The Sacramento Kings needed another big man on their roster after the 2010-11 season. The Cleveland Cavaliers had long been interested in Omri Casspi. The two sides agreed to a deal on June 30th, 2011 with Hickson going to Sacramento in return for Casspi and Sacramento's 2012 lottery protected first round pick. Neither team knew at the time just how historic this minor little deal would become.
The Saga of the Lottery Protected Pick
The original terms of the deal are both hilarious and tragic with the benefit of hindsight. The first round pick the Kings sent to the Cavaliers was lottery protected in 2012, 1-13 protected in 2013, 1-12 protected in 2014, and 1-10 protected from 2015 to 2017.
Only three teams have missed the playoffs in every season since this trade was consummated. Of those three teams, only one has finished with fewer than 40 wins in all of those seasons, a necessary component of sliding in under the protected threshold of this pick. If the Cleveland Cavaliers had gotten the same protections on the first round pick of any other team in the league in 2012, the pick would have conveyed. Instead, the pick converted into a second round pick this past year.
Both of the teams involved in the initial trade had long since moved on from the player elements of this trade by the time the draft pick portion of the trade was finalized. J.J. Hickson was waived before he could even finish the 2011-2012 season with the Kings. Casspi flamed out in Cleveland and ironically enough managed to make it back to the Kings for his second stint in Sacramento before once again being traded.
Cleveland had even moved on from the draft pick they were expected to get back in this deal. The pick was sent to the Chicago Bulls along with other picks and Andrew Bynum in the disastrous Luol Deng trade. The team that won the Hickson-Casspi deal that started this pick protection mess still somehow managed to find a way to dump the best asset they got in the trade in yet another bad deal. In a way, the pick feels almost cursed.
From Pick to Player
After all of the drama surrounding the eternally protected first round pick, the deal ended in a bit of a whimper with the Chicago Bulls finally being the team to cash in their pick, now early in the second round. The 38th overall pick has turned into an All-Star in the past, with Mehmet Okur playing in the 2006-07 All-Star game after being taken with what was the ninth pick of the second round in 2001. Still, basically every slot in the second round has produced at least one All-Star. Realistically speaking the player chosen with the 38th overall selection in 2017 was not likely to generate anywhere near as much drama as the circumstances surrounding the draft pick itself.
However, the Bulls managed to find a way to pull their usual magic, turning yet another valuable asset that could help their slowly collapsing basketball team into money to line the pockets of Jerry Reinsdorf and the front office duo of Gar Forman and John Paxson. The Bulls selected defensive mastermind Jordan Bell with the 38th overall pick--and promptly sold him to the Golden State Warriors for $3.5 million in cash, the most that they could get in return for the pick.
Bell immediately went from arguably the worst situation for him in the NBA to indisputably his best possible landing place. There are not many players in the NBA that would not thrive with the Warriors, but Bell's game seems almost tailor-made for his new team. Bell cannot really score barring wide-open dunks, but he will never need to do that in Golden State anyway. His biggest/only offensive asset is his passing--just as his basketball IQ helps him always find the right place to be on the defensive end, that high IQ also allows Bell to pick out the right read far more often than could be reasonably expected of most 22-year-old big men. Anyone who doubted havoc that Bell could wreak should have been won over by his astounding Summer League performance:
The saga that led to Jordan Bell being selected with the 38th overall pick in 2017 started many years earlier, with a trade involving two teams that were not involved with Bell's drafting and subsequent sale to the Warriors. However, that protected pick saga could have easily faded into the background of NBA history. Instead, Jordan Bell will keep that saga alive, albeit in a different way (and in a different uniform) than what anybody could have expected.