The Vertical reported late Wednesday that the Kings and Bulls had discussed a deal centered around Pau Gasol. The Vertical reported that the Bulls would send Gasol and Tony Snell to Sacramento for Ben McLemore and Kosta Koufos, but that Chicago also sought to reduce protections for the Kings' first-round draft pick currently owed to the Bulls. However, altering the protections on said pick would require Chicago and Sacramento to turn this into a three-team deal with Philadelphia. One presumes it would mean that the 76ers would need to get something out of it in order to sign off on the deal.
But why ever do the Sixers need to be involved? Here's why.
STEP 1: A TERRIBLE TRADE
At the end of June 2011, right before NBA franchise owners locked out the players, the Kings traded Omri Casspi and a protected first-round pick to the Cavaliers for J.J. Hickson. This was a bad trade from the jump, but there was a tiny silver lining baked into the pick protections. Those pick protections were:
Top 14 in 2012
Top 13 in 2013
Top 12 in 2014
Top 10 in 2015
Top 10 in 2016
Top 10 in 2017
OTHERWISE 2017 second-round pick
The Kings would only lose the pick if they made in the playoffs in 2012, were in the playoff hunt in 2013 or 2014 or were not one of the 10 worst teams in the league in any of 2015, 2016 or 2017. In other words, if the Kings lost the pick at some point it meant the team was doing much better than it had been in recent years. The loss of a pick would be tough but not crippling because hey, the Kings aren't so bad anymore!
Ha. Ha ha ha ha ha.
THE KINGS MAKE THE MOST OF THEIR RETURN
J.J. Hickson, the original reason for trading the pick, was waived by the Kings after 35 games.
In 2014, the Kings signed Casspi as a free agent, meaning algebraically they traded the still-outstanding pick for nothing. On the bright side, the Kings will now be able to trade Casspi and a protected future first to Denver for J.J. Hickson if they choose.
BACK TO THAT TRICKY PICK SITUATION
Approaching the 2014 trade deadline, the desperate Cavaliers threw the Kings' protected pick to Chicago along with the Empty Shell of Andrew Bynum, a couple of second-round picks and a conditional pick swap for Luol Deng. Bulls fans have forever since been rooting for the Kings to be mediocre instead of the typical atrocious so that the pick finally moves. Which brings us to ...
DROP THE SHIELD
The Bulls, perhaps losing hope that the Kings will ever reach the lofty label of "mediocre," are dangling Pau and Snell to get Sacramento to lower the protections and likely transfer the pick this year.
The Kings made a hilariously bad deal with the Sixers in July 2015. To open up cap space, Sacramento sent Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, two pick swap options and an unprotected future first to Philadelphia. Man, what a stupid trade.
The first pick swap option is for 2016. The way it works is that if the Kings' pick finally goes to Chicago -- meaning it is outside the top 10 -- the Sixers do not get the option to swap picks with Sacramento. If the Kings keep their pick -- meaning it is within the top 10 -- Philadelphia has the option of swapping their own first-round pick with that of Sacramento. Of course, they would only do so if the Kings' pick ended up higher than Philly's own pick.
That is highly unlikely. The Sixers are the worst team in the NBA, and the Kings are at No. 9 in the lottery standings. The odds of Sacramento finishing with a better pick than Philly are small. However, any changes to the protections of the pick owed to Chicago materially affects the odds of Philadelphia having its stated option to swap picks.
There is no practical result in which dropping the pick protection to the top seven affects the Sixers. Even if the Lakers end up with a worse record, the Sixers are guaranteed a top-five pick. If the Lakers and Nets finish worse than Philly, the Sixers are still guaranteed a top-six pick. A team in Sacramento's position -- not one of the three worst teams in the league -- cannot move up except into the top three in the lottery. If the Kings win the lotto, the pick isn't transferring to Chicago whether the protections are top-seven or top-10. But if the Kings leap the Sixers in the process, Philly will swap. The pick owed to Chicago will defer another year.
Where this matters is if the Kings don't win a top-three pick in the lottery and finish with the No. 8, No. 9 and No. 10 pick. That is highly likely based on the current standings. Chicago wants that pick. Sacramento seems willing to finally give it up. But because of that pick swap option, Philadelphia needs to approve it. The Kings can't give up a pick they don't technically own. Until the lottery, the Sixers have rights to the Kings' pick if it doesn't transfer first to Chicago based on the current conditions.
That's why the Bulls and Kings have to give Philadelphia a sweetener to change the protections of the pick.
The Bulls and Kings could structure the protection shift to apply after Philadelphia exercises or waives its swap option, supposing the league allows it. How'd it work in my vivid but shockingly limited imagination: the Kings would trade a 2016 first-round pick, protected through Nos. 1-6 and 11-30, in the Pau deal. If that pick is conveyed the Kings' pick debt to Chicago is extinguished. Otherwise, the Kings still owe the pick next year.
If the Kings want to get really generous, they could apply this to 2017, as well, since the Sixers have another motherflipping pick swap option for that year.
So, in short, if the Kings are really desperately to ensure they finally lose the pick originally traded almost five freaking years ago, they can do it. Presuming someone can talk Vlade Divac through this in five hours and presuming the league gives a nod.
The Kings are an embarrassment and should be ashamed of themselves. Now that that's out of the way ... what were we talking about again?