Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Boston Celtics [Print without images]

Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Grab bag: Taking stock of draft picks

By Chris Forsberg | @ESPNForsberg | Email

During the slower times during the offseason (of which there could be many in a bummer summer with a potential lockout looming), we’ll occasionally reach into our Celtics Mailbag and pull out a question to field in the blog. Hop HERE to submit a question:

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Celtics got more than these two guys in the Kendrick Perkins deal with Oklahoma City.
Q: Is the Clippers' first-round pick in next year's draft protected? -- Diego (San Jose, Costa Rica)

A: We got this question quite frequently in the mailbag leading up to last Thursday’s draft, even after Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stressed that Boston had no desire to move that pick given the expected strength of the 2012 draft class.

First the background: The Celtics acquired a first-round pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of the Kendrick Perkins trade that also brought Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic to Boston at last season's deadline. The pick is actually property of the Los Angeles Clippers, who sent it to Oklahoma City a year earlier in exchange for point guard Eric Bledsoe.

The short answer: Yes, the Clippers' pick is top 10 protected over each of the next four years. If the Clippers end up with a top 10 pick in the 2012 draft, Boston’s pick rolls over until 2013 (and again in 2014 and 2015, before finally becoming unprotected in 2016).

The Clippers were 32-50 this past season and would have earned the No. 1 pick through the lottery if it hadn’t traded away an unprotected No. 1 to Cleveland. So why isn’t Boston so lucky? Well, that requires the long answer with help from our good friend (and collective bargaining agreement expert) Larry Coon:
The [Ted] Stepien rule exists because of the ineptitude of its namesake, who owned the Cavs from 1980 through '83 and mortgaged the team's future by trading away first-round draft picks like they were candy. Remember the Showtime Lakers' dynasty in the 1980s? Stepien is partly to thank -- one of the picks he traded turned out to be first overall in 1982, with which the Lakers happily selected James Worthy.

The Stepien rule says teams can't trade first-round picks if they could be left without one in consecutive years. The rule looks only to the future -- teams that traded their 2010 picks can still trade their 2011 picks. But teams that already have traded their 2011 picks can't trade their 2012 picks. Once the 2011 draft is complete and a team's 2011 pick is no longer a future pick, it is free to trade its 2012 pick.

When dealing with pick protection, the Stepien rule is interpreted to mean that teams can't trade a first-round pick if it results in so much as a minute possibility that they could be without a first-round pick in consecutive years.

But, wait, it gets even more complicated. More from Coon:
The Clippers also are owed a first-round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves were slated to give this pick to L.A. this year unless it was in the top 10, in which case they instead would send their 2012 pick unconditionally. (As it turns out, Minnesota's pick is in the top 10, so L.A. instead gets the 2012 pick, but this was not yet determined when the Clippers and Cavs were dealing.) And for the cherry atop this draft-pick sundae, if the Clippers get Minnesota's pick in 2012 and owe their own pick to Boston in 2012, the Clips keep the higher pick and send Boston the lower pick.

So what's the best-case scenario for Boston? Well, if you're the patient type, it might be that the Clippers continue to struggle for five more seasons and ultimately hand over a top 10 pick in the 2016 draft. Alas, that seems a stretch for even the ill-fated Clippers.

Given that the 2012 draft is supposed to be loaded to the brim with talent, Boston's next best option is to hope that the Clippers land spot No. 11 in the draft and that Minnesota drafts higher. That way, Boston keeps the No. 11 selection from LA, the best possible pick it could obtain next season. As long as neither the Timberwolves or Clippers improve too dramatically this season, it's still very possible that Boston could land a quality pick in the teens in next year's draft.

While we're discussing future picks, here's a list of picks we've got tabbed for Boston from past deals:

* Minnesota's 2013 second-round pick: The Celtics acquired this pick from Cleveland in the February deal that sent rookies Luke Harangody and Semih Erden to the Cavaliers. Cleveland landed the pick last July when it traded Delonte West (later waived and signed by Boston) and Sebastian Telfair to Minnesota for Ramon Sessions and Ryan Hollins. Add in Harangody/Erden to the original Sessions/Hollins haul, and that was quite a deal for the Cavaliers.

* New Jersey's 2014 second-round pick: The Celtics acquired this pick during Thursday's draft for essentially moving down two spots, selecting MarShon Brooks at No. 25 for the Nets, who picked JaJuan Johnson at No. 27 for Boston.

* Sacramento's 2015 second-round pick: The Celtics acquired this pick in February of 2009 by trading Sam Cassell for a conditional pick. The selection is top 55 protected, meaning the Kings would have to be one of the top five teams in the league or the pick remains with Sacramento. Essentially, it was a way for Boston to shed a roster spot, and the two teams made a similar agreement this past season.

* Sacramento's 2017 second-round pick: The Celtics acquired this pick at February's deadline in exchange for Marquis Daniels. The selection is also top 55 protected, meaning the Kings yet again would have to be among the league's elite in order to deliver this pick.

Ironically, Boston also once owned Sacramento's 2014 second-round pick -- you guessed it, top 55 protected -- after obtaining it from Toronto in February of 2009 in a deal for Patrick O'Bryant. The Celtics dealt that pick to the New York Knicks as part of the Nate Robinson trade at the 2010 deadline. Much like the 2015 and 2017 picks, it's unlikely Boston would have seen it anyhow.

(h/t: RealGM for Sacramento pick protection info)