A rather innocuous roster move by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday could foretell the future for teams loaded with future draft picks. The Thunder waived TyTy Washington Jr., the 29th pick of the 2022 NBA Draft who played his first season with the Houston Rockets. Both the Rockets and Thunder have a glut of future first- and second-round selections due to the Timberwolves, Clippers, and others throwing draft capital around like trading cards.
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However, despite rebuilding, the Thunder and Rockets have no vacancies due to crowded, young rosters. While Washington might not be a future all-star, or even a rotation player, the 6-foot-3 point guard was a five-star recruit who went to Kentucky, and is now on the waiver wire 14 months after starting his pro career.
During his rookie season, Washington played in 31 games, averaging 4.7 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and half a steal in 14 minutes per appearance. In his five G-League games: 29.8 points and 7.2 assists per outing. Although Washington shot only 43 percent in those games, Scoot Henderson averaged 16 points and 7 assists on 42 percent from the field in 19 contests for the Ignite last season.
There’s been too little of a sample size and opportunity to have an idea of Washington’s potential, and the Clippers, Timberwolves, or another pick-strapped team can swoop up the first-round talent with a year of seasoning for almost nothing. On the other side of the coin, pick-heavy organizations don’t have the roster spots or minutes to give their myriad selections a worthy audition.
By my count, Houston and Oklahoma City have 31 picks combined over the next three drafts. That’s almost a fifth of the 160 possible picks. The only other choice for the many, many selections is to draft an international player and stash him, which sounds like a smart idea in the same vein as a trade exception, but, like the trade exception, seems to rarely materialize into an asset.
So GMs are trading very good-to-great players for what turns out to be a litany of late first-round selections that they’ll have to trade or waive because of roster space, and will be available for next to nothing to the same teams they willingly gave their very good-to-great players?
This is about as far as I’ll delve into an inside baseball conversation about NBA front office trends, because anymore, and the logic will drive me to Arkham. It’s up there with “We can’t trade our disgruntled all-star to a place he doesn’t want to be to appease the reps of future free agents that we’ll never be able to sign.”
Portland Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin (and Blazer fans) looking for a pick package rivaling Utah’s Rudy Gobert haul should pay close attention. What’s the use of a late first-round pick eating pine for a year? They have no inherent trade value.
Washington has been dealt four times since joining the NBA. He was traded from Memphis to Minnesota on draft night, then to Houston where he spent his rookie season, and next Atlanta, who flipped him to OKC, who discarded him like a king on the first play of a Gin Rummy hand.
The kicker to this is if Washington clears waivers, the $2.3 million he’s owed this upcoming season would be on the Thunder’s books regardless of who signs the young point guard. That’s by no means a crippling amount of money, but it is a nice little sack tap to Sam Presti’s persona.
Well, I guess you have to pitch to Ohtani when there’s nowhere to put him.
That was home run No. 43 on the year for the Los Angeles Angels star, tying him for the league lead with Atlanta’s Matt Olson. Maybe next time just walk in a run?