In the modern NBA, draft picks are simply the currency of the league. In fact, it’s become more common over the past few years for teams to demand full control of a franchise’s future draft selections in exchange for a star player.
With that in mind, a good chunk of the NBA’s pool of draft picks over the next seven years are being stashed by just a few teams.
This week, the Draft Digest team gave their thoughts on which franchise has the most value stash of draft picks.
While the Thunder have certainly amassed the most in terms of quantity, I’m aiming 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 top caches in the NBA.
They have the extremely coveted unprotected Lakers selections, which have already reaped Australian rewards and should keep them in the lottery without having to lose any games.
They’ve also got plenty of future Milwaukee selections, which are just far out enough to offer hope the squad won’t be an Eastern Conference contender still.
Oklahoma City and Utah both have the same number of first-round selections over the next seven years. What it comes down to is which franchise has more valuable picks.
I lean Thunder on this one, but just slightly. Not only do they own all of their future first rounders, but they also own Utah’s 2023 protected first rounder. There’s a chance that Jazz selection conveys at some point, which gives OKC the leg up.
Until we see where these teams finish in the upcoming lottery, it’s really hard to say. If either of these teams land the No. 1 overall pick for a shot at Victor Wembanyama, it would instantly vault them into the top spot.
Morten Stig Jenson
That’s an incredibly difficult question, since it all depends on where those picks land. We can obviously bring up teams like Oklahoma City and Utah who are hoarding picks so bad these days, they need an intervention.
But who of those will end up having the best chances at getting a superstar is the main question, and those odds increase dramatically the higher up you select.
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If we look at Utah, the three teams they traded with (Minnesota, Brooklyn, and Cleveland) aren’t expected to be bad for a while. They might land extra picks in the 20’s or just outside the lottery, but is that good? It gives them trade-up possibilities, sure, but to what end?
OKC’s incoming selections are mostly protected, and those that aren’t come from good teams, such as the Clippers. It offers them the same as Utah, in that they can use these selections to trade up if they so choose. But is there a good chance of landing a potential top three pick there outside of their own original selection? I think it’s fair to wonder that.
The answer might be the New Orleans Pelicans, since the Lakers could absolutely take a while to gain some traction. They have a swap option for 2023 and an unprotected incoming 2024 pick in the infamous double draft.
And really, that’s what it all boils down to. Assumed value of the given selection. Back in 2011, the Cavaliers won the lottery off an unprotected pick via the Clippers (who were THAT desperate to get off the contract of Baron Davis at the time), and those are the deals you look for. Those will always have the most value.
Although Utah has a strong case, the OKC Thunder are my top choice. OKC’s draft arsenal features 15 first round picks including two pick swaps. Of those 15 firsts, four are in 2024, the projected year of the mythical “double draft.”
Because of the vast number of picks, their projected draft slot and timing, the Thunder are in a position of power and flexibility. Sam Presti and company can either continue to build through the draft considering their excellent history and potential number of opportunities with a high selection. However, the team can package picks to execute any type of deal that makes the most sense for them. Packaging future picks for a proven all star or superstar type of player would be the best case scenario.
There simply isn’t anything out of the realm of possibility for OKC due to their draft chest and talent.
It came down to the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder for me and after thinking about it, I will make what I guess is the contrarian pick 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, the Clippers 2024 and 2026 first rounders. The Jazz on the other hand got three unprotected firsts from the Rudy Gobert trade alone (2023, 2025 and 2027 firsts) and three more unprotected firsts from Cleveland on top of that (2025, 2027 and 2029). The Thunder has a strong number of picks but in my opinion, the Jazz has them beat in terms of pick quality.
I think the quickest, and correct, answer to this question for most people would be the OKC Thunder and now, the Utah Jazz. I think you would be hard pressed to find any teams that have a better arsenal of picks when taking into account all 7 years. With that said, I did want to throw out a couple more “outside the box” teams who will most likely be bad for the next few years and own their own first rounders.
First, the Indiana Pacers own all of their own first-round picks over the next 7 seasons but more so they have first rounders (with protections) from Boston and Cleveland in the 2023 Draft. I realize both of those picks could fall fairly late in the first round but in what looks to be a stacked class, having three bites at the apple it is very valuable. Another team that owns all of its own picks is the Orlando Magic and they too will have a second first-round choice in this draft via a lightly protect pick from the Bulls. They are also due to Nuggets first rounder that could convey as early as 2025.
Both of these teams also have some assets that they could “sell off” for more future draft capital as well.