Several NBA fans go into the NBA Draft season blind, learning about the players their favorite team drafts once they get on the roster. Those who tune in for the draft enjoy seeing not just the landing spots for future stars and busts, but the constant roster maneuvering that general managers undertake on draft day.
No draft goes by without a draft-day trade. Swapping of picks, cashing out for the future, sending veterans to other teams as a youth movement begins or even a superstar shakeup - all deals are possible.
With 2020's iteration of this annual circus featuring more restrictions and a unique format, those massive deals may not be as likely as years prior - or at least not as easy to predict. Franchises may value continuity more than ever. What does that do to the trade market and expectations for player and pick movement on draft day?
Keep reading below to see each team's trade likelihood, ranked from least to most likely.
30. San Antonio Spurs
No franchise makes fewer trades than the Spurs, both during the season and afterwards. As they possess the 11th pick in a draft without top-heavy star power, there's little reason for them to even consider moving up. Look for the Spurs to do what they do and simply draft the guy they're most enamored with in their position.
29. Miami Heat
Miami is pretty secure with where they are right now. They're young, have cohesion, aren't in danger of losing their roster to free agency and already are knocking on the door of the NBA Finals. Miami has the 20th pick, and they have some reason to keep and develop it: add a versatile frontcourt piece or a long-term replacement to Goran Dragic, both of which should be potentially available. Miami doesn't hold all their future picks, so I struggle envisioning them flipping this elsewhere.
28. Houston Rockets
This one comes down to cold hard cash, baby. The Rockets are tax-saddled and have zero picks in this year's draft. In order to get one, they'd likely have to buy one. Owner Tillman Fertitta is notoriously cheap. I don't see it happening.
27. Toronto Raptors
Sitting at 29th and 59th, the Raptors will continue to build through the draft and add some overlooked player in the first-round with a sleeper ready to contribute in the second round. These seem like ideal places for the team to add cheap options and preserve cap space to re-sign Fred VanVleet.
26. Memphis Grizzlies
No first-round pick is okay for a Memphis team who had three rookies on the roster this year and is now looking to ramp up their roster to become an instant playoff team. They'll add depth and a project they like in the second round with #40, but it's hard to imagine them doing anything other than adding a key free agent or two this winter.
25. Utah Jazz
With a late first-rounder and several strong veterans already on the roster, adding youth is important. Utah doesn't have a plethora of impactful youngsters waiting in the wings, so they can't waste this pick. Their team reeks of "run it back" vibes despite the initial turmoil that occurred in March. I don't see Gobert or Mitchell moving on, and they're pretty cemented with their other starters contractually. They should get Bogdanovic healthy and continue to develop youngsters they find.
24. Indiana Pacers
No first-round pick is in their possession, and with a coaching search ongoing, I don't see this being the year they move up. Oladipo is getting healthy, Brogdon and Warren are coming off impressive bubble performances and Sabonis is an All-Star primed for the future. This is an underrated contender; they shouldn't overthink things and value continuity with a different leader standing on the soapbox.
23. Denver Nuggets
Denver has one first-round pick that falls into a frequent trade window. They have young talent, they're in win-now mode and can be flexible with the 22nd pick. Denver doesn't have second-round selections either.
t-21. Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers
Each team only has one pick, the Lakers standing 28th and the Clippers 57th. For two teams in championship contention, the meat and potatoes of their roster movements will come from free agency and veteran buyouts, attracting pieces who help them win right now. Those maneuvers don't typically happen on draft night. Look for both to be fairly quiet, despite the noise surrounding the Clippers about shaking things up after a disappointing playoff exit.
20. Atlanta Hawks
Getting the 6th pick isn't a total disaster for the Atlanta Hawks, even though the Chicago Bulls leapfrogged them in the draft order. They have their core developing and already possess their franchise point guard as well as a young, impactful frontcourt. They need wings and defenders, many of which will be available at 6th. Tyrese Haliburton, Devin Vassell, Isaac Okoro, Deni Avdija... there are names they can target here to both fill needs and not pass on best available. With the 50th pick, I'd expect them to take a high-reward flier on someone with upside.
