Which NBA Teams Are Set to Lose Their 2015 Draft Picks?
Trying to keep track of who owns which NBA draft picks is a difficult process, fraught with protections, confusing situations and plenty of transfers from one team to another, sometimes involving a third party.
Don't worry, though. We're here to make things simple for you.
Focusing on first-round picks (until the very end), this article will focus on which teams are set to part ways with their selections in the 2015 NBA draft, as well as the probability they actually do end up losing a chance to draft a collegiate or international standout next summer.
Not many can tick off all the owed picks throughout the league off the top of their head, and few can even tell you just their favorite team's situation.
Let's change that.
Note: All information about draft picks comes from RealGM.com.
The Brooklyn Nets aren't actually going to lose their first-round pick in the 2014 NBA draft, but they are subject to a swap with the Atlanta Hawks.
When Joe Johnson came to town back in July of 2012, the Nets—who were transitioning from New Jersey to Brooklyn—ended up paying a ton for him, and they're still indebted to the Hawks. In fact, they won't be done paying off the Johnson ransom until 2017, when they owe a second-round pick to general manager Danny Ferry.
Because of that trade, Atlanta has the right to swap picks with Brooklyn if it earns a better record during the 2014-15 season. And based on how the two rosters are shaping up, it appears likely that the Hawks will be exchanging a pick in the high teens or low 20s for either the No. 14 selection or one in the tail end of the lottery.
Even with the return of Brook Lopez set to aid these Nets, the age-related declines (see: Deron Williams, Johnson and Kevin Garnett) and losses of Shaun Livingston and Paul Pierce will be too much to overcome. Chances are, Brooklyn will be left with a worse pick than it deserves, at least when basing what it deserves solely off its record next year.
But hey, at least the franchise has a pick.
Likelihood of Transfer: Very high
When Luol Deng was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, part of a swap that also included Andrew Bynum, the Chicago Bulls also gained the ability to switch picks with the Cavs in the first-round of the 2015 NBA draft, under one condition. If the Cavs had a top-15 pick, the swap would no longer be legal.
Well, now that LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are set to form the NBA's newest Big Three, that protection seems rather irrelevant. There's virtually no chance Cleveland misses the playoffs, barring a ridiculous string of season-ending injuries to key players.
But will Chicago want to make the switch?
Chances are, these two teams will finish in the top two spots in the Eastern Conference, rendering any swap rather irrelevant. At most, they'll be separated by only a few picks, depending on the gap in records and the success of teams in the Western Conference.
"He's the best player in the game, but that being said, I think we have a chance to beat them. And that's the goal. We want to beat LeBron James, we want to beat the Miami Heat, we want to beat all those teams who are in our way," Joakim Noah told ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell after the four-time MVP joined the Cavs. "He's obviously one of the big obstacles."
Chicago is fully capable of fulfilling Noah's desires. In fact, the Bulls should still be favored in the Eastern Conference, even after Love joined the party in Northeast Ohio. And therein lies a problem.
Getting Love wasn't cheap, and the Cavaliers had to give up a first-round pick in order to do so, not just swap one. When the deal is made official on August 23 (once Andrew Wiggins can be dealt), the world will learn about what type of protections cover that 2015 first-round pick that will be shipped off to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
However, it's highly unlikely the pick is anything more than top-20 protected, and the Cavs aren't finishing the season with anything less than a top-10 record in the Association. This isn't a guarantee until the protection specifications are made public and official, but it's highly likely the Cavs will end up without a first-round pick next summer.
Whether they lay claim to their own pick or Chicago's, it'll just be transferred over to the 'Wolves.
Likelihood of Transfer: Tossup (for Chicago), probably just about guaranteed (for Minnesota)
When Jeremy Lin was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Houston Rockets also had to give up a 2015 first-round pick in order to facilitate the deal. Because they weren't getting a notable player back, trying solely to clear up the ledgers for an ill-fated run at a superstar, they had to provide an incentive for the Lakers to take on his salary.
Is the pick protected? Nope.
Whether Houston finishes with the NBA's best record (highly unlikely) or falls all the way to the bottom of the totem pole (equally unlikely), the pick will still change hands in time for the 2015 NBA draft.
Fortunately, though, the Rockets might have an incoming first-round pick from the New Orleans Pelicans, which we'll get to later.
Likelihood of Transfer: Guaranteed
Los Angeles Clippers
Remember how the Los Angeles Clippers ended up with Doc Rivers on the sidelines?
