We’re not even a month into the 2016/17 NBA season yet, but based on what we’ve seen over the last four weeks, it’s becoming clearer which teams will be in contention for the rest of the season, and which clubs might fall out of the hunt sooner rather than later.
The standings so far also provide some interesting possibilities for the 2017 NBA draft, since several teams have traded first-round picks for ’17 — some of those traded picks are tied to conditions related to team performance, so it’s worth checking in to see how things look in the early going.
Using our list of traded 2017 first-rounders as a point of reference, here’s what we know – or think we know – so far:
The picks acquired by the Jazz and Raptors are on track to be very late first-rounders
Utah landed a first-round pick from Golden State, and Toronto will acquire the Clippers’ first-rounder if it falls outside the top 14. So far, the Clippers and the Warriors own the NBA’s top two records, meaning the Jazz and Raptors would be in line to acquire the final two picks of the first round — Nos. 29 and 30.
The Nuggets should get a first-round pick from the Grizzlies
Even with offseason signee Chandler Parsons battling knee issues again, Memphis is off to a solid start this season, with a 9-5 record. Last year, the Grizzlies managed to earn a playoff spot even after several key players went down with injuries, and this year’s team looks like it should be in the playoff hunt again. That means the Grizzlies’ first-round pick will likely head to Denver, since the Nuggets will acquire it if it falls outside of the top five.
The Celtics will almost certainly swap first-round picks with the Nets
Boston struggled a little to start the season, and the Nets picked up a few early victories, but the C’s are currently 3.5 games ahead of Brooklyn, and figure to increase that gap as the season goes on. The Celtics have the right to swap picks with the Nets, and barring a huge surprise, the only real drama here will be how high that Brooklyn pick lands — the team is currently tied for the NBA’s fifth-worst record.
The Sixers should get the Lakers’ first-round pick
Expectations were low for the Lakers heading into the season, but the club has played very well in the early going under new head coach Luke Walton, and currently sits in a playoff spot in the West, with a 7-7 record. Even if the Lakers eventually fall out of the top eight in the West, Philadelphia should still be in a strong position to get L.A.’s pick this season, since it’s only top-three protected.
Stay tuned on the Kings’ first-round pick
The one first-round pick that remains firmly up in the air at this point is Sacramento’s, which is top-10 protected. If it falls outside of the top 10, the Bulls will get it. At 5-9, the Kings currently hold the league’s ninth-worst record, and it will be interesting to see if the team – which has no shortage of trade candidates – eventually pushes for a playoff spot, or falls out of contention and makes an effort to hang onto its pick.
Kings ownership wants to see the team make a playoff push this season, and even if the club doesn’t crack the top eight in the West, there’s perhaps a little additional incentive to avoid an all-out tank: Philadelphia has the right to swap first-rounders with the Kings if Sacramento’s pick falls within the top 10. For now, the Sixers (4-10) remain below the Kings in the standings, but not by much.