The lottery was fun for a while.
They drafted young players and created marketing plans around them, commercials and billboards that might not have won many games but surely won a few hearts of the most loyal of fans. But they didn't win.
Such is the current NBA life for teams like Minnesota and Sacramento, two organizations whose similar plight in recent years has led them to a changed mentality at this most pivotal of points. It's time to add veteran help and speed up this agonizing rebuilding process, and the Timberwolves (No. 2 pick) and Kings (No. 7) appear to top the list of teams hoping for some draft-day drama by way of trades.
While Minnesota's seemingly endless discussions about trading the No. 2 and/or No. 20 pick have been highly publicized, sources say the Kings are being flooded with trade calls for their only first-round selection. As Yahoo! Sports first reported, Sacramento has had discussions with San Antonio about point guard Tony Parker.
That trade remains a possibility, with Parker a far more likely option than Denver point guard Raymond Felton (about whom the Kings have also inquired) because of the Spurs veteran's contract situation. The Kings are more inclined to trade for a player with multiple years remaining on his contract so as to avoid losing him to free agency anytime soon. Felton has just one season left (at $7.5 million) on his deal. The 29-year-old Parker has four years and up to $50 million remaining, with the fact that the final year is not guaranteed a bonus for any interested team. But a rival executive familiar with the Spurs' thinking said any team that wants Parker must also take small forward Richard Jefferson, and that's where teams like the Kings will have some serious analysis to do.
Jefferson's deal is significant (he's owed $30.4 million over the next three seasons), but the Kings have been looking for experienced help at the small forward position. It doesn't mean they would pull the trigger on this particular deal, but they might top the list of teams that would consider doing so.
The Kings aren't alone in exploring a deal for Parker. The Yahoo! report cited Toronto, and a front-office source told SI.com that Utah also offered veteran point guard Devin Harris and the No. 12 pick to no avail (see aforementioned Jefferson element). A Hoopsworld.com report indicated that Portland had extensive talks with San Antonio about Parker that fell apart when -- stop us if you've heard this before -- the Blazers did not want to take on Jefferson.
As for the Kings, the combination of their high pick and league-low payroll for 2011-12 (less than $29 million on the books before the draft) means there is likely to be options aplenty for them to sift through on Thursday. They have considered other options, among them Portland point guard Andre Miller and Golden State guard Monta Ellis. And with the way the situation sounded late Wednesday night, I would be surprised if Sacramento keeps the seventh pick.
The Timberwolves, meanwhile, will continue to survey the landscape for an impact player. They have had discussions with Philadelphia about swingman Andre Iguodala, but that's just one of many possibilities.
• Not long after I was convinced that Utah would take Turkish center Enes Kanter at No. 3 instead of Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight, reports surfaced that Minnesota (if it holds on to the pick) was also leaning toward Kanter at No. 2 over Arizona's Derrick Williams. It's unclear whether that's smoke screen or a late change of heart, as it has seemed clear for weeks that the Timberwolves preferred Williams.
If Kanter is taken at No. 2 (after the expected pick of Kyrie Irving at No. 1 to Cleveland), I'm under the impression that the Jazz will then choose Williams. Either way, the draft could get very interesting much earlier than normal.
• The intrigue will likely continue with Cleveland at No. 4. It remains unclear whether the contract issues of Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas will preclude the Cavaliers from taking him. According to DraftExpress.com, the buyout that has yet to be finalized would prohibit him from playing in the NBA until the 2012-13 season.
If that were enough to scare Cleveland away, a source said there were strong indications that the Cavs would select Texas power forward Tristan Thompson with the fourth pick. (I elevated Thompson to No. 4 in Wednesday's Mock Draft after having him at No. 12 in last week's version.) That buzz continued on Wednesday, and Thompson is expected to be taken in the top 10 even if Cleveland does pass on him. The Warriors (No. 11) will be disappointed if that's the case because they are among the teams that would love to land him.
The labor situation could come into play here: The idea of passing on Valanciunas for fear that he might miss a season that could be lost anyway is somewhat foolhardy.
• Numerous executives are speculating that the Thunder (No. 24 pick) have given a promise to Boston College's Reggie Jackson, whose camp has refused all workouts and made it known that the point guard already has an NBA home somewhere. The logic leading them there relates to Oklahoma City's bigger picture. It's believed that the Thunder are preparing for life without backup point guard Eric Maynor because of the finances in play.
Franchise centerpiece Kevin Durant received his maximum contract extension last summer, and running mate Russell Westbrook is expected to land the next big payday. Maynor, meanwhile, has a rookie-scale contract that runs two more years (including a $2.3 million team option for 2012-13), and the Thunder appear to be eyeing another worthy rookie-scale deal to essentially put in its place.
• Jackson is the runaway winner of the high-maintenance award in this draft class.
After he mysteriously pulled out of the Chicago predraft camp and a group workout in Minnesota in mid-May, a source close to him confirmed an ESPN.com report that he had underwent a minor knee procedure and said that was the reason for his absence. A front-office source said teams were later told that Jackson had platelet-rich plasma injection therapy. Still, Jackson was expected to return to form in mid-June in time to begin 11th-hour workouts.
But he never did. And now, numerous reports indicate that Jackson's representatives refused to share medical records with various teams. Not surprisingly, an executive from one team with interest in Jackson told SI.com that "a lot of people don't believe he was ever injured" and that numerous teams were put off by the way his situation was handled.
• Chicago has been offering Nos. 28 and 30 with the hopes of moving up. ... Washington would love to nab Kanter and has been offering Nos. 6 and 18 to get into the top three. ... Charlotte has looked at moving up by way of offering Nos. 9 and 19, but could also deal just one of the picks. ... Cleveland has shown a willingness to potentially trade down from its No. 4 pick. The Cavaliers would also like to turn Nos. 32 and 54 into a late first-round pick via trade.