How the NBA trade deadline impacts future draft classes
The NBA Trade Deadline secures several blockbusters. And while fans are rightfully obsessed with the immediate consequences of these transactions, the front offices that arrange them should usually be much more aware of the long-term consequences.
The draft pick is one of the most valuable assets in building an NBA roster. While fans and even current NBA players don’t always place a lot of importance on elections that might come up in five or six years, front-office decision makers should, or at least should, do so.
247Sports spoke to the former NBA general manager to find out what these executives are thinking.
“You are trying to at least look a few years ahead, from the point of view of perhaps a random special player. In 2019, was anyone other than the Pelicans front office thinking about Victor Vembanyama? Certainly not in the way the media reported about these deals,” he said.
However, predictions for the future are not limited to the potential talents of generations. NBA front offices often try to predict the collective quality of a draft years into the future, while recognizing that it is an imperfect process.
“We’re trying to predict the strength of the high school class and therefore what year we want to load with drafts,” the former general manager explained. from the draft class in the future.”
With that in mind, here’s a look at how the future NBA draft classes could shake things up.
2023 NBA Draft (high school class of 2022)
This year’s NBA draft has long been considered potentially special. As we’ve seen, some NBA franchises have spent the last four years doing this.
Wembanyama is the universally recognized top prize, but Scoot Henderson is another up-and-comer who many scouts believe has superstar potential. Overtime Elite Amen Thompson and Alabama Brandon Miller two other players with very high growth potential who are widely mentioned at this stage.
However, this year’s draft is not about star power, it’s about depth.
While every draft inevitably brings surprises, this year the class has more questions than answers after about 20 players.
This has undoubtedly been a factor in how some NBA teams valued second round picks and even late first round picks this year.
2024 NBA Draft (high school class of 2023)
It’s really not easy to say, but the collective quality of high school basketball students is not considered very good. On the contrary, many experienced scouts consider this year one of the worst in a long time.
Again, this can certainly change in the coming years. There is a long line of current NBA stars who weren’t considered high-profile recruits or nationally ranked prospects when they were in high school.
But when it comes to which current high schooler will earn an NBA lottery pick a year from now, there aren’t many good answers to that question.
However, this uncertainty creates undeniable opportunities. Not just for current high schoolers who are capable of making an immediate impression next year, but for current college players who could potentially consider returning to the NCAA in hopes of taking advantage of less competition in the 2024 draft cycle.
Conversely, from the perspective of the NBA front office, high picks in the 2024 draft don’t rank as high as they do in other years.
2025 NBA draft (high school class of 2024)
So far, the high school class of 2024 looks the same as it did in 2023. This means that there is simply not an overwhelming amount of star power that has risen to the top.
Of course, reclassification can affect this. In fact, there are a number of current juniors who are expected to eventually reclassify before 2023 to play college basketball next season. Also, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if the current sophomores in the high school class of 2025 will end up being reclassified.
The current Collective Agreement requires players not only not to complete one year of high school to be eligible for the draft, but also must be at least 19 years of age during the calendar year in which the draft takes place.
In other words, any prospect born in 2006 could theoretically be eligible for the 2025 NBA draft if they graduate from high school in 2024. become eligible for draft a year earlier through reclassification.
Of course, the Collective Agreement itself only lasts for the 2023-24 season, meaning the rules could change before the 2025 NBA draft.
2026 NBA Draft (high school class of 2025)
I’ve been adamant, especially in recent months, that we need to be careful about the early expectations we place on young prospects. But as we’ve seen, NBA front offices predict the potential quality of future drafts as they correlate with high school grades.
There is no denying that the high school class of 2025 is currently considered the most talented in high school basketball. This doesn’t mean that anyone in this class is a guaranteed star or even an NBA player, but the early forecast in terms of pure talent and potential is reassuring.
There is also no guarantee that the class of 2025 will look the same two years from now. Recent history has shown us that this is unlikely to happen.
But now the high school class of 2025 is very good. So there will be corresponding optimism about the potential of the 2026 NBA draft.
In the last 48 hours alone, we’ve seen NBA teams hand out picks even in the 2029 NBA draft, which is in line with today’s seventh graders.
No NBA team projects talent this far. This means that front offices are dealing with long-term assets without being able to predict their value. Whether this is good business practice can be debated, but it probably has to do with the context of each individual team and decision makers.
Conventional wisdom in the NBA is that a championship is so hard to get that you have to go all in if you have a legitimate chance to compete. As such, the Phoenix Suns were willing to trade their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks for Kevin Durant.
Another consideration is the decision makers themselves. Very few, if any, general managers have a guaranteed job four years from now. Thus, human nature suggests that they, at least subconsciously, will not be so attached to the choice that they could potentially pass on after they leave the organization they currently represent.
Is there a 7th or 8th grader who threw a ball somewhere that might end up making the team regret it? Time will show.