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2020 NBA Draft

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What is the Cost of Moving Up in the NBA Draft?

Over the past five years, we’ve seen teams mortgage the farm to go after their prized prospect(s). Based on that, what might it cost teams this year?

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

I don’t even want to attempt to predict which team(s) may move up, or God forbid move up for a certain player, so here’s my cop out.

With the 2022 NBA Draft quickly approaching — and draft trade rumors heating up — I wanted to look back at the last five years and gauge the cost of moving up in the draft. Moving up into the lottery is surprisingly expensive, considering the unlikely probability that the pick turns out to be a hit. Moving up in the mid-late first round is still costly, but in both cases the price makes sense considering a Donovan Mitchell-esque selection could happen. By analyzing past draft day trades, we might be able to get an idea of what it’ll take for teams to move up this year.

(Ah yes, the impossible task of predicting NBA trades. Let’s ride)

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Seven Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

2017 NBA Draft

What a tremendous place to start this piece.

To kick things off, we have the famous Philadelphia 76ers-Boston Celtics trade. The Celtics traded the No. 1 overall pick to the 76ers in exchange for the No. 3 pick and a future first that turned out to be Romeo Langford in 2019 (originally was a 2018 pick).

That first-round pick (in 2018) had the potential to fall between No. 2 and No. 5, though. If the Los Angeles Lakers’ pick fell in that range, the pick would’ve gone to the Celtics. Without going too far down this rabbit hole, just know that the Celtics could’ve ended up with one of Marvin Bagley III, Luka Dončić, Jaren Jackson, Trae Young, Mo Bamba, etc.

The Jimmy Butler trade that sent him to the Timberwolves did involve picks (No. 7 to the Bulls, No. 16 to Minnesota), but Butler, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn being part of the deal makes it hard to place a value on the picks themselves.

The Portland Trail Blazers moved up to No. 10 (Zach Collins) in this draft, sending No. 15 (Justin Jackson) and No. 20 (Harry Giles) to Sacramento. A true “consolidating your assets” move here, as Portland clearly wanted to add one high-level asset as opposed to adding two mid-round assets.

The Jazz selected at No. 13 (Donovan Mitchell) after sending the Nuggets No. 24 (Tyler Lydon) and Trey Lyles, in a franchise-altering move.

Cost of moving up two within top five:

Swapping top five picks + future FRP (potential of being top five in 2018)

Cost of moving into top 10:

No. 15 and No. 20

Cost of moving into top 15:

No. 24 + Trey Lyles

Post NBA Draft Press Conference Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

2018 NBA Draft

One of the biggest, most equally-beneficial trades of recent memory occurred when the Dallas Mavericks moved up to No. 3 to select Luka Dončić, sending No. 5 (Trae Young) and a 2019 protected FRP to the Atlanta Hawks. Similar to the 76ers-Celtics trade, the asking price for moving up was moving down two spots in the top five, and in addition a FRP that turned out to be No. 10 in 2019 (Cam Reddish).

Just a few selections later the Phoenix Suns moved up to No. 10 to select Mikal Bridges, trading No. 16 (Zhaire Smith) and a future FRP (via Miami) to Philadelphia.

At the very next pick, the Los Angeles Clippers moved up just one spot to take Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 11, trading the No. 12 pick (Miles Bridges) to the Charlotte Hornets. The Clippers sent the Hornets two second-round picks in return.

Cost of moving up two spots within the top five:

Swapping top five picks + future FPR

Cost of moving up into top 10 (or very close):

Swap picks + future FRP

Swap picks + two SRPs

New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

2019 NBA Draft

As part of the Anthony Davis deal, the New Orleans Pelicans had the No. 4 pick in this draft (the Lakers’ pick), but sent it to the Hawks for Nos. 8, 17 and 35 in a package that included No. 4, No. 57 and a future second-round pick.

Making us relive unfortunate times yet again, the Wolves sent the No. 11 pick in 2019 (Cameron Johnson) and Dario Saric to the Suns for No. 6 (Jarrett Culver).

Later in the first round, the Celtics traded No. 20 to the Sixers for Nos. 24 and 33. Philadelphia chose Matisse Thybulle, while the Celtics traded No. 24 (Ty Jerome) to the Suns and then chose Carsen Edwards at 33.

Creating a truly hectic few selections, the Thunder traded No. 21 (Brandon Clarke) to the Grizzlies for No. 23 and a future second-round pick.

To cap off the first round, we got a really strange deal. The Cavaliers sent four (!) second-round picks to the Pistons for No. 30, which was used to select Kevin Porter Jr.

Cost of moving up into the top five:

Nos. 8, 17, 35 (essentially)

Cost of moving up into the top 6:

No. 11 + 10.6 PPG scoring, 36% 3-point shooting Dario Saric

Cost of moving into top 20 (or very close):

No. 24 + No. 33

No. 23 + future SRP

Cost of the No. 30 pick:

Four SRPs

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves - Game Six Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

2020 NBA Draft

There were plenty of trades during the 2020 draft, but many of them had multiple different pieces, making it hard to pinpoint the value of the picks. Therefore, in an attempt to keep things short, I’ll only review a few trades from this draft.

