With only about a month and a half left in the 2018/19 regular season, we’re getting a clearer picture of what this year’s draft order might look like. We’re also getting a clearer sense of which of the traded 2019 picks with protections will or won’t change hands this spring.
Using our 2018/19 Reverse Standings as a reference point, here’s our latest check-in on where things stand for those traded 2019 first-rounders, based on their protections.
Locks to change hands:
- Kings‘ pick to Celtics or Sixers (unprotected)
- Current projection: No. 14
- Nuggets‘ pick to Nets (top-12 protected)
- Current projection: No. 27
- Raptors‘ pick to Spurs (top-20 protected)
- Current projection: No. 29
The Nets and Spurs may not be thrilled by how well the Nuggets and Raptors are playing this season, since it assures those first-round picks will fall in the mid-to-late 20s. But Brooklyn and San Antonio can at least be confident that they’ll actually receive those selections this year, which will allow them to better prepare for the draft.
As for the Kings‘ pick, it will almost certainly end up with the Celtics, but the Sixers will still be keeping an eye on it — if Sacramento ends up in the lottery, there will be a very slim chance of that pick vaulting up to No. 1 overall. In that scenario, Philadelphia would receive it and Boston would instead get the 76ers’ first-rounder.
At this point, the far more likely scenario is the Sixers keeping their own pick and the Celtics getting a Kings pick in the teens.
Locks to be protected:
- Cavaliers‘ pick to Hawks (top-10 protected)
- Current projection: No. 3
- Bucks‘ pick to Suns (top-3 and 17-30 protected)
- Current projection: No. 30
The Cavaliers have been playing better lately, but there’s still essentially no way their pick will fall out of the top 10 — there are 13 games between Cleveland and Miami, the 10th team in the reverse standings. So the Cavs can rest assured that they’ll retain their 2019 first-rounder. Subsequently, they’ll owe the Hawks their top-10 protected 2020 first-round pick.
On the other end of the draft, it’s the Bucks‘ success this season that guarantees they’ll keep their selection. The pick they agreed to trade to Phoenix has unusual reverse-protection criteria that provides only a small window for the Suns to snatch it. Since that pick won’t change hands this season, the Bucks will owe the Suns their top-7 protected first-rounder in 2020.
Still up in the air:
- Grizzlies‘ pick to Celtics (top-8 protected)
- Current projection: No. 6
- Mavericks‘ pick to Hawks (top-5 protected)
- Current projection: No. 8
- Clippers‘ pick to Celtics (top-14 protected)
- Current projection: No. 19
- Rockets‘ pick to Cavaliers (top-14 protected)
- Current projection: No. 21
Of these picks, the Grizzlies‘ and Mavericks‘ selections are the most intriguing. Both project as top-10 picks, and neither has full top-10 protection. For now, Memphis appear likely to keep its pick rather than sending it to the Celtics, while the Hawks have a good chance to receive Dallas’ pick. That outlook could quickly change though, if the Grizzlies get on a hot streak and/or the Mavs slump.
It’s worth noting that the new lottery format could be a wild-card factor here. Let’s say the Grizzlies finish seventh in the reverse standings. In previous years, the likelihood that their pick would slide to ninth from that spot would be less than 2%. This year, those odds would increase to over 14%.
Similarly, suppose the Mavericks finish seventh in the reverse standings. Under the old system, the Hawks could be confident of receiving the Mavs’ selection, since Dallas would only have a 15% of moving up into the top three and retaining the pick. In the new system, those odds are all the way up to 32%.
Meanwhile, the Clippers and Rockets will surrender their first-rounders if they earn playoff spots. After some early-season struggles, Houston looks like a fairly safe postseason bet at this point, meaning the Cavaliers should be confident they’ll get the Rockets’ pick. The Clippers, who moved up to seventh in the West on Monday, are less certain of a spot, so the Celtics will be closely watching the playoff race.
Information from RealGM was used in the creation of this post.