As many know, the Phoenix Suns could have as many as four first round picks in the 2014 draft, but three of them are "protected" if the other team fails to make the playoffs. Let's take a look at what happens then.
On opening night of the 2013-14 season, the Phoenix Suns' prospects in the 2014 and 2015 NBA Draft looked golden. In fact, the mother ship ranked the Suns' draft future as "by far" the brightest of all NBA teams. The Suns were projected to have their own Top 10 picks, plus up to four more in the back half of the first round.
After trading Steve Nash, Robin Lopez and Sebastian Telfair in 2012-13 for three future first round picks and three second round picks*, and then Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat for two more first rounders, the Suns are rolling in picks.
*More credit should be given to Lon Babby for his work before McDonough ever showed up. In 2013, the Suns already nabbed 19-year old Archie Goodwin and helped finalize the Eric Bledsoe trade with two of the Lakers' and Toronto picks acquired for Nash and Telfair. I think Suns fans will agree that if the Lakers had picked up Archie Goodwin with their #30 pick this year we'd all be shaking our heads at their luck once again.
That leaves four future firsts still on the table, but with heavy protections. All but the Lakers' 2015 pick and the Suns own picks are guaranteed to be outside the Top 10 of any draft for several years.
Here is a breakdown, thanks to realgm.com:
2014 first round draft pick from Minnesota
Minnesota's 1st round pick to Phoenix protected for selections 1-13 in 2014, 1-12 in 2015 or 1-12 in 2016; if Minnesota has not conveyed a 1st round pick to Phoenix by 2016, then Minnesota will instead convey its 2016 2nd round pick and 2017 2nd round pick to Phoenix [Minnesota-New Orleans-Phoenix, 7/27/2012]
2014 first round draft pick from Washington
Washington's 1st round pick to Phoenix protected for selections 1-12 in 2014, 1-10 in 2015, 1-10 in 2016, 1-10 in 2017, 1-10 in 2018 or 1-10 in 2019 or unprotected in 2020 [Phoenix-Washington, 10/25/2013]
2014 first round draft pick from Indiana
Indiana's 1st round pick to Phoenix protected for selections 1-14 in 2014, 1-14 in 2015, 1-14 in 2016, 1-14 in 2017, 1-14 in 2018 or 1-14 in 2019 or unprotected in 2020 [Indiana-Phoenix, 7/28/2013]
2015 first round draft pick from L.A. Lakers
L.A. Lakers' 1st round pick to Phoenix protected for selections 1-5 in 2015, 1-3 in 2016 or 1-3 in 2017 or unprotected in 2018 [L.A. Lakers-Phoenix, 7/11/2012]
The nature of protected picks is that they roll over to the next year if not conveyed in the first year. Minnesota's has already rolled over from 2013 when they didn't make the playoffs.
The good news is that only the Minny pick turns into a pumpkin if the Wolves never get better. All the others will eventually convey to Phoenix.
If Minny never sniffs the playoffs through 2016, then their #1 turns into a couple of #2s. That's not the end of the world. The Suns used a #2 to acquire Marcus Morris last year, and used another #2 to seal the Bledsoe deal this summer (pick went to Milwaukee in the three-way trade).
All of the other owed picks not only roll over, but they get better and better.
Thanks to the Lakers' re-signing Kobe Bryant to a cap-killing contract yesterday, the Laker pick should be very, very good in the coming years. It's only top-5 protected in 2015, then top-3 for two years and finally unprotected in 2018.
Both Washington and Indiana will eventually give the Suns an unprotected pick if they suck for seven straight seasons.
While the Suns just might have a year-long competitive team in 2013-14 and beyond, taking them out of the lottery, at least they've got some help from other teams in the second half of the first round in coming years.
A lot of very good players have been taken in the 10-30 range, though it takes a lot more skill and luck to find gems outside the Top 5. But also, all those first rounders and second rounders are just more assets to use to acquire that next superstar. It's time the Suns "trade up" to better talent, and all those picks are a great way to sweeten the deals.
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