2023 NBA trade deadline: How the Stepien Rule dictates what first-round picks teams can and can’t move


If you feel like the NBA has gone a little over the top when it comes to trading draft picks lately, well, you’re probably right. last offseason, I evaluated every first round pick that belonged to the team other than its original owner.. At that time there were 47 of them. The Donovan Mitchell trade brings the total to over 50 players, and with the 2023 NBA trade deadline approaching, that number is likely to only increase.

There are a total of 210 first-round picks available over a given seven-year period (the maximum allowed period for a draft trade). You can see the number 50 and assume that means there are at least 160 to capture, but it’s not that easy. Most of these picks have multi-year protection, meaning that one pick can prevent a team from trading a first-round player for several years.

This is further complicated by Stepien’s rule, which states that a team must have at least one first-round pick in every second draft moving forward. That pick doesn’t have to be their own, but they should be guaranteed a pick somewhere in every other draft. Combine these two factors, and swapping first round players suddenly becomes quite difficult for some teams. So with the trade deadline approaching, let’s go through all 30 teams and figure out who can trade which picks.

Not burdened at all

The next nine teams don’t have a single pick in the first round. They are free to trade their draft picks as they see fit.

  • Indiana Pacers
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • New York Knicks
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic
  • Phoenix Suns
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Toronto Raptors

minimally burdened

The next seven teams each have to pick one pick in the first round, and so they can trade other picks quite comfortably.

  • Boston Celtics: The Celtics sent the Pacers their 2023 first-round pick for Malcolm Brogdon, who is protected 1-12, but the Celtics have the best record in the NBA, so this pick will almost certainly confirm, and even if it doesn’t so. , it converts to second round picks, so future first round players are not burdened.
  • Dallas Mavericks: The Mavericks owe the Knicks their 2023 first-round pick as the latest part of the Kristaps Porzingis trade, and although he is protected 1-10 for the next three drafts, Dallas is currently in position to exit in the playoffs, so the selection is likely to pass this season. This should give Dallas the flexibility to trade multiple picks using the next allowed language, but in all likelihood, the Mavericks will wait until this offseason to make a move. Assuming they send their pick to the Knicks in 2023, they will be able to offer the other team their entire set of first-round picks, four picks and three trades per star paired with Luka Doncic.
  • Golden State Warriors: The Warriors owe the Grizzlies their 1-4-defended 2024 first-round pick thanks to Andre Iguodala’s trade. He goes exposed in 2025, so technically the Warriors can’t make a pick until 2027, but even in that scenario, they have two first-round players to trade.
  • Houston Rockets: Technically, the Rockets have first-round picks every season, but it should be noted that these picks are not always their own. Their 2024 and 2026 picks are tied with Oklahoma City in a Chris Paul-to-Russell Westbrook trade, but they have a Brooklyn pick in those drafts due to blockbuster James Harden. Their 2025 pick also goes to Oklahoma City via trade, but they will also get Brooklyn’s pick in this draft. So technically, the Rockets aren’t burdened by the Stepien rule at all, but it’s worth noting that they needed other teams’ picks to do so.
  • Miami Heat: The Heat owe their lottery-protected 2025 first-round pick to the Thunder thanks to a cap drop made during the 2019 offseason. This pick becomes unprotected in 2026, meaning that the Heat technically cannot trade it until 2028 (other than their 2023 pick), but it should be noted that the Heat and Thunder are already agreed on new means of protection at this peak once. If the Heat needed to access their 2027 first round player for a trade, they could probably convince the Thunder to make a pick they still have to make unprotected in 2025.
  • Sacramento Kings: The Kings owe their 2024 top-12 draft pick to Atlanta in a deal to trade Kevin Huerter. That pick currently has protection that runs through 2026, but if the Kings need access to their 2027 pick, Atlanta will likely be happy to remove protection from Sacramento’s 2025 pick. Who doesn’t want an unprotected Kings pick?
  • Utah Jazz: The situation in Utah is very similar to the situation in Houston. In 2024, the Jazz should tie the Thunder into the top 10 protected picks thanks to the 2021 cap dump, and protection of that pick could last until 2026. This prevents them from trading their own selection in any of these seasons, the typical Stepien restrictions do not apply because Utah has selections from other teams. Utah has three 2023 picks to trade, as well as additional picks in 2025 and 2027, so it’s only from 2024 to 2026 that the pick they owe Thunder will be affected.

