No. 3: Trade Dunn, next year’s first round pick for Smith Jr
There is absolutely no way that I can envision a trade for Smith Jr that doesn’t involve Kris Dunn. While Dunn is very valuable on the Bulls part, the Mavericks need a point guard for the future (past just this season), and Dunn perfectly fits their mold. For the third and final deal, Kris Dunn heads to Dallas.
Now, the risk. Any trade should involve a first round pick (regardless of year or protections) going back to Dallas.
If Dunn is the only Bulls player involved in the trade, then the first round pick better be pretty valuable. I find the likelihood of the Bulls including a completely unprotected first rounder in a deal very unlikely, but without any other pieces going to Dallas, they’ve got to come pretty close.
The Bulls could be picking first overall in this summers draft. I think that their 2019 pick is completely off the table.
Now, about that 2020 pick. If the Bulls add Smith Jr and their first round pick, who will presumably make a big impact, they very well could be a playoff team. However, they aren’t a lock. Things can go wrong. If the Bulls send next year’s pick to the Mavericks, and then all of a sudden the train derails and the Bulls finish with the first-overall pick in 2020, how bad would this deal look? Pretty bad.
Putting that top-3 protection on the pick is a way to ensure that no disaster comes of the deal. Smith’s performance will obviously determine the longterm outcome of the trade, but by protecting the pick, albeit a small and unlikely protection, the Bulls play it safe, while still making it a pretty enticing offer for the Mavericks.
Finally, by giving the Mavericks the right to swap their 2021 picks, the Mavericks have a safety belt of their own. If the Bulls pick is not as good as the Mavericks, then the pick would likely turn into a future first rounder. Any way you cut it, both teams have some sense of security in the way that the picks are formatted in this trade.