The Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans have leveraged superstar trades into a huge number of draft picks. But how far ahead of the pack are they?
The past two years have seen a succession of enormous, superstar trades in the NBA, with Cheap Anthony Davis Jersey, Paul George, Russell Westbrook (twice),Cheap Chris Paul Jersey and now James Harden all being moved. In most cases, those deals have been built around hefty collections of draft picks heading in the opposite direction.
In all, 16 present and future first-round picks changed hands in deals for those five players, not to mention a slew of pick swap options that were included. The result has been a concerted pooling of future draft capital in the hands of just a few teams.
Which team has the most future draft picks: the Rockets, Thunder or Pelicans?
The graph below covers the next seven drafts (2021-2026) which is as far out as future first-round picks have been traded. For each team, it shows how many future first-picks they currently hold. For comparison, you can also see the baseline, if all 30 teams still held all of their own picks in the upcoming drafts.
The Oklahoma City Thunder lead the pack in extra picks with 16 first-round picks, nine beyond their baseline. The Rockets hold 14, the Pelicans have 12 and the New York Knicks have 10. The only other teams with extra first-round picks in the next seven drafts are the Grizzlies (two extra) and the Hawks (one extra). There are other teams that hold the rights to incoming draft picks but they’re balanced out by picks they owe in other years.
A total of 18 teams either have the rights to seven or six first picks, essentially even or just down a single pick. The teams at a serious deficit of draft value are the Mavericks (two owed), Heat (two owed), Bucks (three owed), Clippers (three owed), Lakers (three owed) and the Nets (down five).
The other variable here is the control of pick swaps. The Thunder have control of three different possible first-round pick swaps, which further maximizes the value of all those extra picks. The Rockets and Pelicans each have control of two upcoming possible pick swaps.
Without the draft order locked in, there are far too many variables to meaningfully assign expected values to any of these picks, individually or in the aggregate. But the Thunder, Rockets and Pelicans each have roughly twice as much draft capital as the average team and control of the pick swaps will ultimately inflate the nebulous expected value even further.
14 games into the season, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Lakers have an almost hilariously large margin for error. Despite playing their worst first half in at least a week (and probably more), the purple and gold woke up and turned it on when it mattered, beating the New Orleans Pelicans 112-95 on Friday night to extend their current winning streak to five games, move their record to 11-3, and keep Anthony Davis undefeated (5-0) against his former team.
Midway through the second quarter, however, things didn’t look so rosy. The Lakers trailed by 15, looking completely listless against a Pelicans team that was playing like this was a playoff game. Then, LeBron James got tangled up with Cheap Steven Adams Jersey under the basket and the two exchanged words. The next time down the floor, they both received technical fouls as they continued to jaw. The Lakers responded with an 11-0 run, continuing to force their way inside for free throws to only trail by one at halftime despite their mostly poor play.
Finally awake, the Lakers didn’t cool down over the break. They outscored the Pelicans 27-17 in the third quarter, at one point going on a 15-0 run that saw them hold New Orleans scoreless for nearly 6 minutes of game time. In the fourth quarter, they went on a 19-4 run to extend their lead to a game-high 25 points and allow James and Davis to sub out for good with nearly four minutes left.
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This was not Davis’ best game of the year (17 points on 5-16 shooting), but he still found a way to contribute with 3 blocks and 3 steals. James was his typically wonderful self, adding 21 points, 8 rebounds and 11 assists. The unsung hero of this one, though, was Alex Caruso, who was a game-high plus-minus of +28, making an impact with his defensive activity, energy and timely shooting. He finished with 9 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds. Montrezl Harrell (16 points on 8-10 shooting) was also hysterically dominant around the rim to give the Lakers easy buckets as they added to their lead. This team truly has an embarrassment of guys who can step up when necessary.
The Lakers played with their food a little bit, but it’s hard to blame them when they can turn on the afterburners and produce these kinds of swings against bad teams like the Pelicans basically whenever they want to. Now they’ll have two days off to rest before hosting the Warriors on Monday. Have a nice weekend everyone.