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Analyzing the LeBron James sign-and-trade deal: why draft picks matter

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Pat Riley traded away small pieces of a pie to get a big one in return, on more than one occasion.

Atlanta Hawks v Miami Heat Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Pat Riley has the same tools this year that he used so creatively in 2010 to acquire LeBron James. To refresh your memory, this is what the Miami Heat gave away in 2010:

  • Two first-round picks, that must be used starting in 2013 and ending by 2017
  • 2012 second-round pick Miami received from New Orleans
  • Future second-round pick Heat acquired from Oklahoma City
  • Cleveland can also swap first round picks with the Heat in 2012
  • A large trade exception($15 million or so) that the Cavs must use in trades for one calendar year.

Turns out the Philadelphia 76ers are actively shopping some of their 4 second-round draft picks, because of roster constraints.

The thought around the NBA is that the 76ers are set on trading at least one of their second-round picks in the draft to alleviate a possible roster crunch, according to multiple league executives.

"They're trying to sell one of the second-rounders," said an executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

In addition to having the third overall pick, the Sixers have four second-rounders - Nos. 36, 39, 46, and 50 - in the draft June 22.

It's not surprising that the Sixers want to trade picks. As one executive pointed out, they won't have room on their roster to take in five rookies and add quality free agents.

As an aside, I feel compelled to mention the Heat had some good luck in the second round with Mario Chalmers and Josh Richardson.

In seven NBA seasons Gordon Hayward (whose agent has done a fantastic job promoting him) wasn't selected to an All-NBA team even one time, unlike Goran Dragic who achieved that honor. The assets needed to complete a sign-and-trade for Hayward should be less than what the Cavaliers received for James. Overpaying now could sink the team down the round, in terms of lost opportunities.

Miami can't trade the picks themselves, but could select players the target team asks the Heat to pick for them. Then the players themselves would be exchanged in July.

With the amount of picks on the market during draft night, the Heat might be able to combine lesser choices to move up in the draft order. Riley has been doing this for decades, so he has a great feel on the actual mechanics of getting things done for Miami.

Having a trade exemption was a big part of the package trade then, and it could also be now.

Shaquille O'Neal trade, version 2.0

As Wikipedia reports,

On July 14, 2004, O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, and a future first-round draft choice (who would turn into Jordan Farmar in the 2006 draft).

He claimed one of the main reasons for wanting to be traded to Miami was because of their up-and-coming star Dwyane Wade, to whom he gave the nickname "Flash."

In this case, Riley used promising young talent already on the team, in exchange for a proven champion. Again the superstar wanted out of his current situation.

Miami has:

  1. cap space for a trade exemption
  2. promising young trade chips
  3. can acquire more draft picks on the market next week

Missing Ingredient

A Hall of Fame caliber player ambitious enough to recruit generational players with one goal in mind: to become unstoppable.

Once management decides on their key player(s), they may decide to go for the ultimate prize this season.

My preference lies in preserving last season's Heat Culture, that Erik Spoelstra worked so hard to cultivate.

However, opportunities too good to pass up may present themselves.