When teams make trades, they can usually be divided into three basic categories:
1) Designed to improve the team now.
2) Designed to improve the team in the future.
3) Made to facilitate a different trade.
(A fourth, "Creating a living monument to stupidity/Because someone made a horrible mistake," also exists, but hopefully isn't a goal from the outset.)
What's fun about this time of year is deciphering where each prospective deal flying around the web fits for the teams involved. Wednesday, the L.A. Times reported the Lakers offered Lamar Odom to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for the second pick in Thursday's draft, according to a pair of sources. The Lakers would have selected Arizona's Derrick Williams. "Would have" being the operative words, since the Wolves, says the report, said no thanks.
Using the criteria above, for the Lakers a deal like this can't possible qualify for No. 1 Williams may become a very good player in the NBA, but it's very difficult to believe he'd be better in his rookie season than Odom. Clearly No. 2 is in play, since the Lakers, needing youth and athleticism and looking for players to help carry the torch in and after Kobe Bryant's declining years, would acquire their first blue chip prospect since Andrew Bynum. Except the Lakers aren't currently in the future business, but are angling to win now.*
Which leads me to believe had the Wolves accepted the offer -- an odd choice, given Kevin Love's presence at PF (to name just one among a wide variety of factors) -- this would have been a classic setup for No. 3, and L.A. would have rolled the pick into a larger deal. (Or maybe not. Perhaps someone in the front office believes Williams improves the team right away, in which case the "mistake" category becomes relevant). But whether you're talking about this report or any other rumor out there, half the fun is trying to figure out the endgame, especially since the vast majority of these deals aren't happening, anyway.
*A reasonable argument, one with which I wouldn't agree but remaining reasonable nonetheless, can be made that this incarnation of the Lakers is no longer championship caliber, in which case future-oriented trades would make a great deal of sense. I just wouldn't want to be the guy who has to call Kobe and explain.