We’re about a month into the NBA’s 2019/20 regular season, and no team has played more than 16 games. Still, based on what we’ve seen so far, we’re starting to get a sense of which teams will be competitive and which teams probably won’t.
As a picture begins to form of which teams will be vying for top seeds in each conference and which might be battling for lottery odds, it’s worth checking in on the traded first-round picks for 2020. Of next year’s 30 first-round selections, 10 have been traded, and all 10 have some form of protection on them, meaning the ’19/20 standings will dictate whether or not those first-rounders actually change hands.
Here’s an early look at which of those picks are safe bets to move, which ones will likely be kept, and which ones are still up in the air:
Likely to change hands:
- Bucks acquiring Pacers‘ pick (top-14 protected)
- Celtics acquiring Bucks‘ pick (top-7 protected)
- Nets acquiring Sixers‘ pick (top-14 protected)
- Thunder acquiring Nuggets‘ pick (top-10 protected)
The Bucks (11-3) and Nuggets (10-3) are currently competing for the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences. If that continues, the Celtics and Thunder can count on receiving picks in the late-20s.
Meanwhile, the Pacers (8-6) and Sixers (9-5) have been a little shakier since opening the season, but there’s little doubt that they’ll be playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. They’ll send their respective first-rounders to the Bucks and Nets, who will be hoping those picks land in the teens or at least the early-20s.
Unlikely to change hands:
- Grizzlies acquiring Jazz‘ pick (1-7, 15-30 protected)
- Nets acquiring Warriors‘ pick (top-20 protected)
- Sixers acquiring Thunder‘s pick (top-20 protected)
The protections on the Utah first-rounder included in the Mike Conley trade are meant to ensure that the Grizzlies don’t receive too high or too low a first-round pick. Assuming the Jazz (9-5) make the playoffs, as expected, they’d retain their 2020 pick and would owe Memphis their 2021 selection with the same protections.
The Warriors (3-13) and Thunder (5-9) picks are a little more interesting, since they won’t simply roll over to 2021 if and when they’re retained. If Golden State keeps its 2020 pick, the team will only owe Brooklyn its 2025 second-rounder. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, would owe Philadelphia its 2022 and 2023 second-round picks if its 2020 first-rounder falls into its protected range.
Still up in the air:
- Celtics acquiring Grizzlies‘ pick (top-6 protected)
- Hawks acquiring Nets‘ pick (top-14 protected)
- Pelicans acquiring Cavaliers‘ pick (top-10 protected)
The Grizzlies have been frisky so far, but they’re just 5-9 and will likely finish among the West’s worst teams. Whether or not they hang onto their 2020 first-rounder may come down to lottery luck. If it falls in the top six and Memphis keeps it, Boston would be in line to acquire the Grizzlies’ unprotected 2021 first-round selection.
The Hawks will need the Nets to make the postseason to receive their first-rounder in 2020. That’s not a lock, but it still seems likely — despite a modest 6-8 record, Brooklyn holds the No. 7 seed in the East. If the Nets miss the playoffs and keep their first-round pick in 2020, they’ll owe a lottery-protected 2021 first-rounder to Atlanta.
Finally, it may just be a matter of time before we can move the Cavaliers’ first-rounder into the “unlikely to change hands” group. The team is putting in a good effort under new head coach John Beilein, but is just 4-10 so far. Unless things improve, the Cavaliers’ pick will remain in the top 10 and they’ll keep it, instead sending their 2021 and 2022 second-rounders to New Orleans.