We’re over halfway through the 2021/22 NBA regular season, which means it’s a good time to take a look at where things stand with 2022’s traded first-round picks. Many of the traded first-rounders for the ’22 draft come with protections, so there’s a chance they might not change hands this year after all.
Using our list of traded first-round picks for 2022 and our reverse standings tool, here’s our breakdown of which of those traded picks are most and least likely to change hands, and which ones remain up in the air:
Picks that will definitely change hands:
- Thunder acquiring Clippers‘ pick (unprotected).
When the Clippers traded a series of first-round picks and swaps to the Thunder in the Paul George blockbuster in the 2019 offseason, they weren’t counting on losing both George and Kawhi Leonard to long-term injuries in the same season. That’s the case this year though, and it could result in Oklahoma City receiving an extra lottery pick.
The Clippers are currently in a play-in spot, so their pick could move to No. 15 or lower if they make the playoffs, but for now it’s projected to be No. 11 or No. 12 (they’re tied with the Knicks in the NBA standings).
- Thunder acquiring Suns‘ pick (top-12 protected).
The Thunder will also receive a first-round pick from another Pacific team, though that selection appears likely to end up at the very end of the round — the Suns have the league’s best record so far, so their pick would be at No. 30.
- Grizzlies acquiring Jazz‘s pick (top-six protected).
The pick the Grizzlies are getting from the Jazz will fall near the end of the first round too. For now, it projects to be No. 25 or No. 26, as Utah is tied in the standings with the Heat.
- Grizzlies or Pelicans acquiring Lakers‘ pick (unprotected).
The Lakers will send their first-rounder to the Pelicans if it lands in the top 10 or to the Grizzlies if it’s between 11-30. It’s certainly possible things continue to go south in Los Angeles and the pick moves up into the top 10 — if the Lakers don’t make the playoffs, their pick could even jump into the top four via the lottery.
For now though, the more likely scenario is that Memphis will get the Lakers’ pick — it would be No. 15 or No. 16 (they’re tied with Minesota) if the season ended today and L.A. clinched a playoff spot in the play-in tournament.
Picks that definitely won’t change hands:
- Thunder acquiring Pistons’ pick (top-16 protected).
- Hawks acquiring Thunder‘s pick (top-14 protected).
There’s still a lot of basketball to be played this season, but it seems pretty safe to pencil in the Pistons and Thunder as non-playoff teams, which means they’ll keep their first-round picks in 2022. Right now, Detroit’s at No. 2 in the lottery standings, while Oklahoma City’s at No. 4.
Given how weak the bottom half of the Western Conference has been, the Thunder could theoretically sneak into a play-in spot and make the playoffs, but it’s an extreme long shot — the teams ahead of them in the standings will be more motivated to push for the postseason.
Assuming they keep their pick this year, the Pistons will owe the Thunder their top-18 protected first-round pick in 2023. If the Thunder’s own pick is protected, they’ll instead send the Hawks their 2024 and 2025 second-round selections.
Still up in the air:
- Hornets acquiring Pelicans‘ pick (top-14 protected)
- Bulls acquiring Trail Blazers‘ pick (top-14 protected)
At this point, it looks more likely than not that the Pelicans and Trail Blazers will keep their own lottery-protected first-round picks.
Portland, despite holding the West’s No. 10 seed for now, has a tenuous hold on a play-in spot with Damian Lillard sidelined for a while. New Orleans may have some potential for a second-half surge, especially if Zion Williamson returns, but the team is on the outside looking in for the time being. Either team would have a difficult path to a playoff spot as a lower seed in the play-in tournament.
Currently, the Pelicans’ first-rounder projects to be No. 6 or No. 7 (they’re tied with San Antonio), pending lottery results. Assuming that pick ends up in the top 14, New Orleans would instead send their 2022 and 2024 second-round selections to the Hornets.
If the Trail Blazers keep their first-round pick, currently projected to be No. 9, they’d owe the Bulls their top-14 protected first-rounder in 2023.
- Hawks acquiring Hornets‘ pick (top-18 protected)
The Hornets‘ first-round selection, which was just traded from New York to Atlanta in the Cam Reddish deal, is right on the edge and could go either way. It’s top-18 protected and is currently projected to be at No. 19, meaning the Hawks would receive it if the season ended today (as long as the seventh-seeded Hornets clinched a playoff spot in the play-in tournament). That could change quickly though.
- Rockets acquiring most favorable of Heat‘s or Nets‘ pick (Heat get least favorable).
Finally, the Rockets will control the two most favorable picks of the following three: their own first-rounder, the Nets first-rounder, and the Heat‘s first-rounder; Miami will get the least favorable of the three, unless the Heat’s own pick lands in the top 14 (in which case Miami would keep it and Houston would get the other two picks).
It seems safe to assume at this point that the Rockets will keep their own selection and the Heat will make the playoffs, so it’ll come down to whether Brooklyn or Miami finishes higher in the standings. Currently, the Heat are a half-game ahead of the Nets, so Houston would get Brooklyn’s pick (No. 24) and Miami would hang onto its own (No. 25 or No. 26).