What This NBA Scout Reveals About Basketball Trades Might Surprise You


“What is the most likely trade for Josh Smith?”

Every year after the NBA All-Star break, collective focus shifts to the trade deadline. People speculate about the transactions they think might, should and will happen before it’s too late. Basketball scout and NBA draft evaluator James Kerti took to Reddit on February 20—the day of this season’s NBA trade deadline—to answer questions. Here are some of his juiciest industry insights.

Predicting trades is hard, but making them is even harder

Kerti wrote that he didn’t think Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Houston’s Jeremy Lin, Golden State’s Harrison Barnes and Detroit’s Greg Monroe would be moved. He was right on all accounts. After all, as Kerti wrote, “It’s HARD to make trades in the NBA. A lot harder than most people think.” According to Kerti, teams have the following trade considerations:

“How a player fits in with the personnel and coaching staff.
The organization’s plan and overall direction for the future.
The player’s contract in relation to the payroll and the aforementioned plan.

How the team’s chemistry could be affected by a trade.”

Kerti wrote that GMs frequently talk to each other about trade proposals ahead of the deadline. His greatest point of emphasis is that “BOTH teams—not just one side—involved in trade talks are thinking about these things.”

You can’t win ‘em all
Regardless of how well a person understands a team’s personnel, contract situation and goals, chances are that some trades that do and don’t happen will still come as a total surprise. Indiana’s trade of Danny Granger for Philadelphia’s Evan Turner came out of left field for most people, including Kerti. As the trade deadline approached, the scout wrote that the Indiana Pacers will stay put. He also wrote that Los Angeles Lakers big man Jordan Hill is “likely” to be traded and that the Milwaukee Bucks will not cut Caron Butler. When the clock struck 3 p.m., Hill still represented the purple and gold, and Butler was agreeing to terms on a contract buyout that would get him out of Wisconsin. In his defence, Kerti explained that he is not an NBA insider. “I’m not Woj,” wrote Kerti, referring to prescient Yahoo Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski, whom he dubs a “warlock.”

Beware the headlines

Why don’t sports media have slow news days? Kerti might be able to explain that. He wrote that “a lot” of trade rumours actually stem from embellished accounts of casual chats between GMs. What’s more, these conversations happen everyday, and don’t always materialize in a transaction. They might go a little something like this fictional example:

“Let’s say Daryl Morey calls Sam Hinkie.
‘Hey Sam, are you still thinking about moving Evan Turner?’
‘Yeah, we’re entertaining the idea. What are you up to?’
‘We’d still like to find a home for Asik if possible.’

‘Cool. Let me know if anything comes up. Bye!’ 

That conversation becomes ‘Sixers, Rockets discussing swapping Asik for Turner’ in the media, and then that headline gets retweeted 2,000 times and [receives] 10 minutes on SportsCenter.”

On the trade deadline
“I’m more surprised than anything that so many deals have happened today,” Kerti wrote.

The player he’s been high on
“I’ve only been scouting professionally for a few years, so my track record is pretty short. I’ve always been in the Kyle Lowry camp though,” Kerti wrote, adding the Toronto Raptors should and will resign Lowry after his contract runs out this offseason.

On last year’s top pick
“I’ve always liked Bennett. I lived in Vegas when he was playing at Findlay Prep and UNLV, so I got to watch him a lot,” Kerti write. He speculated that Cleveland’s “erratic” rotation and system are to blame for Bennett’s early struggles. “It’s important for rookies especially to know exactly what their role is and what’s expected of them.”

What he scouts for
“I think it’s really important for a guy to excel in one area if he’s trying to make a jump in levels,” Kerti wrote. “It’s hard to be an all-around player at one level and jump a level if you don’t have a single skill good enough to really make an impact there.” Kerti added that he examines a prospect’s hands and feet and observes how well he moves and catches the ball. In lieu of statistics, these are indicators of a basketball player with potential to make the leap to the next level.

Top three sleepers for the 2014 draft
“I like Stauskas, Selden, and McDermott more than most people. People are sleeping on McDermott because of (unfounded, I think) worries about his defensive ability,” Kerti wrote.


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