Almost every draft pick that’s traded in the NBA these days involves some sort of protection, but for a noteworthy few. Some of those protected picks can still end up becoming the No. 1 overall selection, as the protection in many cases expires after a pick doesn’t convey for a number of years. Pick swaps, another common pick-trading element, also often allow for a team to end up with someone else’s No. 1 overall draft choice. However, trades that involve a straight, unprotected first-round pick are exceedingly rare.
Only four unprotected selections are currently among the dozens of first-rounders that teams owe between now and the 2022 draft, the latest for which teams are currently allowed to trade picks. The Nets gave up two unprotected first-rounders, as well as the swap rights to two others, in the July 12th, 2013 Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce blockbuster, as Brooklyn fans are ruefully aware. The Nets hold the third position in the lottery as it stands today, meaning a reasonable chance exists that the Nets will have made the ultimate draft sacrifice and be forced to give up the first overall selection. Regardless of where the pick ends up, it seems poised to cost Brooklyn a player of significance who could otherwise have lowered the value of the team’s 2018 first-rounder, which Boston is also getting without protection. The Nets have limited means of improving their on-court product between now and the 2018 draft, so the Celtics are in remarkably strong position, aided also by the right to swap 2017 first-rounders. Here’s a full look at what the teams exchanged in 2013, with the unprotected picks in bold:
- Nets get Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and D.J. White.
- Celtics get Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans (sign-and-trade), the less favorable of Brooklyn’s and Atlanta’s 2014 first-round picks (James Young), Brooklyn’s 2016 first-round pick, Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick, and the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets in 2017.
Brooklyn wasn’t the only team to give up a pair of unprotected first-round picks via trade in the summer of 2013. On July 10th, 2013, two days before the Nets-Celtics deal became official, the Warriors did the same. The consequences aren’t as severe as the fate that has befallen the Nets, at least with the first of Golden State’s two unprotected first-rounders changing hands. Granted, the Warriors would probably benefit from having Rodney Hood, who’s been unusually productive for a 23rd overall pick, but if Golden State could have a do-over, it would still no doubt have swung the deal to acquire 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. It remains to be seen where the 2017 unprotected first-rounder in this deal will fall, but it’s unlikely to be very high, barring an unlikely Warriors collapse in the next 18 months. Here’s how the trade, which was a three-team with Denver, shook out. Note that all of the many second-round picks changing hands were without protection, too:
- Warriors get Andre Iguodala (sign-and-trade from Nuggets) and Kevin Murphy (from Jazz).
- Nuggets get Randy Foye (sign-and-trade from Jazz) and Golden State’s 2018 second-round pick.
- Jazz get Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, Golden State’s 2014 first-round pick (Rodney Hood), Golden State’s 2017 first-round pick, Golden State’s 2016 second-round pick, Golden State’s 2017 second-round pick, Denver’s 2018 second-round pick, and cash (from Warriors).
The Heat attached only top-seven protection to the 2017 first-rounder they gave to Phoenix in the February 19th, 2015 Goran Dragic trade, and they also relinquished the potential gem of their 2021 unprotected first-round pick. It’s too far in the future to predict with any accuracy whether that pick will resemble the ones that Brooklyn is giving up or merely the late-round selections Golden State is relinquishing. Still, it’s a disconcerting situation for the Heat to have seen Dragic underwhelm so far this season, considering not only his five-year, $85MM contract but also the draft assets Miami gave up. Here’s the full scope of the deal:
- The Heat get Goran Dragic and Zoran Dragic.
- The Pelicans get Norris Cole, Shawne Williams, Justin Hamilton and $369K cash (from Miami).
- The Suns get John Salmons, Danny Granger, Miami’s 2017 first-round pick (top seven protected), Miami’s 2021 first-round pick, and $2.2MM cash (from Miami).
The RealGM traded draft pick database was used in the creation of this post.