Significantly burdened

The next six teams should either have multiple picks or should have one pick with a defense difficult enough to make picking elsewhere rather difficult.

  • Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks traded three picks to San Antonio for DeJonte Murray, but one of them originally belonged to Charlotte. That makes their prospects fairly straightforward: the Hawks could trade their unprotected picks in 2023 and 2029. Their 2025 and 2027 picks are for San Antonio, as is their 2026 pick through the trade right.
  • Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets should only receive one first-round pick, their lottery-protected pick this season. He will move to San Antonio thanks to numerous deals that date back to their move to Kai Jones in 2021. However, this choice is protected by the lottery from now until 2025. Do you expect the Hornets to make the playoffs sooner? The Hornets can’t trade picks until 2027 unless they remove protection from that outbound pick, which would be stupid.
  • Detroit Pistons: The Pistons only have to pick once, but it’s one of the toughest selections in the NBA. Their 2023 pick belongs to New York but is protected 1-18. The same protection will last until 2024 and then decrease to 1-13 in 2025, 1-11 in 2026 and 1-9 in 2027. Predicting when this pick will eventually work out is nearly impossible, but for now, it means the Pistons can only trade their 2029. choice. However, if they wanted to get rid of the last few years of protection, they could do it quite easily. The Pistons probably won’t win the lottery in 2026 or 2027.
  • Los Angeles Lakers: Despite the doom and gloom surrounding the Lakers, they actually only have one first-round pick at the moment (apart from the trade rights they owe New Orleans in 2023) thanks to the Anthony Davis exchange). The problem is the unique language of this draft. The Lakers owe the Pelicans their 2024 pick, but the Pelicans have the right to delay that pick until 2025. That means the Lakers can’t trade a pick until 2027, when the commonly discussed trade package is based on the 2027 and 2027 peaks. 2029 comes from.
  • Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers owe the Bulls just one pick, a lottery-protected pick for 2023, but that lottery protection lasts until 2027. Do not remove this protection for a win-win move.
  • Washington Wizards: The Wizards only have to pick one pick, but that’s stupid. Since trading John Wall for Russell Westbrook, Washington owes its 2023 selection to the Knicks. This pick is defended 1-14 this season, 1-12 in 2024, 1-10 in 2025 and 1-8 in 2026. The Wizards can’t risk unprotecting this choice for flexibility given how badly they’ve played. the last few seasons, so at the moment all peaks before 2028 are banned.

Significantly burdened

The next eight teams have to make several picks and will therefore find it very difficult to trade first round players within the deadline.

  • Brooklyn Nets: Houston owns Brooklyn’s first-round picks until 2027 thanks to James Harden trade. That means their only traded picks are their own 2029 pick, and Philadelphia owes them a top-eight protected pick in a second Harden deal that will be passed two years after Philadelphia honored their commitments to ” Oklahoma City”.
  • Chicago Bulls: The Chicago Bulls may have been rumored to go negative this season, but with his recent resurgence, his 2023 four-strong pick will now almost certainly travel to Orlando to complete the Nikola Vucevic trade. This would allow them to send their 2025 San Antonio pick to Demar DeRozan, but there’s one catch. This selection is protected by 1-10 in the first year it is due, and 1-8 in the next two years. That means the only choice Chicago can definitely trade is 2029. Given the Bulls’ aging roster, it’s hard to imagine they would deprotect this pick for a win-win deal.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavaliers cannot trade a single first-round pick. They owe Indiana their pick this season thanks to last year’s deadline deal with Carice LeVert, and in 2025, 2027 and 2029 (along with a few trades along the way) they head to Utah for Donovan Mitchell.
  • Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets have to pick in 2023 (Charlotte), 2025 (Orlando), and 2027 (Oklahoma City), but they still can’t trade their 2029 pick because protecting that Charlotte pick lasts two years, which, in turn, maybe move the election due to Orlando and Oklahoma City to 2029. If any team needs to feel comfortable dropping their guard, it has to be the Nuggets. Nikola Jokic never gets injured so their immediate future…

Source: www.cbssports.com