Traded 2016 First-Round Pick Exchange Scenarios

The moves that teams make in the offseason don’t merely affect the season to come. Indeed, every transaction has a ripple effect of some kind, and as rosters get either better or worse this time of year, it has significant ramifications on next year’s draft. Nearly 20 different scenarios exist in which a first-round pick may change hands. As usual, some are more likely than others, but the relative likelihood in many cases has changed since July 1st.

We’ll break down every scenario here, with an assist from our Round-by-Round Traded Picks Register, which Mark Porcaro compiles, and RealGM’s comprehensive database. The simple explanation for the likehihood of each pick exchange is in bold, with details to follow:

  • Nets to Celtics (unprotected) — 100% certain to happen
  • Cavaliers to Suns (top-10 protected) — Overwhelmingly likely to happen: It would take devastating injuries to LeBron James and others or one of the most disappointing seasons in NBA history for the Suns to miss out on this one.
  • Mavericks to Celtics (top-7 protected) — Likely to happen: Dallas will probably be in the mix for one of the last two playoff spots in the Western Conference, but with lots of changes, a still-healing Wesley Matthews, the hole at center that DeAndre Jordan left, and Dirk Nowitzki’s 37-year-old legs, certainty is elusive.
  • Heat to Warriors (Golden State gets Miami’s pick if it falls outside the top 10 and comes after Golden State’s pick and Oklahoma City’s pick) — Unlikely to happen: A complicated set of scenarios surround this exchange, but essentially, the Heat, who missed the playoffs last season, would have to finish with a better record than the Warriors, who are coming off 67 wins and the championship, and the Thunder, who are getting Kevin Durant back. Miami will be better, but so will Oklahoma City, and it seems a long shot the Heat will eclipse them both.
  • Heat to Sixers (Philadelphia gets Miami’s pick if it falls outside the top 10 and comes before either Golden State’s pick or Oklahoma City’s pick) — Likely to happen: This would-be swap is a corollary to the long shot Heat/Warriors possibility described above. As long as that vague Golden State possibility doesn’t materialize and the Heat make the playoffs as expected, Miami’s pick is going to Philly.
  • Thunder to Warriors (Golden State gets Oklahoma City’s pick if it falls outside the top 15 and comes after Miami’s pick and Oklahoma City’s pick) — Toss-up: This is another one related to the Heat/Warriors exchange above. This possibility is harder to dismiss, since it’s quite conceivable that a Thunder team at full health will end up with a better record than the Warriors.
  • Thunder to Sixers (Philadelphia gets Miami’s pick if it falls outside the top 15 and comes before either Golden State’s pick or Oklahoma City’s pick) — Toss-up: If the Thunder don’t send their pick to the Warriors, it probably goes to Philly. The only other scenario, one in which Oklahoma City would keep its pick, would involve another disappointing and likely injury-filled campaign for the Thunder in which they either miss the playoffs or barely sneak in.
  • Warriors to Sixers (Philadelphia gets Golden State’s pick if it comes before either Miami’s pick or Oklahoma City’s pick, as long as Miami’s pick falls outside the top 10 and Oklahoma City’s pick falls outside the top 15) — Toss-up: The final of this string of five possible outcomes most likely depends on whether the Thunder finish with a better record than the Warriors do. If so, the Sixers take the Warriors’ pick. If not, Philly probably ends up with the Thunder’s.
  • Rockets to Nuggets (top-14 protected) — Likely to happen: You never say never in the Western Conference, where injuries that knock stars out for even partial seasons can turn a contender into a lottery team. Still, Houston seems like a shoo-in for the playoffs, so this pick is probably going to Denver.
  • Lakers to Sixers (top-3 protected) — Likely to happen: The Lakers look like they’ll be better this year, and even if they don’t make the playoffs, they’ll probably be picking outside the top three. This one may well come down to the bounce of a lottery ping-pong ball, however.
  • Grizzlies to Nuggets (Denver gets the Memphis pick if it falls anywhere from No. 6 to No. 14) — Unlikely to happen: This pick essentially carries double-protection, at the top of the draft and at the bottom. Again, it’s tough to definitively say any Western Conference team will make the playoffs, as last year’s injury-riddled Thunder showed, but presuming the Grizzlies do, they’ll keep their pick.
  • Timberwolves to Celtics (top-12 protected) — Unlikely to happen: The Timberwolves have an unmistakably talented roster, but most of that talent is either still developing (Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins) or well past its prime (Kevin Garnett, free agent signee Tayshaun Prince). So, it’s tough to see the Wolves mounting a challenge for a playoff spot that’s strong enough to knock this pick out of the top 12.
  • Knicks to Nuggets (Denver gets the better pick among its own and New York’s) — Toss-up: Neither the Knicks nor the Nuggets look like playoff contenders this year, and it’s not clear which one will end up with greater chances in the lottery.
  • Knicks to Raptors (Toronto gets New York’s pick if it comes after Denver’s pick) — Toss-up: The Raptors will end up with whichever pick the Nuggets don’t take in the pick swap described immediately above.
  • Nuggets to Raptors (Toronto gets the Denver’s pick if it comes after New York’s pick) — Toss-up: See the explanation for the last two picks.
  • Trail Blazers to Nuggets (top-14 protected) — Unlikely to happen: It’s hard to know precisely how well the Blazers will play after they replaced four out of five starters this summer. It’s not inconceivable that Portland makes the playoffs, but it doesn’t appear the most probable outcome in a difficult Western Conference, since the Blazers don’t have the level of talent they had before this summer’s upheaval.
  • Kings to Bulls (top-10 protected) — Toss-up: Sacramento, like Portland, has a chance at one of the last playoff spots in the West, though the Kings are moving in the opposite direction. Of course, the Kings also have perhaps the most combustible roster in the NBA, given the DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors earlier this summer and the addition of temperamental Rajon Rondo, among other factors. So, this pick swap is tough to call.
  • Kings to Sixers (Philadelphia gets the better of Sacramento’s pick and its own if Sacramento’s pick falls inside the top 10) — Unlikely: The Sixers will root for chaos in Sacramento, since Philadelphia would thus have an extra chance to win the lottery. Still, the Kings will probably be better than the Sixers this year, barring a complete disaster for Sacramento, so this pick doesn’t appear destined for Philly.
  • Sixers to Kings (Sacramento gets the inferior of its own pick and Philadelphia’s pick if its own pick falls inside the top 10) — Unlikely: Since Philadelphia probably doesn’t end up with Sacramento’s pick, the Sixers probably won’t be sending their pick to the Kings.
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