In the modern NBA, draft picks are simply the currency of the league. In fact, it has become more common over the past few years for teams to demand full control of a franchise’s future draft picks in exchange for a star player.
With that in mind, a good portion of the NBA’s pool of draft picks over the next seven years will be held by only a few teams.
This week, the Draft Digest team gives their thoughts on which franchise has the most valuable stash of draft picks.
While the Thunder have certainly accumulated the most in terms of quantity, I aim for quality when it comes to draft picks.
With two or more first-round picks in the next five drafts, I’d pick the Pelicans to have one of the best caches in the NBA.
They have the extremely coveted unprotected Lakers picks, who have already reaped Aussie rewards and should keep them in the lottery without having to drop any games.
They also have plenty of future selections from Milwaukee, which are just far enough out to give hope that the squad won’t still be an Eastern Conference contender.
Oklahoma City and Utah both have the same number of first-round picks over the next seven years. It comes down to which franchise has more valuable picks.
I’m leaning on this one, but just a little. Not only do they own all of their future first rounders, but they also own Utah’s 2023 protected first rounder. There’s a chance the Jazz selection trades at some point, giving OKC the leg up.
Until we see where these teams finish in the upcoming lottery, it’s really hard to say. If one of these teams lands the No. 1 overall pick for a shot at Victor Wembanyama, it would instantly vault them into the top spot.
Morten Stig Jenson
It’s an incredibly difficult question, as it all depends on where the picks land. We can obviously bring up teams like Oklahoma City and Utah who are collecting picks so bad these days that they need an intervention.
But which of them ends up having the best odds for superstardom is the main question, and those odds increase dramatically the higher you pick.
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Looking at Utah, the three teams they traded (Minnesota, Brooklyn, and Cleveland) aren’t expected to be bad for a while. They might land extra picks in the 20s or just outside the lottery, but is that good? Of course, it gives them exchange opportunities, but to what end?
OKC’s incoming picks are mostly protected, and the ones that aren’t come from good teams, such as the Clippers. That gives them the same thing as Utah in that they can use those picks to trade if they choose. But is there a good chance of landing a potential top three pick there outside of their own original selection? I think it’s fair to wonder about that.
The answer might be the New Orleans Pelicans, as the Lakers could definitely take a while to gain some traction. They have a 2023 trade option and an unprotected incoming 2024 pick in the infamous double draft.
And really, that’s what it all boils down to. Assumed value of the given selection. Back in 2011, the Cavaliers won the lottery on an unprotected pick via the Clippers (who were SO desperate to get out of Baron Davis’ contract at the time), and those are the deals you’re looking for. They will always have the greatest value.
Although Utah has a strong case, the OKC Thunder is my top pick. OKC’s draft arsenal contains 15 first-round picks, including two pick swaps. Of these 15 firsts, four are in 2024, the expected year of the mythical “double draft”.
Due to the sheer number of picks, their projected draft and timing, the Thunder are in a position of power and flexibility. Sam Presti and company can either continue to build through the draft given their excellent history and potential number of options with a high pick. Or the team can pack committees to execute whatever kind of deal makes the most sense to them. Packaging future picks for a proven all star or superstar type of player would be the best case scenario.
There is simply nothing out of the realm of possibility for OKC due to their draft chest and talent.
It came down to the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder for me, and after thinking about it, I’m going to do what I guess is the opposite pick and take the Jazz over the Thunder. The Thunder’s large number of first-round picks is certainly impressive, but it falls short in one area: long-term unprotected first-round picks.
In fact, the Thunder only have two of them, the Clippers 2024 and 2026 first rounders. The Jazz, on the other hand, got three unprotected firsts from the Rudy Gobert trade alone (2023, 2025 and 2027 first) and three more unprotected firsts from Cleveland on top of that (2025, 2027 and 2029). The Thunder have a large number of picks, but in my opinion the Jazz have them beat in terms of pick quality.
I think the quickest and correct answer to this question for most people would be the OKC Thunder and now the Utah Jazz. I think you’d be hard pressed to find any team that has a better arsenal of picks when you consider all 7 years. That said, I wanted to throw out a few more “outside the box” teams that will most likely be bad for the next few years and own their own first rounders.
First, the Indiana Pacers own all of their own first round picks over the next 7 seasons, but more so they have first rounders (with protection) from Boston and Cleveland in the 2023 Draft. I realize that both of these picks could fall pretty late in the first round, but in what appears to be a stacked class, having three bites of the apple is very valuable. Another team that owns all of its own picks is the Orlando Magic, and they will also have another first-round pick in this draft via a lightly protected pick from the Bulls. They also need a Nuggets first rounder who could convey as early as 2025.
Both of these teams also have some assets that they could “sell off” to get more future draft capital as well.
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