This one was part of a much larger trade, but the initial move gives us insight into the value of the picks involved. The New York Knicks moved up to No. 23 to select Leandro Bolmaro (eventually sent to the Wolves), and in exchange sent Nos. 27 and 38 to the Jazz.

The Grizzles acquired the final pick of the first round, selecting Desmond Bane. In the three-team deal, two second-round picks went to the Celtics, who originally held No. 30.

Cost of No. 23 pick:

No. 27 + No. 38

Cost of No. 30:

Two SRPs (the Cavs were clearly enamored with Kevin Porter Jr.)

Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers - Play-In Tournament Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

2021 NBA Draft

There wasn’t much movement near the top of this draft, as things stayed pretty calm on draft night. The Russell Westbrook trade send the No. 22 pick to Washington, which was the first domino to fall in a short series of moves.

The Wizards sent the No. 22 pick (Isaiah Jackson) to the Pacers in exchange for the No. 31 pick and Aaron Holiday.

The Nets traded Landry Shamet to the Suns for Jevon Carter and the No. 29 pick (Day’Ron Sharpe).

To finish off the first round, the Jazz traded the No. 30 to the Grizzlies, who selected Santi Aldama. In return, the Jazz received No. 40 and two second-round picks.

Cost of the No. 22 pick:

No. 31 + Aaron Holiday (7 PPG, 37% from 3-point range in 2020-21)

Cost of No. 29:

Landry Shamet (9 PPG, 38% from 3-point range)

Cost of No. 30:

Three total SRPs (the middle ground, I guess?)

Continental Tire Challenge - Gonzaga v Duke Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

2022 NBA Draft - What to Expect

After looking at past trades, we now have a rough idea of the asking price of picks in certain ranges. Of course, value of picks is different every year, depending on qualify of draft class, specific teams’ organizational direction, and many other things.

Cost of Moving Into (Or Up Within) the Top Five

If anyone is planning on moving up into the top five, they’ll no doubt have to give up their own first-round pick, plus a future, lightly protected first.

Sacramento is probably the most likely team to trade out of the top five. If they do, teams like Detroit, Indiana, New York, etc. might pursue No. 4. Historically speaking, a deal would likely include their first rounder (No. 5, 6, or 11, respectively) and an additional first-round pick.

Cost of Moving Into (Or Up Within) the Top 10

Generally, the value of a top-10 pick is about the same as a top five, as it’ll take a swap of first round picks and a future first to get. It depends on where the team that’s trading up’s pick is, but the foundation of a trade like this is similar to that of a top-five pick.

Cost of Moving Into the 10-20 Range:

The basis for a trade into this range is not quite as straightforward. There have been moves that involve a player and a pick or just two picks, so it’s likely that the groundwork for a move into this spot would require a swapping of first rounders in this draft, plus either a relatively early second-round pick or a player.

Cost of Moving Into the 20-30 Range:

Naturally, things get a bit murky here. We’ve seen picks in this range moved for a single player, a swap of firsts and a future second, a second and a player, etc. Many of the trades in this section of the draft include teams moving back just a few spots in exchange for a second rounder, rebuilding teams getting back in because a guy they like is slipping, or contenders deciding to punt on the current draft and run it back next year with a pick in the same range.

Cost of the No. 30 Pick

If the cost of moving into the 20-30 is murky, then this is complete sensory deprivation. At this point, the value of the No. 30 pick is the world’s greatest mystery.

What To Make of the Wolves’ Situation

With Nos. 19, 40, 48, and 58 in this draft, the Wolves have plenty of ammunition to make a move (or a few), but should they?

The Case for Yes

With The D’Angelo Russell Experience™ in full swing, it’s anyone’s guess what the point guard rotation will look like entering next season. Because of that, coupling any combination of the four picks to get additional help in the backcourt would be a welcome move.

With there still being a hole in the frontcourt, moving No. 19 and potentially next year’s first-round pick for a player like Jeremy Sochan, Tari Eason, Jalen Duren, or another big from this year’s draft would make sense. If parting with a first (or two) is too much, then pairing two seconds for a very late first might be a good route to pursue a big or a guard.

The Case for No

As for the second-round picks, the Wolves should certainly see if they can move them. Three is a bit excessive, and at worst they’ll likely shop two of them in an attempt to get a very late first.

As for their first rounder, it’s simply a matter of how the draft goes. If their guy is there at No. 19, that’s great. There’s no need to move if it isn’t necessary. But - if they’re looking at some of those guys above, they absolutely should look into moving up.

Ultimately, the Wolves are in a unique place in that they have the assets to move up. Now that they’re a respectable team, they can afford to trade their first-round pick next year and not be scared it will end up in the early lottery. Therefore, they shouldn’t be scared to take a risk and go get their guy, whoever it may be. In fact, they should probably be more scared of sitting back and not being aggressive, hindering their “next step” as a team.