Team-By-Team First-Round Pick Trade Restrictions

First-round picks are valuable currency on the trade market. They allow teams to make significant talent upgrades for the near term, to clear salary obligations, and sometimes, especially when packaged together, to land a superstar. The picks are valuable in and of themselves, especially given their increased relative cost-effectiveness amid a rising salary cap, and they can also be crucial bargaining chips as executives talk swap this time of year.

Alas, for the Grizzlies, Mavericks and Heat, trading one of their first-round picks isn’t an option. That’s because all three have traded other picks that make it impossible for them to deal a first-rounder that falls within the stipulations of the Ted Stepien rule and other pick-trading regulations.

The Stepien rule is a fairly well-known measure that keeps team from trading consecutive future first-round picks. It doesn’t apply to previously traded first-rounders, so the Pelicans, who traded their first-round pick last year, can trade their 2016 first-rounder. The Stepien rule doesn’t cover trades that happen immediately after the draft, either, so teams barred from trading their 2016 first-rounders now can do so in June. That won’t help much at the February 18th trade deadline, however.

The other key stipulation at play holds that teams can’t trade picks for more than seven drafts in the future. That means picks in the 2022 draft are the latest currently up for grabs, and no team can trade a 2023 pick until after this year’s draft.

Thus, the Heat, who’ve traded their 2016, 2018 and 2021 first-round picks, have no way to trade any other first-rounder. Dealing away their 2017, 2019, 2020 or 2022 pick would entail two traded future first-rounders in a row and run afoul of the Stepien rule. Those four are the only picks the team has left in the next seven years, so in this regard, the Heat are stuck.

So too are the Mavericks, but for a different reason. Their 2016 first-rounder is the only one they owe. That begs the question of why Dallas can’t trade their picks for 2018 through 2022. The answer is that the protection attached to the 2016 pick the Mavs owe the Celtics makes it possible that the pick won’t convey until 2021. The next pick the Mavs could trade in that case would be for 2023, one year too late. Even though the pick could convey any year between 2016 and 2021, the mere chance that it might happen in one of those years prohibits the Mavericks from trading any of their picks in those drafts.

Had the latest possible transfer of that pick been 2020, the situation would be much different. Dallas could simply trade its 2022 first-rounder in that case, or the Mavs could trade a 2018 first-rounder with the condition that it can’t change hands until two years after they actually deliver the pick they owe Boston.

That’s why you see two years on the list for some teams below, with one of them representing the earliest year those teams can trade a pick and the other the earliest those teams can promise that the pick will convey.

All 30 teams are accounted for below, with a brief line of information describing what they can and can’t do with their future first-round picks.

Bucks

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks.

Bulls

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks, plus an extra one from Sacramento.

Cavaliers

  • Earliest first-round pick they can trade is for 2018, and they can’t promise a first-rounder until 2021.

Celtics

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks, plus extras from Brooklyn (2), Dallas, Memphis and Minnesota. (Can also trade swap rights with Brooklyn’s 2017 pick).

Clippers

  • Earliest first-round pick they can trade is for 2019, and they can’t promise a first-rounder until 2021.

Grizzlies

  • Can’t trade a first-round pick.

Hawks

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks, plus an extra one from Minnesota.

Heat

  • Can’t trade a first-round pick.

Hornets

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks.

Jazz

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks, plus extra ones from Golden State and Oklahoma City.

Kings

  • Earliest first-round pick they can trade is for 2020, and they can’t promise a first-rounder until 2021.

Knicks

  • Earliest first-round pick they can trade is for 2018.

Lakers

  • Earliest first-round pick they can trade is for 2020, and they can’t promise a first-rounder until 2021.

Magic

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks, plus an extra one from the Lakers.

Mavericks

  • Can’t trade a first-round pick.

Nets

  • Earliest first-round pick they can trade is for 2020.

Nuggets

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks, plus extras from Houston, Memphis and Portland. (Can also trade swap rights with New York’s 2016 pick).

Pacers

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks.

Pelicans

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks.

Pistons

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks.

Rockets

  • Earliest first-round pick they can trade is for 2018.

Raptors

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks, plus extra ones from the Clippers and either New York or Denver.

Sixers

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks, plus extras from the Lakers, Miami, Oklahoma City, and Sacramento. (Can also trade swap rights with Golden State’s 2016 pick and Sacramento’s 2016 and 2017 picks.

Spurs

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks.

Suns

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks, plus extra ones from Miami (2) and Cleveland.

Timberwolves

  • Earliest first-round pick they can trade is for 2020, and they can’t promise a first-rounder until 2022.

Thunder

  • Earliest first-round pick they can trade is for 2020, and they can’t promise a first-rounder until 2022.

Trail Blazers

  • Earliest first-round pick they can trade is for 2018, and they can’t promise a first-rounder until 2019.

Warriors

  • Earliest first-round pick they can trade is for 2019.

Wizards

  • Can trade any of their first-round picks.

The RealGM future traded pick database was used in the creation of this post.

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