In the summer of 2012, the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks pulled off a giant trade sending Joe Johnson to the Nets in exchange for five role players, a future first-round draft pick, a 2017 second-round pick, and the right to swap first-round picks in 2014 and 2015.
None of the five players the Hawks acquired are still on the team, and the 2013 draft pick (which turned into the Knicks’ Shane Larkin) was traded on draft day.
However, a small add-on in the trade has turned into the biggest coup for the Hawks.
The right for the Hawks to swap draft picks with the Nets in 2015 is now perhaps the most valuable piece of the trade.
At the time of the trade, the Nets thought they’d be a contender in the Eastern Conference. They assumed the pick swap detail wouldn’t even come into play because they’d have a better record than Atlanta. That’s what happened in 2014, when the Hawks opted not to swap picks because the Nets had a better record and, therefore, a worse draft pick.
The right to swap picks still didn’t seem like a big deal going into the 2015 season. While the Nets were (and are) projected to be a low playoff seed or high-end lottery team, the Hawks were only projected to win 41 games, putting them in a similar draft position — the picks were projected to be only a position or two apart.
Instead, that small add-on has turned into a disaster for the Nets and a huge win for the first-place Hawks.
The Hawks are the biggest surprise of the NBA, clinching first place in the East, while the Nets are in eighth place, fighting for the final playoff spot.
The Hawks are going to have the No. 29 pick in the draft. Swapping picks is a foregone conclusion. The only question is how high of a pick they will get from Brooklyn.
If the Nets miss the playoffs, the best team in the Eastern Conference will have a lottery pick.
In today’s NBA, first round picks, particularly lottery picks, are the most valuable asset a team can have. The Hawks can add young, cheap talent while the Nets, who are capped out and without many draft picks in the next few years, would only have the 29th pick in 2015.
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