursday, June 21, 2018. The Phoenix Suns selected Ayton with the first pick. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com

BROOKLYN - The pick swap between the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks - sending Luka Doncic to Dallas - will be one we'll talk about for a long time. Other first round picks (much to the chagrin of the Bridges family of Philadelphia) exchanged hands in deals at the 2018 NBA Draft. But in regard to players already under contract, it was a quiet night.

A year ago, we saw the Wolves trade for Jimmy Butler and the Nets trade for D'Angelo Russell on Draft night, with Dwight Howard going from Atlanta to Charlotte two days prior. Two years ago, Draft night included the trade that sent Victor Oladipo from Orlando to Oklahoma City, with Derrick Rose going from Chicago to New York the day before.

Three years ago, it was Nicolas Batum to Charlotte. Four years ago, Evan Fournier was sent from Denver to Orlando. And of course, in 2013, it was on Draft night that we learned of the Celtics-Nets trade that would (officially go through in early July and) set Boston up for the future with a bevy of Brooklyn picks.

This year, we had the Nets and Hornets agree to a deal on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). But that deal was about the salaries of Howard and Timofey Mozgov a lot more than it was about what those guys do on the floor. Charlotte wanted to duck the luxury tax next season, while Brooklyn wanted to shed the extra year in Mozgov's contract. In fact, the Nets are reportedly set to waive Howard after the trade goes through after the July moratorium.

On Thursday (Friday, PHL time)? Nothing. There wasn't a single deal consummated (or even reported) that involved a player already under contract. No salary dumps. No proven commodities for promise and potential. No bad contract and a good pick for a slightly better contract and a slightly worse pick. The Hawks and Mavs reportedly discussed adding Kent Bazemore and Wesley Matthews to the deal involving the third and fifth picks, but Dallas apparently didn't like the extra year on Bazemore's deal.

This is set up to be a wild summer. LeBron James can opt out of his contract and become a free agent. Paul George can leave Oklahoma City if he chooses. And Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants out of San Antonio.

It's a huge summer in L.A., where the Lakers have tons of cap space and assets to pursue players that aren't free agents (like Leonard, obviously). It's a huge summer in Philadelphia, the Sixers' last chance to spend big money on free agents to complement their young stars. And it could be a big summer in Boston, where the Celtics can stand pat with a roster favored to win the Eastern Conference next year or swing for the fences by trading one of their young stars for a top-five player (like Leonard, obviously).

There are some good (but not great) teams that would love to shake things up (see Wizards, Washington) and there are still some contracts that teams would love to shed (see Schroder, Dennis). Both objectives are easier said than done these days, but if Mozgov's contract can be traded twice in 12 months, anything can happen.

There are some intriguing free agents beyond James and George. Will DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas get the money they're looking for, despite their injuries? Eventually, Howard will find his seventh team in the last seven years.

But we'll have to wait. Players with contract options for next season have a week to decide on what they're doing. James will make his decision on his time and the Spurs aren't going to rush into a Leonard deal. If they do trade him, they control where he goes and when he goes there. That could be before or after the big free agents make their decisions. Will a Leonard trade affect the decisions of James and George or vice versa?

We could see some activity between now and July 1, when teams can start talking to free agents. Trades will be discussed and options will be exercised or declined.

But James, Leonard and George remain the biggest dominoes. And the activity around Thursday's Draft didn't alter the landscape one bit.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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