10 Teams Ineligible To Trade 2017/18 First-Round Picks

Before the Cavaliers traded for Kyle Korver last weekend, the team needed to make a smaller deal first that flew a little under the radar. Cleveland had previously traded its 2018 first-round pick to Portland, meaning that the team couldn’t move its 2017 or 2019 first-round picks to another team. The Ted Stepien rule, which we’ve previously explained, prohibits clubs from trading future first-rounders in consecutive years, so the next first-rounder the Cavs could trade was in 2020.

Presumably, the Hawks were more interested in Cleveland’s 2019 pick, so before trading for Korver, the Cavs sent their 2017 first-round pick to the Trail Blazers in order to get their 2018 selection back. With that ’18 pick in hand, the Cavs were now eligible to move their ’19 first-rounder without violating the Stepien rule.

For many NBA teams, shuffling around future first-rounders like the Cavs did won’t be quite so easy, and the trades they’ve made in the past could limit their ability to make deals involving draft picks going forward. That information is worth taking into account as this year’s trade deadline nears.

Using our own data, along with RealGM’s breakdown of traded draft picks, we’ve put together a list of teams that aren’t able to freely move all of their future first-round draft picks at this point, along with a list of the teams that have the freedom to move future first-rounders in any year.

The following 10 teams are ineligible to trade their 2017 or 2018 first-round picks (unless they get one back to avoid violating the Stepien rule). The year noted in parentheses represents the earliest first-round pick that these teams are eligible to trade:

  • Brooklyn Nets (2020)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (2021)
  • Golden State Warriors (2019)
  • Los Angeles Clippers (2021)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (2021)
  • Memphis Grizzlies (2021)
  • Miami Heat (2023)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (2020)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (2022)
  • Sacramento Kings (2021)

Some of the criteria for the future first-round picks these teams have traded away are more clear-cut than others. In Brooklyn’s case, for instance, things are fairly simple — the 2018 first-rounder they’ve committed to send to the Celtics is unprotected, so it will absolutely change hands in 2018.

On the other hand, the outlook is a little cloudier for a team like the Timberwolves. The 2018 pick they’ve committed to send to the Hawks is lottery protected. While there’s certainly optimism that Minnesota will be a playoff team by 2018, the pick wouldn’t change hands for another year or two if the Wolves remain in the lottery. So if Minnesota wants to include its 2020 first-rounder in a trade, the team would have to include a condition: that second traded pick will only change hands in 2020 if the first traded pick gets sent to Atlanta in 2018.

Meanwhile, the following teams can trade any of their future first-round picks (but can’t leave themselves without a first-rounder in consecutive future years):

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Boston Celtics
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Houston Rockets
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • New York Knicks
  • Orlando Magic
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Utah Jazz
  • Washington Wizards

The outlook is pretty clear for these teams, and some of them actually do have the flexibility to include consecutive future first-round picks in a trade. Utah, for instance, has the rights to Golden State’s 2017 first-round pick. So, if the Jazz wanted to include its own first-rounders for both 2017 and 2018 in a deal, they could do so, since they’d still have at least one first-round pick in 2017 and 2019.

Information from RealGM.com was used in the creation of this post.

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5 thoughts on “10 Teams Ineligible To Trade 2017/18 First-Round Picks

  1. Connorsoxfan

    Haha I’d trade for that Miami 2023 pick just for fun. How far out can you trade picks?

    • Luke Adams

      Believe it’s seven years, so 2023 would actually be the latest you could do this season.

  2. Harry

    I think this article is wrong about the unimpeded ability of the Celtics to trade their 2017 first round pick. It is liened by their Garnett/Pierce trade with the Nets, could only be traded with conditions, and, as a practical matter, would NEVER be traded under any condition since the Celts can and will switch positions with the Nets in the first round of 2017.

    • Luke Adams

      The Celtics could trade their own pick outright, but doing so would forgo those swap rights, which – as you say – wouldn’t make any sense. Boston could also do a trade that allows a team to get the better of the two picks (which will certainly be the Nets’ pick). Their situation isn’t quite as simple as it is for most teams on that list, but the fact that they can technically still trade a 2017 first-rounder is why they’re included on that second list.


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