Granted, the Lottery God didn’t smile on the Wizards this year, but sixth pick is hardly the worst thing in the world. In fact, general manager Ernie Grunfeld has three very viable options:
● He can stand pat (and remind himself that previous sixth picks have included Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Adrian Dantley and Lenny Wilkens).
● He can move up by packaging the sixth pick with the 18th, acquired from the Hawks (and remind himself that when the Jazz traded up from 6 to 3 in 2005, they came away with two-time All-Star Deron Williams).
● Or he can deal the pick for a veteran (and remind himself that the last two times that happened, the veterans involved were Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury – back when Marbury was still a force).
Intriguing possibilities, to say the least.
Here, for your perusal, are the details of the last half-dozen times the sixth pick changed hands:
● 2009 – The Timberwolves and Celtics passed it back in forth. In the second of the two swaps, the Celtics returned the pick – which was used to draft G Jonny Flynn – to Minnesota in exchange for future Hall of Famer Garnett. The T-wolves also received F Al Jefferson, G Sebastian Telfair, F Gerald Green, C-F Theo Ratliff, F Ryan Gomes and cash.
The upshot: The Celtics went to the NBA Finals two of the next three seasons (and won it all in ’09). The Timberwolves, alas, continue to be terrible.
● 2006 – Minnesota traded the rights to the sixth pick, G Brandon Roy, to the Trail Blazers for the rights the seventh pick, G Randy Foye, plus cash.
The upshot: Roy is the best sixth pick in the last decade and is averaging 19 points a game for his career. Foye, not nearly as talented, is already with his third team (and even spent a year with the Wizards).
● 2005 – The Jazz sent the sixth pick to the Trail Blazers for the third pick and took Williams. The Blazers got three first-rounders in return – two that year (ninth and 27th overall), and one the next (30th).
The upshot: Williams, now with the Nets, has developed into a top point guard. Portland didn’t do nearly as well with its three picks: G-F Martell Webster (last seen coming off the bench in Minnesota), F Linas Kleiza (traded for G Jarrett Jack) and F Joel Freeland (a Brit who’s still playing in Europe).
● 1999 – The Nets dealt the sixth pick to the Timberwolves in a three-team swap that included the Bucks. It’s complicated, but in a nutshell, New Jersey got Marbury and Minnesota got F Wally Szczerbiak (the sixth selection) and G Terrell Brandon.
The upshot: The T-wolves routinely made the playoffs with Szczerbiak and Brandon – and twice won 50 games – but couldn’t get out of the first round. As for the Nets, they were pretty much a disaster during the Marbury years (though he did play in one All-Star game while he was with them).
● 1998 – The Mavericks shipped the rights to the sixth pick, F Robert “Tractor” Traylor, to the Bucks for the rights to the ninth and 19th picks – Dirk Nowitzki and F Pat Garrity (who was then bundled in a deal for Steve Nash).
The upshot: If this isn’t the most brilliant use of the sixth pick in NBA history – turning it into two future MVPs – I don’t know what is. Traylor was a disappointing widebody who washed out of the league (and was found dead earlier this month of a heart attack).
● 1997 – The Mavericks traded the sixth pick, along with a No. 1 in ’96 (also the sixth pick), to the Celtics for C Eric Montross and the ninth pick in ’96. (That’s right, the Mavs traded down from 6 to 9.)
The upshot: The Celts drafted F Antoine Walker, a three-time All-Star, and G Ron Mercer, who averaged 15-plus points a game his first few seasons. The Mavs, with the first-rounder they got from Boston, selected journeyman F Samaki Walker … and regressed in the years that followed, winning 24, 20 and 19 games.
Conclusion: Grunfeld probably shouldn’t trade down (see 2006 and – yikes! – 1998) but any other kind of wheeling and dealing might work to his benefit. It’ll be interesting to see what route he takes.
Be advised, though, that if he keeps the pick (San Diego State F Kawhi Leonard? Colorado G Alec Burks? Czech F Jan Veseley?), the last 10 No. 6 selections have been Ekpe Udoh, Flynn, Danilo Gallinari, (current Wizard) Yi Jianlian, Roy, Webster, Josh Childress, Chris Kaman, Dajuan Wagner and Shane Battier (a.k.a. “The No-Stats All-Star”) Not a terribly impressive group, you have to admit.