In the modern NBA, draft picks are simply the currency of the league. In fact, it’s become more common in recent years for teams to demand full control of a franchise’s future draft picks in exchange for a star player.
With that in mind, a good chunk of the NBA pool of draft picks will be hidden by just a few teams over the next seven years.
This week, the Draft Digest team offers their thoughts on which franchise has the most valuable stash of draft picks.
While the Thunder have certainly amassed the most quantitatively, I strive for quality when it comes to draft selections.
With two or more first-round picks in the next five drafts, I’d opt for the Pelicans having one of the best caches in the NBA.
They have the highly coveted unprotected Lakers picks who have already reaped Australian rewards and should keep them in the lottery without having to lose games.
They also have plenty of future Milwaukee picks just far enough away to offer some hope that the roster won’t be yet another Eastern Conference contender.
Oklahoma City and Utah both have the same number of first-round picks over the next seven years. It comes down to which franchise has more valuable tips.
I base Thunder on this one, but only slightly. Not only do they own all of their future first rounds, but they also own the protected first rounds of Utah 2023. There’s a chance the Jazz selection will eventually be mediated, giving OKC the leg up.
Until we see where these teams end up in the upcoming lottery, it’s really hard to say. If either of these teams lands the No. 1 overall for a shot at Victor Wembanyama, it would instantly catapult them into first place.
Morten Stig Jenson
That’s an incredibly difficult question since it all depends on where those picks end up. We can obviously appeal to teams like Oklahoma City and Utah who are pick hoarding so much these days that they need to step in.
But who of those ends up having the best chance of getting a Superstar is the main question, and those chances increase dramatically the higher you vote.
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If we look at Utah, the three teams they’ve traded with (Minnesota, Brooklyn and Cleveland) are expected to not be bad for a while. You could land extra picks in the 20s or just outside the lottery, but is that any good? It gives them trade-up opportunities, sure, but to what end?
OKC’s incoming picks are mostly protected, and those that aren’t are from good teams like the Clippers. It offers you the same as Utah in that you can use these choices to trade up if you wish. But is there a good chance of landing a potential top 3 pick outside of your original pick there? I think it’s fair to ask yourself that.
The answer could be the New Orleans Pelicans as the Lakers could absolutely take a while to gain some traction. They have a swap option for 2023 and an unprotected incoming pick for 2024 in the infamous double draft.
And that’s really what it boils down to. Assumed value of the given choice. In 2011, the Cavaliers won the lottery with an unprotected pick over the Clippers (who were SO desperate at the time to get out of Baron Davis’ contract), and these are the deals you’re looking for. These will always have the greatest value.
Although Utah has a strong case, the OKC Thunder are my top pick. OKC’s draft arsenal features 15 first-round picks, including two pick swaps. Of those 15 premieres, four will take place in 2024, the predicted year of the mythical “double draft.”
Because of the large number of picks, their projected draft slot, and timing, the Thunders are in a position of power and flexibility. Sam Presti and his company can either expand the draft further given their excellent history and potential number of choices with a high selection. Or the team can pull together choices to execute whatever type of deal makes the most sense to them. Packaging future picks for a proven all-star or superstar player type would be the best scenario.
There’s just nothing out of the realm of possibility for OKC given their design box and talent.
For me, it came down to the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder, and after thinking about it, I’m going to hit what I feel is contrary and take the Jazz over the Thunder. The Thunder’s sheer number of first-round picks is definitely impressive, but it falls short in one area: long-term unprotected first-round picks.
In fact, the Thunder only has two of those, first-rounders Clippers 2024 and 2026. The Jazz, on the other hand, received three unprotected firsts from the Rudy Gobert trade alone (2023, 2025, and 2027 premieres), and three other unprotected firsts from Cleveland on top of that (2025, 2027, and 2029). The Thunder has a strong pick count, but in my opinion the Jazz beat them in terms of pick quality.
I think the quickest and most correct answer to this question for most people would be the OKC Thunder and now the Utah Jazz. I think you would have a hard time finding teams that have a better arsenal of picks considering all 7 years. With that in mind, I wanted to throw “outside the box” a few more teams that will most likely be bad for the next few years and have their own first rounds.
First, the Indiana Pacers all own their own first-round picks for the next 7 seasons, but more importantly, they have first-rounders (with protection) from Boston and Cleveland in the 2023 draft. I realize both picks could fall fairly late in the first round, but in what appears to be a stacked class, having three bites on the apple is very valuable. Another team that owns all their own picks is Orlando Magic, and they too have a second round pick in this draft over a slightly protected pick in front of the Bulls. They’re also entitled to a first all-rounder from Nuggets, which could carry over as early as 2025.
Both teams also have some assets they could “sell” for more future draft capital.
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