Fate Of Many Traded 2016 First-Rounders Up In Air

Only 10 days remain in the regular season, and a majority of the 20 possible traded 2016 first-round pick exchanges are still unresolved. Seven are mathematical certainties, but the rest will be decided over the next week and a half, or through next month’s draft lottery. Some exchanges appear more likely than others, but five are still too close to call. Using the reverse standings and lottery odds as a guide, here’s how all 20 scenarios stand:


  • Rockets to Nuggets (top-14 protected) — This pick comes down to whether or not Houston makes the playoffs. The Rockets are outside the playoffs for now but trail the Jazz and Mavs, who are in a seventh-place tie, by only one game. Only three games separate Houston from the banged-up Grizzlies, who are in fifth place.
  • Lakers to Sixers (top-three protected) — A mathematical chance exists that the Lakers fall into a tie for the fourth lottery position, but they’re three and a half games clear of Phoenix for the second slot with six games to play, so they’ll probably enter the lottery at No. 2. A top-three pick would still be far from guaranteed, as the team in second entering the lottery stands about a 44% chance of dropping to fourth or fifth. The Lakers know this well, having benefited last year when the Knicks fell to No. 4 from No. 2 in the lottery, allowing L.A. to move up.
  • Knicks to Nuggets (Denver gets the better pick of its own and New York’s) —The Nuggets have but a one-game lead on the Knicks, so this one is anyone’s guess.
  • Knicks to Raptors (Toronto gets New York’s pick if it comes after Denver’s pick) — The Raptors will end up with whichever pick the Nuggets don’t take in the pick swap described immediately above, so with precious little separation between New York and Denver, this one is just as hard to call.
  • Nuggets to Raptors (Toronto gets Denver’s pick if it comes after New York’s pick) — See the explanation for the last two picks.

Mathematically certain to happen:

  • Nets to Celtics (unprotected)
  • Cavaliers to Suns (top-10 protected)
  • Thunder to Sixers (Philadelphia gets Oklahoma City’s pick if it falls outside the top 15 and comes before Golden State’s pick, which will happen.)

Likely to happen:

  • Wizards to Suns (top-nine protected) — The Wizards are stuck in a nether world, four games back of the playoffs with five to play and mathematically eliminated from any hopes of moving up to the ninth spot in the lottery. Washington could still move up in the lottery itself, but less than a 4% chance exists of that happening.
  • Mavericks to Celtics (top-nine protected) — The Mavs have only a one-game lead for a playoff spot that would make this pick transfer a certainty, but the highest they can climb in the reverse standings is No. 12, which would bear less than a 3% chance of a top-seven pick.
  • 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) — The Heat would have to miss the playoffs for there to be even a ghost of a chance that this wouldn’t happen, and Miami is five and a half games up on a postseason berth with six to play.
  • Trail Blazers to Nuggets (top-14 protected) — Denver gets this pick if Portland makes the playoffs. The Blazers have four games to play and are in sixth place with a two-game lead in the loss column on the ninth-place Rockets.

Unlikely to happen:

  • Grizzlies to Nuggets (Denver gets the Memphis pick if it falls anywhere from No. 6 to No. 14) — The Grizzlies are still in fifth place, but they’re only three games up on the ninth-place Rockets with five to play. Normally, that would be a fairly safe lead, but with so many key Grizzlies out with injury, the playoffs aren’t assured in Memphis.
  • Kings to Bulls (top-10 protected) — Sacramento is in eighth in the reverse standings, but with five games to play, only two games separate them from 11th place. Still, if the Kings can hang on to at least 10th in the lottery, less than a 10% chance exists that they’d drop to No. 11.
  • Kings to Sixers (Philadelphia gets the better of Sacramento’s pick and its own if Sacramento’s pick falls inside the top 10) — Sacramento could enter the lottery as high as No. 6 in the order, but that entails only about a 22% chance of moving into the top three. The Sixers, who’ll be No. 1 in the lottery order, have a 35.7% chance of dropping to fourth.
  • Sixers to Kings (Sacramento gets the inferior of its own pick and Philadelphia’s pick if its own pick falls inside the top 10) — See the scenario immediately above.

Mathematically impossible:

  • Timberwolves to Celtics (top-12 protected)
  • Heat to Warriors — Golden State would get Miami’s pick if it falls outside the top 10 and comes after Golden State’s pick and Oklahoma City’s pick, but that can’t happen.
  • Thunder to Warriors — Golden State would get Oklahoma City’s pick if it falls outside the top 15 and comes after Miami’s pick and Golden State’s pick, but that can’t happen.
  • Warriors to Sixers — Philadelphia would get 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. Golden State’s pick won’t come before either Miami’s or Oklahoma City’s, so this won’t happen.

Check out the movement on these scenarios compared to our last update from early March.

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5 thoughts on “Fate Of Many Traded 2016 First-Rounders Up In Air

  1. Do the Nuggets choose to swap the first round pick with Knicks before or after the draft lottery? If its before, does that mean the Raptors could potentially get a top 3 pick?

    • Chuck Myron

      The swap would occur after the lottery. So yes, it’s possible the Raptors get a pick as high as No. 2, though that’s unlikely.

      • Wow so basically Denver has 2 chances in the lottery… Tbh there should be a rule of when the swap occurs because you can’t have a guaranteed lottery pick that won’t let you win the lottery. That makes no sense!

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