19. Dallas Mavericks
Draft capital or attractive contracts aren't exactly overflowing from the Mavericks' asset sheets. They do need to make some minor additions, but there's a chance some really good players fall to them at 18th. Moving back doesn't seem like a great plan if they aren't happy their, either. They already have the coveted 31st pick and can't be adding too many rookies to a roster that's ready to make the next step forward around Luka Doncic. 18 is always in the unpredictable section if someone slips and they get an offer they can't refuse, but Dallas has cushion on their roster construction to take best available; if someone falls, they can snatch them up.
18. Orlando Magic
If the Magic make a deal, I don't think it involves either of their draft picks. Sitting at #15, the Magic are in prime position to get a role player or that scoring punch their backcourt needs. If a deal is made at all, it's likely either swapping of spare parts or involvement in a major overhaul. I don't see the franchise viewing itself as being stuck in purgatory, but after two consecutive postseason appearances, they'll need to grapple with some tough discussions sooner than later. Aaron Gordon's name is one that comes up, but his declining-scale contract is too cap-friendly in a stagnant salary cap year to unload at this time.
17. Phoenix Suns
Now we're getting into territory of teams who may want to make or be involved in deals, but don't have the sensible capital to do so. The Suns are sitting 10th on the board, without second-round picks and just on the cusp of a fairly etched-out top eight or nine prospects. There's room for them to add the right piece next to Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, but with their unbeaten mark inside the bubble, the willingness to be more aggressive might exist from ownership. I'd keep the pick, but we all know owner Robert Sarver likes to jump the gun on things.
16. Portland Trail Blazers
Another "run it back" candidate, the Blazers were fantastic when healthy. This is an organization known for their patience with draft picks, too. They will take guys, develop them for 2-3 years, and then they become forgotten men who are all of a sudden great role players (see Jake Layman, Gary Trent Jr., Anfernee Simons for examples). With the 16th pick, Portland will grab a higher-end talent than they'll have the chance to in future years, and there should be some ready-to-go second-rounders dropping to them at 46. The question for Portland is how they navigate a roster shift, as they're pretty big right now. If they need to make a move to modernize and downsize their roster, that may entail listening to others on draft night.
15. Washington Wizards
We'll perpetually hear Bradley Beal's name in trade talks. Now doesn't strike me as the time for a colossal shake-up of their roster. But a Godfather offer (if there really is such a thing anymore) could persuade them to pull the trigger on a full-blown youth movement. Their phones will be ringing, so putting them in the dead center of trade likelihoods is as close to hedging my bets as I can get.
It's a cop out. Sue me.
14. Charlotte Hornets
Call me crazy, but watching The Last Dance reaffirmed the notion that Michael Jordan will never tank. He's going to view this draft pick as much about helping the Hornets get to the playoffs now as finding the guy who carries the mantle long-term. Picking third, there's a possibility that LaMelo Ball falls to them. If that happens, don't be shocked if MJ starts listening to calls and looks for a few more pieces to help the team right now. It may not be the ideal strategy, but it is peak MJ. The Hornets also have two second-round picks (32 and 56), and could make one of them available.
13. Chicago Bulls
New regime. Fourth pick. A few youngsters that may not align with the vision. Don't be shocked if the Bulls enter some form of a deal on draft day that you didn't see coming. Lauri Markkanen, unloading Otto Porter Jr. or Thaddeus Young, maybe moving back... the Bulls strike me as a wild card this year. When you have cap flexibility, you've got to use it!
12. Minnesota Timberwolves
This is less about the first overall pick and more about the fact the Timberwolves will likely need to reshape parts of their roster to fit that guy, D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. They also have three pretty impactful selections (1, 16, 33), ten roster spots filled and an important restricted free agent in Malik Beasley. They're one of the only teams with more than two draft selections that has the roster space and timeline to keep all three.
11. New Orleans Pelicans
The 13th pick is staying in New Orleans. So is Jrue Holiday, despite the fact he's a frequent target of fake trade scenarios. Brandon Ingram and Derrick Favors are both free agents; retaining Ingram eats into the budget so much that it may be more sensible to keep Favors than look for a replacement. I don't see a ton of change for this roster. That said, the Pelicans have three 2nd round picks (39, 42 and 60) and I have a hard time envisioning them making use of all three. If there's a win-now player available, I'd expect them to get a call at 42 to try and flip it for a future second.
