I got an interesting question from a reader recently. He asked me if I thought the Charlotte Bobcats should offer their 2013 first-round pick for Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith.
I replied that the real question is whether the Bobcats could promise that pick to the Hawks or any other team.
Heres the issue: The Bobcats still owe the Chicago Bulls a future first-round pick to complete the 2010 trade that brought forward Tyrus Thomas to Charlotte.
That pick has varying degrees of protection. It goes to Chicago if its not top-12 in 2013. That protection drops to top-10 in 2014 and top-8 in 2015. If the pick hasnt been conveyed by 2016, it goes to Chicago unprotected.
That would complicate the Bobcats making any deal involving their pick from now through 2016. The only hypothetical deal the league would approve, according to an NBA spokesman, would offer the Bobcats pick to another team two years after the Bulls get their pick, whenever that is.
I remember a few years ago the Cleveland Cavaliers were in a similar situation: They owed the Bobcats a pick with some lottery protection. They wanted to make another deal. So they voided the lottery protection to know for sure their 2005 pick was headed to Charlotte. That became 13th overall and the Bobcats selected Sean May.
The Bobcats owing the Bulls a pick doesnt necessarily close off other options. They could offer another team a first-round pick beyond 2016. Or they could offer one of the two first-round picks theyre owed by other teams.
The Portland Trail Blazers owe the Bobcats another first-rounder to complete the Gerald Wallace trade. That pick is top-12 protected for each draft through 2015. It would be unprotected in 2016.
The Detroit Pistons owe a first-round to Charlotte to complete the Corey Maggette-Ben Gordon deal. That pick is lottery-protected (top 14) in 2013, top-eight protected in 2014 and first-pick protected in 2015.
So potentially, the Bobcats could get two first-round picks in 2016 with no protection.
Those are pretty valuable, either to select rookies or as trade commodities. One of the first things general manager Rich Cho said when he joined Rod Higgins in the current front office was that acquiring extra picks is crucial for a rebuilding team.
So once that Bulls pick is behind them, the Bobcats will be that much better equipped to do their business.
Five passing thoughts on the NBA and the Bobcats
• After seeing the Golden State Warriors live against the Bobcats and on television against some other teams, Im way impressed. For the first time in years, Stephen Curry is free of limitation from that ankle injury. Hes one of the leagues best point guards. David Lee is steady, and for the first time in years, that team has embraced defense. If Andrew Bogut recovers, he should fit in well, and the Warriors are for real as a playoff team.
• The Bobcats are last in the NBA in defensive-rebounding percentage. Theyre the only team in the NBA failing to retrieve at least 70 percent of opponents misses. Coach Mike Dunlap prioritizes defense, but the defense wont be good until this changes.
• Dunlap said he likes how the Atlanta Hawks have acquired extra quarterbacks beyond point guard Jeff Teague. He meant ballhandlers Devin Harris and Louis Williams make them particularly adept on the fast break. The Hawks are among the best in the NBA in converting opponent turnovers into baskets. Thats in part because their break is so efficient.
• I cant say Im surprised the Dallas Mavericks are struggling without Dirk Nowitzki. I thought the Mavs overachieved the seasons first couple of weeks. Rick Carlisle is a good coach, but that talent just doesnt fit together, particularly in Nowitzkis absence.
• The Bobcats best chance of winning one of the four games on this West Coast trip has to be Tuesday in Phoenix. The Suns are a mess, in need of a major makeover. Thats not coach Alvin Gentrys fault, but I assume this is Gentrys last season there.
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