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NBA Draft

Breakdown of the protected picks heading into the 2019 NBA Draft

The NBA Draft Lottery is set to unfold on Tuesday night, and the tanking gods will grace one of the league’s franchises with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft. While this year’s draft may be pretty heavy at the top, there will be valuable players throughout most of the first round. This will surely be an interesting draft lottery, for multiple reasons.

This will be the first draft order following the league’s adjustments to the lottery odds this past offseason. Instead of the worst team in the league holding overwhelming odds to secure the first pick in the draft, the best chance at top selection will be split among the three worst records from the past season: The New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Phoenix Suns. With lowered chance to strike gold for those at the top of the lottery comes a boosted shot at landing higher than expected in the draft order for teams with better records, like the Charlotte Hornets or Memphis Grizzlies.

Another reason to expect a little more drama than usual for the draft lottery is the bulk of protected picks that will be tossed in the mix. Overall, there are eight picks in the 2019 NBA draft first round whose owner will be decided on where the pick falls. A couple may be locked in and spoken for, but there are plenty picks that with multiple ways to go ahead of Tuesday.

The Atlanta Hawks will have the fifth best odds in the lottery thanks to their own pick, but their luck in the draft extends beyond that. Due to past trades, though, they could be selecting up to three times in the 2019 draft.

The Kyle Korver trade that sent the sharpshooter to the then-title-contending Cleveland Cavaliers back in Jan. 2017 brought the Hawks a return of Cleveland’s 2019 first round pick. This pick was protected 1-10, so Atlanta shouldn’t get their hopes up, as the Cavaliers will likely retain it this year. If the Cavs hold onto their pick, the Hawks will have a shot at their 2020 pick with the same protection.

Atlanta has another shot at a lottery pick by way of the Dallas Mavericks. The mid-draft trade last year that awarded the Mavs Luka Doncic and the Hawks Trae Young also delivered Dallas’ 2019 first round pick to Atlanta. Protected 1-5, there is actually a very decent chance that this pick conveys to Atlanta. The Mavericks have the seventh best shot at a top pick and only a 26.2 percent chance of landing in the top five. On the flipside of the coin, there is a 29.4% chance that Atlanta is awarded a top 8 pick in draft because of where the Dallas pick lands. If the odds work in Atlanta’s favor, they could be headed into the draft with two top 10 picks.

The Boston Celtics have arguably the most interesting, and varying, array of outcomes following the draft lottery. If everything played into their hands correctly, they could be positioned with four picks in the upcoming draft, including their own pick. This would be very lethal for Danny Ainge, as those picks could very well be the reinforcements for a blockbuster trade.

Of the three picks that aren’t their own, only one is a lock to convey this season: the Los Angeles Clippers pick. Acquired in 2016, this first round pick had a lottery protection on it, and with the Clippers having fought their way into the playoffs, the pick, set at 20th, will land in Ainge’s hands.

As a result of the Philadelphia 76ers trading up two years to draft Markelle Fultz, Boston also has claim to the Sacramento Kings pick, by way of Philly. The pick was expected to be a top pick, but with the Kings taking a huge leap forward in the 2018-19 season and just barely missing the playoffs, this pick will be in the back end of the lottery. What makes this pick interesting is that if ends up becoming the first overall pick, Philadelphia will retain it and instead send their own pick (the 24th pick). The Kings pick only has a 1% chance of beating out the competition, but unlikely doesn’t mean impossible.

The last of the Boston Celtics treasure chest of picks is the most uncertain. The Memphis Grizzlies first round was sent to the C’s in 2015, and protected 1-8, it is hard to determine where this will land. Memphis’ hot and cold season eventually spelled rebuild for the franchise and forced their season to end early ahead of the NBA playoffs. Their first-round pick has a 98.8% chance to land in the top 10, but only 26.2% chance to fall within the top 5. This spells a very likely outlook that the pick winds up somewhere between 5-10. While the 9th or 10th pick in the draft would be a decent asset, but the Celtics haven’t been shy about their hope that the pick fails to convey, as it would be only top 6 protected in 2020, and it isn’t looking like the Grizzlies will be getting much better very soon.

The Brooklyn Nets have made a name for themselves in finding creative ways to acquire picks over the last few years. This past offseason was no different, as the trade that allowed the Denver Nuggets to unload Kenneth Faried’s contract to Brooklyn, also brought in Denver’s 2019 first round pick. The pick was only protected 1-12, and with Denver’s standout season, this pick will find itself at 27th and be used by the Nets on draft night.

The showstopping Kawhi Leonard/DeMar DeRozan deal from last summer will have a little residual reward for San Antonio this summer. Part of the trade that saw the two franchises swap stars was the Spurs taking back the Toronto Raptors 2019 first round pick, which was top 20 protected. The Raps banked on finding immediate success with Kawhi and it paid off. Their second seed, 58-24 record earned the 29th pick and gets San Antonio another swing at finding hidden talent in the NBA draft.

Outside of the Cavs pick owned by the Hawks, there is only one other pick that is certain to not convey this offseason. A product of the Eric Bledsoe trade last season, the Milwaukee Bucks sent their 2019 first round pick to the Suns as sweetener in the deal. An interesting protection was placed on the pick, which was protected 1-3 and 17-30. The Bucks made sure they were covered so that there was no way they would be missing out on a top pick, but also retaining an asset if they outperformed expectations on the season (spoiler: they did). With their pick coming in at 30 to cap off the first round, Milwaukee will retain this selection and instead hand over their 2020 first round pick to Phoenix with a top 7 protection.