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Winderman: Lose a free agent? You should get another draft pick.

Jan 13, 2011, 4:16 PM EDT

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Among counterproposals offered recently by the National Basketball Players Association during collective-bargaining negotiations were various means to make it easier to facilitate trades.

That, of course, is the type of item you put on the table as a means to eventually remove it when it comes down to cash concerns.

But last summer, and this season, are showing there does have to be a fundamental change when it comes to devastating personnel losses, and it has nothing to do with trades.

The sense of loss that Cleveland, Toronto and Phoenix had in common last summer is one all three teams currently also have in common. They are going nowhere, and they desperately need help.

That is why the NBA needs to adopt a compensatory system similar to what football and baseball offer in the wake of the loss of free agents.

The NBA’s rebuke might be that free-agent losses of players such as LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire often are followed up by agreements that result in salary-cap trade exceptions. The problem there is a trade exception requires a trade partner. It is not a quick-fix solution, nothing a team can execute on its own.

No, just like other sports, the NBA needs to assign some sort of metric value on free agents and attach an ensuing draft value.

The problem is the NBA Draft generally is not a deep pool, one that only includes two rounds.

The answer is to slot teams that lose prime free agents in after the lottery teams. For teams such as the Cavaliers, Raptors and Suns, it essentially would allow them to double-dip in the range of the lottery, or provide some sort of trade chip in the devastating wake of a major free-agent loss.

At least that way, teams would have the option of taking a compensatory post-lottery pick or working out a sign-and-trade deal for a trade exception.

From there, line up teams that lost what we’ll call Class A free agents in inverse order of finish right after the lottery teams. For a successful team such as Utah, which lost Carlos Boozer, tweak the rule so that if you lose a Class A free agent but make the playoffs, there is no compensatory pick.

The NBA already has a degree of discretion when it comes to the draft, having vacated first-round selections, with Minnesota’s dalliance with Joe Smith the prime example.

No, it’s not going to get any better any time soon for the Cavaliers, Raptors or Suns.

The least the NBA could offer is a token of sympathy for their heartfelt losses.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

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