Our friends at NetsDaily have a wholly accurate framing of the trade that sent New Jersey's protected lottery pick to the Blazers for Gerald Wallace. On paper, the pick is protected in the top three. In reality, because teams that finish with, say, the seventh worst record in the league cannot end up with the No. 4, No. 5 or No. 6 pick, the Nets' selection is really protected through No. 6.
Again, it's an accurate way to depict the fate of the pick: the Blazers won't get a pick if it lands in the (x-1) spot, where x represents the Nets' spot in the reverse standings. That allows advocates to push up the "protected through" number.
But it was still a bad, bad trade.
Right now, the Nets are in line to finish with the seventh worst record, which under this logic protects the pick through No. 6. But only 1.5 games separate the Nets and the No. 4 Sacramento Kings. With two weeks left, there's plenty of time for New Jersey to get worse and a couple of the teams "ahead" of it in the lotto race to pick up cheap wins. (The New Orleans Hornets are becoming quite adept at picking up cheap wins.)
So when you use this logic to downplay the awfulness of the trade, you leave it open to fluctuation. If the Nets do happen to land back at No. 4, then you're back to being top-3 protected. If you are now arguing that "protected through six" isn't so bad ... you're not going to be able to maintain that nonchalance when that becomes "protected through three" or even "protected through four."
There's also the issue that a prospect picked at No. 7, No. 8, No. 9 or No. 10 in this draft has a tremendous possibility of being much, much more productive and cost-effective than a limited term Gerald Wallace. That's the real core of the issue here. Whether it's No. 4 or No. 7, chances are that it will not have been worth it.