He didn't come cheap, as he was still under the control of the Boston Celtics when he was acquired in June of 2013. In a move that wasn't exactly conventional, LAC parted ways with a 2015 first-round pick to bring the stellar head coach aboard, and it's paid rather large dividends thus far.
Blake Griffin blossomed under Rivers' tutelage, and his supervision made a huge difference for DeAndre Jordan, who finally began transitioning from "athlete who plays basketball" to "basketball player."
So was it worth giving up an unprotected 2015 first-round pick? Absolutely.
Unlike the Rockets, though, the Clippers don't have the potential to get any draft-day selections from one of the Association's 29 other teams. Barring an in-season trade, they'll be functioning as non-participants when Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay and the rest of the impressive 2015 class walks across the stage and shakes hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Likelihood of Transfer: Guaranteed
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers will be getting a first-round pick from the Houston Rockets, one that seems likely to fall just outside the lottery. But there's a chance they still end up with only one selection, not two.
When the Lake Show acquired Steve Nash, it parted ways with a boatload of picks—first- and second-round selections in 2013, a second-round pick in 2014 and a first-round prize in 2015.
It's the final one that concerns us now.
In order to keep the selection, LAL will have to finish with one of the five worst records in the Association, which is a serious possibility if Kobe Bryant can't regain his pre-injury form. Then again, they should be expected to be slightly better, which forces them to give up their original pick and only have access to Houston's.
ESPN.com's summer forecast, for example, has the Lakers going 30-52, placing them at No. 12 in the Western Conference while being better than four teams in the East. In my most recent record projections—which came before the Paul George injury and Kevin Love trade, mind you—the Lakers went 32-50, giving them a win-loss percentage better than six other squads throughout the NBA.
There's a real chance the Lakers could be bad enough to keep their pick with the top-five protection and have two first-round selections, but a de facto swap of their pick for Houston's—which won't be as high in the order—seems likely.
Likelihood of Transfer: Probable
The pick set to leave Beale Street is protected on both ends.
If the Memphis Grizzlies finish with one of the five worst records in the NBA—not just in the Western Conference—they'll avoid parting ways with their first-round pick in 2015. If they make the playoffs, it will be protected as well.
The only way the Grizz could be forced into transferring that selection into the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers as payment for the trade that brought Jon Leuer to town is if they miss the postseason festivities but are in contention for one of the eight spots.
Given the strength of the Western Conference, don't rule it out. It's unlikely Memphis antes up this summer—instead deferring payment to 2016, when the pick has the same type of protection—but it's possible. With the Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns hoping to break the postseason bubble, anything can happen.
Chances are, Memphis—aided by a full season of Marc Gasol's two-way play and the addition of Vince Carter—earns another playoff bid.
It's just not a guarantee.
Likelihood of Transfer: Unlikely
When Pat Riley re-signed both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh before securing the services of Luol Deng, he kept the Miami Heat relevant throughout the foreseeable future. This team is no longer a contender, but that's a statement that only applies when we're talking about a championship, not a strong playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.
But by retaining relevancy, Riley also basically gave up on his team's 2015 first-round pick.
It's a top-10-protected one, which means the Heat would have to miss the playoffs by a significant margin in order to keep and use it. That's pretty unlikely, again barring plenty of unpredictable injury woes.
Of course, the irony of the situation is that the pick, much like LeBron James, is going to the Cleveland Cavaliers. That was the agreement when King James took his talents to South Beach via a sign-and-trade back in 2010, and the outstanding debt still hasn't been repaid.
Right now, it looks as though Miami won't make the payment until 2017, when the pick drops the top-10 protection and can be conveyed no matter where it falls in the draft-day order.
Likelihood of Transfer: Very probable
A hidden benefit of dealing Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a package of potential centering around Andrew Wiggins is that the Minnesota Timberwolves will have a first-round pick to play around with next summer.
The selection owed to the Phoenix Suns stems from a three-team swap in 2012, one that brought Robin Lopez to the New Orleans Hornets and allowed the 'Wolves to ship Wesley Johnson off to the desert. However, it's pretty unlikely the debt gets paid right away.
There's a top-12 protection in place for the 2015 draft, one that remains put in 2016. If the Suns haven't received Minnesota's first-rounder after the 2015-16 season, it will transform into a set of second-round picks conveyed in 2016 and 2017.