10. Brooklyn Nets
A team we're all watching a bit this summer, Brooklyn's roster is a bit all over the place. They have two bonafide stars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, both of whom teamed up to pursue a title immediately. They have two really good scorers next to them in Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, who are right on the cusp of being "the man". The Nets could have four guys that can create and be high-level offensive pieces, but so much of the narrative around them discusses consolidating to have three.
The pieces around those four, all backcourt guys, are unique. Joe Harris is an insanely valuable role-playing shooter; when he's on the floor, one of the core four must sit. The Nets have tied up or will tie up money in DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen, plus have a super intriguing rookie in Nic Claxton. Taurean Prince is a solid depth wing that fits their vision, too.
Add in the 19th pick in the draft and Brooklyn has some flexibility. They can draft someone that gives them time to develop. They can go after a wing who fits the mold of their roster right now. They can dangle the pick out there to help them get immediate success. The point is this: there's a ton that they can do, which it makes it hard to predict just what they will do. Keep an eye on Brooklyn.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers
How badly do the Cavaliers believe in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton being their backcourt of the future? How far will they go to retain Andre Drummond long-term, and how might the drafting of a big man impact that? Do they try to flip Tristan Thompson or Kevin Love, and what types of returns could they get?
There are a lot of questions in Cleveland. I don't have any answers, but where there's an ill-fitting roster on a rebuilding group, trades usually follow.
8. New York Knicks
New regime, new path forward. With New York's draft capital and picks this year (8th, 27th and 38th), they have a ton of flexibility to move about the board.
They're one team I can see getting into a bidding war to move into the top three and get the man of their dreams in LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards. Golden State sitting at #2 means those opportunities may be available, especially if the Knicks can conjure up a third party to get the Warriors who they need.
I'd expect the Knicks to be a dark horse to watch around the first few picks, then if no deal is made, pivoting to unload a few veteran frontcourt guys or see if they can entice someone to rent out Julius Randle for a year or two.
7. Detroit Pistons
Ironically, the Pistons come in at seventh on this list while having the #7 pick in the draft. Detroit is in a bit of a quandary; they have the immovable contract of Blake Griffin, anchoring them down and limiting how many big contracts they can take on at the outset of their rebuild. The roster is a blank slate, with Luke Kennard really as the only guy they have worth building around.
It's hard to envision the Pistons not bottoming-out next season. If that's the case, they have a big decision to make at #7. Do they feel comfortable that they'll get the one guy here who they know will be a part of the vision and success after the reconstruction? If not, it may be sensible for them to try to move back, add multiple selections and undergo a full youth movement, pushing off the drafting of a franchise alpha until next summer.
6. Milwaukee Bucks
Ownership has already committed to spending into the luxury tax next year to prevent another premature playoff exit. Giannis Antetokounmpo is doing the right thing in saying he wants to stay, but not guaranteeing it, which forces the front office to make aggressive moves. They're somewhat cap-saddled, have the big contract of Brook Lopez and lack in young talent outside of Donte DiVincenzo. They also have the 24th pick, a modest asset in an underwhelming draft.
Chris Paul is the natural fit in Milwaukee and the guy we hear a ton about, but it will take a lot to get him here. The point is this: Milwaukee is the first team we're getting to where it seems like they need to make some sort of a deal. Whether it's on draft night or not remains to be seen, but if the 24th pick is going to be part of a package for a true star, Milwaukee will want to move earlier than later.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
Speaking of the Thunder and Chris Paul, Oklahoma City is in a position where they can add to their treasure trove of draft capital for the next five years. Even though they made the playoffs and had a really strong season, the release of Billy Donovan was a tell-tale sign they're looking to embrace the young guys. Danilo Gallinari's free agency is likely a big part of that.
The only two assets they have left worth flipping are Steven Adams and the aforementioned Chris Paul. Adams isn't a great trade piece because centers are so overstocked across the league. CP3, a veteran and Player's Association leader, is someone the organization will want to do right by, meaning he'll have a say in whatever destinations come available.
