Top 5 Picks Traded While On Rookie Deals

The Timberwolves traded 2011 No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams to the Kings this week, while Dion Waiters, the fourth overall selection in 2012, could be on the move as well. Teams are usually loath to trade away a recent top draft pick because it’s tantamount to admitting a mistake, as HoopsWorld’s Alex Kennedy notes via Twitter, but that doesn’t mean such deals don’t happen with regularity.

At least one top five pick from all but three drafts since 2000 has been traded while still under a rookie scale contract. One of those three drafts is the 2013 edition, so chances are one of this past June’s most sought-after draftees gets traded in the next few years. There could even be a player traded twice on his rookie scale contract, as happened with 2012 No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson and a few others in recent years.

Many of the draftees who wound up in trades were disappointments, but some of them were productive players, like Jeff Green and Devin Harris, while James Harden was a budding star. Financial motivation was at the heart of the Thunder’s decision to trade Harden, while the opportunity to obtain a veteran inside presence in Kendrick Perkins prompted Oklahoma City to part with Green.

Other top draftees wound up parting ways with their teams ahead of schedule for other reasons. Many teams failed to pick up either the third or fourth year options on their rookie scale contracts, while Jay Williams, the No. 2 overall pick from 2002, hit the waiver wire after his debilitating motorcycle accident. The Bulls let Marcus Fizer, the No. 4 pick from 2000, hit the Bobcats expansion draft just days before his rookie scale deal was up.

This compilation doesn’t include players acquired via trade on draft night, since they had yet to sign their rookie contracts or appear in a game, and such swaps are often pre-ordained in advance of the draft.


  • No. 5 Thomas Robinson — Kings traded him to Rockets on February 20th, 2013; Rockets traded him to Trail Blazers on July 10, 2013


  • No. 2 Derrick Williams — Timberwolves traded him to Kings on November 26th, 2013


  • No. 3 Derrick Favors — Nets traded him to Jazz on February 23rd, 2011
  • No. 4 Wesley Johnson — Timberwolves traded him to Suns on July 27th, 2012


  • No. 2 Hasheem Thabeet — Grizzlies traded him to Rockets on February 24th, 2011; Rockets traded him to Trail Blazers on March 15th, 2012
  • No. 3 James Harden — Thunder traded him to Rockets on October 27th, 2012


  • No. 2 Michael Beasley — Heat traded him to Timberwolves on July 12th, 2010


  • No. 5 Jeff Green — Thunder traded him to Celtics on February 24th, 2011


  • No. 3 Adam Morrison — Bobcats traded him Lakers on February 7th, 2009
  • No. 4 Tyrus Thomas — Bulls traded him to Bobcats on February 18th, 2010
  • No. 5 Shelden Williams — Hawks traded him to Kings on February 16th, 2008; Kings traded him to Timberwolves on February 19th, 2009


  • None


  • No. 5 Devin Harris — Mavericks traded him to Nets on February 19th, 2008


  • No. 2 Darko Milicic — Pistons traded him to Magic on February 15th, 2006


  • No. 4 Drew Gooden — Grizzlies traded him to Magic on February 19th, 2003; Magic traded him to Cavaliers on July 23rd, 2004
  • No. 5 Nikoloz Tskitishvili — Nuggets traded him to Warriors on February 24, 2005


  • None


  • No. 3 Darius Miles — Clippers traded him to Cavaliers on July 29th, 2002; Cavaliers traded him to Trail Blazers on January 21st, 2004
  • No. 5 Mike Miller — Magic traded him to Grizzlies on February 19th, 2003

RealGM was used in the creation of this post.

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