How The Lottery Helped The Mavs In A PG Trade

When might the market value of Eric Bledsoe shrink? When might the Dallas Mavericks’ opinion of Ricky Rubio rise? A first step came on NBA Lottery Night. The next step might come on NBA Draft Night.

The market value of Eric Bledsoe was, before Tuesday night, in flux.

The Dallas Mavericks’ opinion of Ricky Rubio was, too.

The valuations of those two veteran point guards, and the Mavs' thoughts on them, don't occur in a vacuum and don't find themselves etched in stone.

But a first step toward determining "who they are'' came on NBA Lottery Night, with a clear understanding of which team drafts where. And a potentially final step comes on June 22, NBA Draft Night, when we have a clear understanding of which team drafts which player.

Consider the Phoenix Suns and Bledsoe. At different times over the course of the last few years, he's been viewed as too injury-prone (a Mavs view), a budding star (a media view, certainly) and an expendable piece (with the sudden maturation of Devin Booker). Worth adding here: There are NBA people who privately criticize Bledsoe for not taking great care of his body. Is that an unbreakable habit? A reason he's so injury-prone?

Anyway ... Now the Suns have the No. 4 overall pick in a point-guard-deep draft. If the Suns select another guard on June 22, like, day, De'Aaron Fox of Kentucky ... or if they plan to do so over the course of the day, or while they're on the clock, or immediately after the pick ...

Bledsoe becomes increasingly available ... while at the same time seeing his "value'' drop.

Jump to Minnesota, where the Timberwolves, like the Suns, have a wealth of young potential - Tyus Jones (20), Andrew Wiggins (21), Karl-Anthony Towns (21), Zach LaVine (21), Shabazz Muhammad (24) and most pertinent to this story, point guard Kris Dunn (22) -- and point guard Ricky Rubio. Again, if Minny picks a point guard at 7, the T'Wolves are overloaded there.

And Rubio, at some point during the day and night, becomes increasingly available ... and you are suddenly very friendly with Rubio's new agent, as we detail here ... while at the same time seeing his "value'' drop.

How does this work?

At Draft time, the most valued commodity, traditionally, is the pick. It comes with unlimited potential. It comes with exciting promise. It comes with no baggage, no failure and no high price tag. It's gold ... or fool's gold ... but it looks like gold.

The most difficult time to get value for a vet is Draft time, because the young "gold'' is, however temporarily, so much more attractive.

There is a logical basketball side to this, too: It's about money and minutes. I'm a 30-win team. I'm drafting early. I'm trying to build, I just selected a rookie point guard, and now I want to give him minutes in order to accelerate the learning curve. So if I'm Phoenix or Minnesota, why do I want a highly-salaried player like Rubio or Bledsoe (each of whom makes more than $14 mil a year for the next two seasons) to be kept around as a towel-waver, with that financial investment, in theory, going to waste?

Therefore, I suddenly open my eyes to the advantages of dumping that salary. 

Now, there are no automatics here. We still don't know who Phoenix and Minnesota will draft. Will certainly don't know that philosophically either club is opposed to having "too many point guards.'' (In fact, both organizations have assembled rosters in recent years that have earned that exact criticism.) Someone might argue that a Rubio is a perfect mentor for a new kid. (Someone else might argue that if they have Dunn and now a rookie, they can find a "third-string mentor'' for less than $14 mil.)

Additionally, to be a winning bidder, the Mavs (or whomever) have to decide that they value a Rubio or a Bledsoe more than the next team. And this is where the Dallas non-vacuum comes in.

At different times over the last three years, I know specifically that the Mavs have been "fluid'' in their evaluations of Rubio. His status as a non-shooter was bothersome, but then he closed this season with a nice offensive flourish. His salary was once considered "high,'' but Wesley Matthews makes $4 million more. Once he was "only'' a pass-first point guard but now Dallas is specifically desirous of an unselfish point guard who will "move and share.''

Dallas' largest philosophical challenge regarding Rubio and Bledsoe (and any other point guard who comes available in trade), though, is Dirk Nowitzki-related: How much do the Mavs want to sacrifice to give Dirk immediate help for what might be his final NBA season? Surely they wouldn't sacrifice the No. 9 overall pick -- and its future promise -- for a $14-mil Band-Aid?!

Doing so wouldn't be taking advantage of the "in-flux'' evals of Ricky Rubio and Eric Bledsoe. These are trades to be "won,'' not just trades to be "made.'' We think if the Suns and the Timberwolves are set on point guards on June 22, there will be concurrent intense trade talks involving their vets ...  and we think the Mavs should and will explore the Rubio/Bledsoe availability ... as long as the temporarily shrunken value of the vets is taken advantage of. ... and as long as pick No. 9 isn't touched.