Outgoing draft picks that could influence the trade market

We are two months away from the trade deadline and we are starting to get an idea of which players could hit the markets and getting to the point where teams should know whether to stay the course or change direction. This year, outgoing draft picks in the upcoming draft could be a bigger factor than usual. As of now, nine 2024 first-round picks are projected to change hands with four of them currently projected in the lottery.

The Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Charlotte Hornets, and Utah Jazz all owe first-round picks but are heavily protected and aren’t expected to convey this year. Those teams are expected to be lottery teams and could all be sellers before the trade deadline.

The Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings owe first-round picks that are expected to be conveyed to the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks, respectively. The Los Angeles Lakers owe the New Orleans Pelicans an unprotected first-round pick that could be deferred to 2025. The Brooklyn Nets owe an unprotected 2024 first-round pick to the Rockets, and the Oklahoma City Thunder will trade their least favorable first-round pick to the Indiana Pacers, currently projected as their own. All these teams are likely to be buyers before the trade deadline.

Here are the most consequential outgoing 2024 first-round picks for this upcoming trade deadline.

Toronto Raptors (to San Antonio Spurs)

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Selection: T-9th
Protection: Top 6 through 2026. Otherwise becomes two second-rounders

Many wrote off the Raptors last season when they entered the week of the trade deadline seven games below .500. Instead of being sellers, they doubled down on their group and traded a first-round pick for Jakob Poeltl. Their lineup lacked a traditional center with rim protection and his addition helped the Raptors climb back up to .500. Unfortunately, all that move accomplished was a quick exit from the Play-In Tournament.

This was a risky bet at the time on a core that is undoubtedly talented but lacks the shooting and spacing to have a strong offense. Their playmaking also took a big hit when they lost Fred VanVleet in free agency, who had a great pick-and-roll partnership with Poeltl. Perhaps this group is an offensive star away from being relevant again and could be in discussions for such players as they were for Damian Lillard last summer. But if such an opportunity does not come, they could be looking at a repeat of last season’s result.

The Raptors currently sit outside of the Play-In Tournament at three games below .500. A hard-fought season where they barely miss the playoffs again would give the Spurs a valuable pick at the end of the lottery. The outgoing pick, which is Top 6 protected this year, presumably would disincentivize the Raptors from bottoming out. This could mean that the Raptors could risk going into another summer with two of the best free agents in Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby.

However, the protection is high enough that they could conceivably pivot to being sellers and attempt to keep their pick. They’re unlikely to catch the Pistons, Spurs, and Wizards, but could potentially get in the 4-6 range. Finishing with the sixth-worst record gives them a 43.4 percent chance of keeping their pick while finishing as low as fourth increases those odds to 55.3 percent.

Golden State Warriors (to Portland Trail Blazers)

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Selection: T9th
Protection: Top 4 in 2024, Top 1 in 2025, unprotected in 2026

The Warriors originally traded this selection to the Grizzlies back in 2019 to salary dump Andre Iguodala. This gave them enough space below the apron to sign and trade Kevin Durant for D’Angelo Russell on a maximum contract. They then flipped Russell to the Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins and the first-round pick that became Jonathan Kuminga. The original trade was worth the risk since the series of transactions that followed led to the acquisition of Wiggins who played a huge part in the Warriors winning the 2022 championship.

Now the selection is nearly due and it’s starting to look like a valuable late lottery pick. The Warriors’ struggles this season have been well-documented, featuring multiple blown leads over the past week. They will have to overcome this slump internally since no trade will fix their problems. If their core as is isn’t good enough to compete, then they won’t make a meaningful run in the playoffs.

However, don’t expect the Warriors to pivot and bottom out. They will continue to compete for a championship as long as they have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Even if multiple starters suffered season-ending injuries, the odds are against them keeping their selection this year. Their best shot at keeping their selection is by missing the playoffs and hoping the lottery gods bless them with a Top 4 pick. Their current ninth-worse record in the league gives them a 17.4 percent chance at keeping their selection.

It feels too risky to sacrifice future draft assets for players that could incrementally improve the team. If these struggles continue, they could look to trade Chris Paul to save money while adding more cost-effective bench reinforcements. As for the Trail Blazers, they may have an opportunity to trade the pick. If the Warriors continue to be in the lottery range but the Trail Blazers believe they end up making the playoffs, they could sell high on the selection to a team whose lower on the Warriors.

Houston Rockets (to Oklahoma City Thunder)

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Selection: 11th
Protection: Top 4. Otherwise becomes two second-rounders

This outgoing selection is the product of one of the more egregious miscalculations in recent memory. The Rockets traded two first-round picks and two pick swaps to the Thunder in 2019 to get Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook. Westbrook only lasted a year in Houston before he and James Harden requested trades, sparking a rebuild shortly afterward. The obligations of that trade are now coming due with Top 4 protected first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, and a Top 10 protected swap in 2025.

These upcoming obligations played a big part in the Rockets’ decision to become more competitive now. Whether or not they felt their young core was ready, they went ahead and added Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks, and hired Ime Udoka to make a run at the playoffs. And they’re making a strong effort to fulfill that goal. They have the league’s sixth-best defensive rating and have played surprisingly well against strong teams.

Although the Rockets are out two first-round picks to the Thunder, they are owed unprotected first-round picks by the Nets in those same years. This eliminates Stepien rule complications surrounding those selections, allowing them to trade any first-round pick over the next seven drafts. They are expected to be aggressive in the trade market for upgrades that could help take this team to the next level. They can keep all their core players in the process with over $27 million of salaries non-guaranteed beyond this season as outgoing salaries for a big potential trade.

Los Angeles Clippers to Oklahoma City Thunder

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Selection: T-13th
Protection: None

We continue to get reminders of the return the Thunder got in the Paul George trade every time one of their players makes a leap or when the Clippers stagnate. It most notably netted them MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a starter and potential future All-Star in Jalen Williams. And they’re still owed another first-round pick by the Clippers this season.

The Clippers’ short and long-term goals seem fairly obvious after trading further control of their draft in the form of a 2028 first-round pick and first-round pick swaps in 2027 and 2029. They are committed to their All-Star trio and competing for a championship as they prepare to enter their own arena next season. If the Clippers cannot place significantly above the Play-In range, the Thunder could be looking at another valuable mid-first-round pick from them.

As for the Thunder, they’re in an interesting position with their two incoming first-round picks from the Rockets and Clippers. It seems unlikely that they’ll keep both picks due to a never-ending roster crunch they have to deal with every offseason. They could be in a strong position to trade up in the upcoming draft by offering both selections in a deal. Like the Trail Blazers, the Thunder could also look to trade one of their selections before the trade deadline that they feel won’t end up being a high selection.

Story originally appeared on HoopsHype