With a few destinations open and able for his services, I'd be surprised if Paul is in a Thunder jersey again. As a team who ships off their rehabilitated point guard, the Thunder will likely want a few big asset hauls, including immediate young talent. If a 2020 draft pick is involved, the deal may be made on draft night.
4. Sacramento Kings
There's two reasons the Sacramento Kings are high on this list and why Monte McNair has his work cut out from day one.
The first, a smaller problem, is the Kings having four total picks in this year's draft. That includes a whopping three second-rounders (35, 43, 52). With an uncertain G-League season, rosters get crunched real quickly if multiple second-rounders are picked and signed without draft-and-stash international plans in place. I'd expect the Kings to field a lot of calls around this area.
The second is the impending worries with Buddy Hield and his contract status. Hield has a ton of outgoing value; he's a 27-year-old sharpshooter who, while he just signed a fairly heavy contract, is available for trade on the cheap due to his outgoing value being lowered thanks to the poison pill provision. If Hield does indeed ask out of Sacramento, the Kings should be busy in pairing a deal for him with maximizing their value at the 13th pick.
3. Golden State Warriors
When the Warriors threw this season away and were rewarded with the second overall pick, the conversation immediately pivoted: will they trade the pick for a win-now piece that fits their timeline, or will they keep it and attempt to wedge the title window open a little longer?
In this draft, the Dubs lose a bit of leverage. There aren't slam dunk superstars available, which may drive down their price tag and make it harder to find a trade partner. But the notion of keeping the pick and taking a player who can help early and fit their prior-existing identity would mean reaching for the right piece a bit and not leveraging their assets to the best of their availability. Golden State would want to add veterans in any deal, not just multiple young picks, which is a common tactic for enticing teams to trade back.
Lost within the shuffle of this conversation is the possibility of the Warriors trading Andrew Wiggins and offloading his albatross max contract. If the second pick helps them do so, its now more acceptable to get back a little less talent, as the move paves the way for acquiring more talent in the future.
There's room to bundle and partner with a few of the teams discussed earlier. A deal with Sacramento, bringing the Warriors Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes for Andrew Wiggins and #2, has caught my eye. But much of the movement will depend on what Minnesota does at #1 and the predictability of Charlotte at #3. Golden State is in a bit of a wonky spot.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
We heard the edict from the front office and ownership once Brett Brown was dismissed. They need to better, particularly with roster construction.
Philly has all the pieces at their disposal: two superstars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, some solid young role players to flank them. Tobias Harris is good but overpaid. Al Horford is good but overpaid and ill-fitting.
Priority number one should be offloading Horford, which was a disastrous signing that never should have happened. Priority number two is finding a way to maneuver their four second-round selections to maximize the return. It's not plausible for the Sixers to take the 21st pick and their infantry of second-round picks (34, 36, 49 and 58). It's possible the Sixers kill two birds with one stone, but highly unlikely.
There is the possibility a more drastic approach takes place and the Sixers blow something up. While I don't anticipate that, it is clear changes are coming in the City of Brotherly Love. At least a few dominos will start to fall on draft night.
1. Boston Celtics
Not necessarily the sexiest pick to go number one, Boston's need for a deal comes down to the simple economics of roster space. They had five rookies on their roster this year, four of whom are under contract next season. With three first-round picks (14, 26, 30), we know the Celtics cannot take seven or eight rookies on their roster while they compete for a championship.
Boston can't even clear the space for three rookies. Brad Wanamaker is their only free agent, and I'd expect the team wants him back. Enes Kanter and Gordon Hayward have player options they'll likely accept. That's it. Semi Ojeleye has a club option they can decline, and they could swallow the salary of Vincent Poirier, but there's barely room for one rookie, let alone three, without a trade.
The Celtics could opt for at least one draft-and-stash player, but they still have a second-round pick (47) to deal with. Whether the Celtics make moves with their current picks and consolidate them, or trade some guys on their rookie deals currently, Boston literally cannot go through the draft without making some sort of move.
Head Boys Basketball Coach, Boys' Latin School (MD).