Phony assets aren’t just for Wall Street. NBA teams make a habit of trading for draft picks that are likely never to actually change hands when they need to shed salary. Six trades this past offseason involved only a pick with top-55 protection — the greatest level of protection the NBA allows — going to one of the teams in the deal, and in a seventh trade, a team received a top-55 pick and a draft-and-stash prospect likely never to play in the NBA.
If the team that’s supposed to give up the pick finishes with a record outside the top five in the league the season before whichever draft the pick is tied to, the debt vanishes. None of the top-55 protected picks in this summer’s trade carry any further stipulations, so chances are that the teams “giving up” those picks actually received something for nothing. The only cost, aside from the salary obligations and cap hit involved, is the opportunity to trade that pick with top-55 protection in another deal.
Below is a list of this summer’s trades involving picks with top-55 protection.
- Shabazz Napier — Heat to Magic (Heat received Orlando’s top-55 protected 2016 second-round pick.)
- Zoran Dragic — Heat to Celtics (Heat received Boston’s top-55 protected 2019 second-round pick.)1
- Maurice Harkless — Magic to Trail Blazers (Magic received Portland’s top-55 protected 2020 second-round pick.)
- Perry Jones III — Thunder to Celtics (Thunder received Boston’s top-55 protected 2018 second-round pick.)2
- Zaza Pachulia — Bucks to Mavericks (Milwaukee received Dallas’ top-55 protected 2018 second-round pick.)
- Jared Dudley — Bucks to Wizards (Milwaukee received Washington’s top-55 protected 2020 second-round pick.)
- Tiago Splitter — Spurs to Hawks (San Antonio received Atlanta’s top-55 protected 2017 second-round pick.)3
1 — The Heat also gave up $1.5MM cash and their own 2020 second-round pick, without protection.
2 — The Thunder also gave up $1.5MM cash and an unprotected 2019 second-round pick that the Pistons gave them in an earlier trade.
3 — The Spurs also received the rights to Georgios Printezis, a 30-year-old draft-and-stash prospect selected in the 2007 draft whose rights had already been traded six times before.
RealGM’s Future Traded Pick Details database was used in the creation of this post.