So, will the 'Wolves avoid finishing as one of the NBA's deplorable dozen? Without Love on the roster, that's a near impossibility, especially since that's proved difficult enough while still boasting his impressive services.
Likelihood of Transfer: Nearly impossible
New Orleans Pelicans
The pick the New Orleans Pelicans stand to lose is similar to the one currently in the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies, though the protections are less impressive. NOLA will only keep its first-round pick in 2015 if it has one of the three worst records in the NBA, or if it boasts one of the 10 best.
Neither of those is going to happen.
The Pelicans, while they'll be much improved, are not anything more than a fringe contender in the stacked Western Conference. Even if Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans all remain healthy throughout the 2014-15 season, there will be an adjustment period and a tough road to earn the No. 8 seed, much less finish in the top half of the playoff picture.
And because of that, the Pelicans will be paying the price for acquiring Omer Asik, handing over the first-round pick to the Houston Rockets right away.
Likelihood of Transfer: Solid Chance
Would the tanking rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers really part ways with what's sure to be an ultra-valuable first-round selection in the 2015 draft?
Of course not.
If the first-rounder does change hands, it will go to the Boston Celtics via the Miami Heat. Philadelphia owes the Heat for a 2012 trade that brought Arnett Moultrie to the City of Brotherly Love, and those draft rights were subsequently conveyed from South Beach to Beantown in a three-team trade that allowed Toney Douglas to join the Heat.
However, it won't change hands. Not with a lottery protection attached to it.
The Sixers have a better shot at going winless than making the playoffs in 2014-15, especially after reportedly agreeing to send Thaddeus Young to the Minnesota Timberwolves, per Mark Perner of Philly.com. Once they finish in the lottery yet again, the first-rounder will become two second-round picks (2015 and 2016), both of which will be transferred into the hands of the C's without protection.
Likelihood of Transfer: Not happening
The Sacramento Kings losing their first-round pick is about as likely as the New Orleans Pelicans conveying their selection without it becoming a pair of second-rounders.
Sacramento has a top-10 protection on this pick, but moving out of the NBA's basement is going to be a difficult process for a team still massively outclassed in the loaded Western Conference, especially after losing Isaiah Thomas.
They might improve this year, even with Darren Collison taking over for the former Mr. Irrelevant, but the Kings are still a few seasons away from actually competing for a playoff spot.
Should Sac-Town somehow blow the expectations out of the water, it'll be left giving the pick to the Chicago Bulls, via the Cleveland Cavaliers. But if it doesn't, it'll be left with a top-10 protection in 2016 and 2017. If the pick still isn't conveyed by then, it will become a second-rounder in 2017 that's owed to the Bulls.
In all probability, we won't see anything happening for at least another season.
Likelihood of Transfer: Also not happening
Atlanta Hawks: Second-round pick to the Milwaukee Bucks (no protection)
Boston Celtics: Second-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers (protected for 31-55)
Chicago Bulls: More favorable of Chicago and Portland Trail Blazers' second-round picks to Orlando Magic (no protection), less favorable to Denver Nuggets (no protection)
Cleveland Cavaliers: Second-round pick owed to Utah Jazz (no protection)
Denver Nuggets: Second-round pick to Minnesota Timberwolves (no protection)
Golden State Warriors: Second-round pick to Philadelphia 76ers (no protection)
Los Angeles Clippers: Second-round pick to Los Angeles Lakers (protected for 31-50 and 56-60), second-round pick to Denver Nuggets (protected for 31-55), second-round pick to Milwaukee Bucks (protected for 51-60)
Los Angeles Lakers: Second-round pick to Orlando Magic (protected for 31-40)
Minnesota Timberwolves: Less favorable of Minnesota and Denver Nuggets' second-round picks to Houston Rockets (no protection)
New Orleans Pelicans: Second-round pick to Philadelphia 76ers (no protection)
New York Knicks: Second-round pick to Houston Rockets (no protection)
Orlando Magic: Second-round pick to Philadelphia 76ers (no protection)
Portland Trail Blazers: More favorable of Portland and Denver Nuggets' second-round picks to Orlando Magic (no protection), less favorable to Denver Nuggets (no protection)
Sacramento Kings: Second-round pick to Boston Celtics (protected for 31-55), second-round pick to Miami Heat (protected for 31-49 and 56-60)
Washington Wizards: Second-round pick to Boston Celtics (protected for 31-49)