The NBA Draft has never been more complicated for a variety of reasons. On lottery night, the biggest reason is the league's new trade-friendly approach to roster management. Teams hand out first-round picks like candy nowadays. When I ranked every outstanding first-round pick that has been traded last offseason, 56 of a total of 210 tradable picks were owed to a team besides their original owner. In other words, if that trend holds, at any given time roughly one-quarter of all first-round picks should be expected to have changed hands in the modern NBA.

This creates quite a bit of confusion because every single one of those picks comes with different strings attached. Some of them are protected and some of them aren't. Some of them must convey right away and others could take years to finally pay off. In the case of one specific pick, the acquiring team had the chance to defer it for a year or take it right away. That pick belongs to the Los Angeles Lakers this season, as the Pelicans are expected to defer the final piece of the Anthony Davis trade to next year.

So with the NBA Draft Lottery now at hand, let's take a look at the 14 picks whose slots will be determined Sunday. Who actually owns these picks? And under what circumstances could they change hands?

  • Nine of the 14 picks that will be settled on lottery night will be staying with their original owners. Those picks belong to the Detroit Pistons (in the No. 1 lottery slot), Washington Wizards (No. 2), Charlotte Hornets (No. 3), Portland Trail Blazers (No. 4), San Antonio Spurs (No. 5), Memphis Grizzlies (No. 7), Atlanta Hawks (No. 10), Chicago Bulls (No. 11) and Sacramento Kings (No. 13). While some of these teams did trade picks that could have theoretically conveyed in 2024, the protections involved prevent any of them from moving during this draft. These nine teams are simply waiting to see which ping pong balls get pulled to find out where they will pick.
  • The No. 6 slot currently belongs to the Toronto Raptors. However, they traded their 2024 first-round pick to the Spurs as part of the 2023 Jakob Poeltl deal. The caveat is that they gave that pick a top-six protection. The Raptors tanked aggressively to try to keep that pick, and the result is a near-coin flip for who will actually wind up with it. There is a roughly 45.8% chance it stays in the top six, and therefore sticks with Toronto, and a roughly 54.2% chance it falls to No. 7 or below, and therefore conveys to San Antonio.
  • The No. 8 slot currently belongs to the Utah Jazz. It is almost certain to stay with them, as it has a top-10 protection. If it lands outside of the top 10, it will be conveyed to the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of the 2022 Derrick Favors cap dump. However, the odds basically guarantee that this pick will remain with the Jazz. Three of the six teams slotted 9-14 would have to jump them for Utah to give this pick to Oklahoma City. The Jazz have a roughly 99.5% chance of keeping this pick.
  • The No. 9 slot, originally belonging to the Brooklyn Nets, will be handed over to the Houston Rockets regardless of where it lands. That pick was traded to Houston without protections in the 2021 James Harden deal.
  • The No. 12 slot, originally belonging to those same Rockets, will very likely be given to the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of the 2019 Russell Westbrook trade. However, this pick is top-four protected. The Rockets have a roughly 7.2% chance of keeping that pick compared to a roughly 92.8% chance of giving it to the Thunder.
  • The No. 14 slot, originally belonging to the Golden State Warriors, will very likely be handed over to the Portland Trail Blazers. That pick has been traded several times, but initially came from the Warriors' 2019 cap dump of Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies. That pick was then sent to Boston as part of the 2023 Marcus Smart-Kristaps Porzingis trade, which was then in turn flipped to Portland as part of the subsequent 2023 Jrue Holiday trade. However, this pick has a top-four protection. It has a roughly 96.6% chance of landing at No. 14 and going to Portland, but roughly a 3.4% chance of landing in the top four and staying with the Warriors.

That covers the lottery, but what about the rest of the first round? In total, six more first-round picks have already moved, and a seventh technically could:

  • The Pelicans can choose to take the No. 17 pick from the Lakers, or they can wait a year and take their unprotected 2025 pick. The latter is the expectation at this moment, but New Orleans has until June 1 to make a final decision.
  • The Pacers sent the Raptors the No. 19 overall pick as part of the Pascal Siakam trade.
  • The Pelicans got the right to swap 2024 first-round picks with the Bucks are part of the Jrue Holiday trade. Coincidentally, the two of them wound up with identical 49-33 records (as did the Phoenix Suns). The Bucks won the tiebreaker drawing to fall at No. 21, with the Suns coming in at No. 22 and the Pelicans finishing at No. 23. However, the Pelicans exercised their swap rights, so New Orleans will pick at No. 21 and Milwaukee will pick at No. 23.
  • The Mavericks sent the Knicks the No. 24 pick as part of the Kristaps Porzingis trade.
  • The Clippers initially sent the Thunder the No. 26 pick as part of the Paul George trade, but the Thunder proceeded to trade that pick to Washington at the deadline. That deal sent Daniel Gafford to the Mavericks and a future pick swap from Dallas to Oklahoma City.
  • Oklahoma City sent the No. 29 pick to Indiana as part of a draft night trade last June, but the Pacers went on to send that pick the Raptors in the Siakam deal, and then the Raptors sent it the Jazz in the Kelly Olynyk trade at the deadline.

In total, that means we could see as few as seven or as many as 12 first-round picks belong to teams besides their original owners before the draft even begins. When you factor in the inevitability of draft-night trades, we're probably going to wind up seeing less than half of the first round belong to the teams that originally owned those picks. That's just the new NBA we're living in. Who knows, someday we might even see a draft in which all 30 first-round picks have changed hands.

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