Last summer, the Philadelphia 76ers made a trade with the Sacramento Kings where they received Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, the right to swap picks with the Kings (at the Sixers’ discretion) in both 2016 and 2017, as well as a future first round pick.
All the Sixers gave up in this deal were the 47th and 60th picks in the 2015 draft, as well as a little bit of short-term salary cap flexibility.
After the results of Tuesday night’s lottery, that future draft pick the Kings owe the Sixers just became a little bit more valuable.
The future first round pick was originally defined as a top-10 protected 2018 first round pick. If the pick doesn’t convey in 2018, the pick then becomes an unprotected pick in 2019.
The situation became a little bit more complicated because the Kings also owe a first round pick to the Chicago Bulls, which was top-10 protected in 2016. Since the Kings did not fall out of the top-10 after the results of Tuesday night’s lottery, the Kings now owe the Bulls a top-10 protected 2017 draft pick. If the pick once again falls inside the top-10 in 2017, the Bulls will instead receive second round picks.
There’s one key rule to consider in all of this, which is the Stepien Rule, which prevents a team from making trades which would leave them without a first round pick in consecutive years in the future. Most of the confusion centers around what the NBA sets as the “first allowable draft” a team can trade a draft pick and still be legal under this rule.
This applies to the the Sixers/Kings situation because the Kings could potentially give the Bulls a 2017 first round pick, which prevents them from also conveying the pick to the Sixers in 2018.
Since the possibility still exists that the Kings won’t actually send a first round pick to Chicago in 2017, that has led to some uncertainty over how the league will interpret the Stepien Rule in this instance. This uncertainty has created some confusion over what the results of Tuesday night’s lottery means for the future pick the Kings owe the Sixers
Last fall it was explained to me, by a source with knowledge of the situation, that the pick the Sixers are owed from Sacramento would become an unprotected 2019 first round pick if the Kings do not convey their first round pick to the Bulls in 2016.
Since 2017 is the final year the Kings can convey a first round pick to Chicago, once Chicago does not get the pick in 2016 the NBA sets the “first allowable draft” for the pick the Kings owe the Sixers to 2019. This is defined as two years beyond when Sacramento’s first round debt to Chicago is extinguished, either by conveyance or expiration. This “first allowable draft” definition is not re-evaluated after the after the results of the 2017 lottery, even if the Kings end up not conveying that pick to Chicago at all. It’s set in stone once the end of the first round obligation is reached.
After the results of Tuesday’s lottery, which saw the Kings finish with the 8th pick in the 2016 draft, and thus not convey the pick to the Bulls, two sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed that the pick the Kings owe the Sixers is now an unprotected first round draft pick in 2019. The pick cannot be conveyed to the Sixers in 2018, regardless of whether the Bulls get a first round pick from Sacramento in next year’s draft or not.
Having a future unprotected pick, even if it’s still three years off, is a big deal for the Sixers, and a far better outcome than if the Kings somehow managed to convey a pick outside of the top-10 to the Sixers in 2018.
The potential of that pick is especially strong since it’s from an organization as dysfunctional as the Kings. Sacramento is now on their 4th head coach (Mike Malone, Tyrone Corbin, George Karl, Dave Joerger) since the start of the 2014-15 season, not to mention the sweeping changes within the front office. That kind of organizational instability, in large part shaped by the fickle whims of owner Vivek Ranadive, has the potential to pay off big down the line for the Sixers.
On top of that, DeMarcus Cousins‘ contract expires after the 2017-18 season, which would make him a free agent. Cousins has had a rocky relationship with the Kings, and has a 164-312 (34.5% winning percentage) record as a professional. The chance that either Cousins will become fed up with Sacramento’s losing, or Sacramento could become fed up with Cousins’ antics, is ever-present.
Losing Cousins, who averaged 26.9 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game for Sacramento this past season, would obviously send Sacramento into a potentially lengthy rebuild, which would help the value of that pick quite a bit.
The Sacramento trade last summer was one of the best high reward / no risk gambits in recent memory, and it became significantly more valuable after Tuesday night’s lottery.
That 2019 Sacramento pick, along with the right to swap picks with the Kings in 2017, and the Lakers pick the Sixers are still owed as a result of the Michael-Carter-Williams trade (top-3 protected in 2017 and unprotected if not conveyed by 2018) has the Sixers stocked with high-value draft selections.
In a perfect, albeit somewhat unlikely, world, the Sixers could swap picks with the Kings in 2017, receive an unprotected pick from the Lakers in 2018, and an unprotected pick from the Kings in 2019. That’s an especially advantageous situation since those picks are decoupled from any progress the Sixers might make in the won/loss column.
Optionality, some might say.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.