Draft Central presented by Draft Kings
Draft Central presented by Draft Kings

Odds Pistons trade the No. 1 pick? History says it’s a long shot, but that won’t stop others from trying

Troy Weaver
Pistons general manager Troy Weaver will be a popular man with his NBA peers over the next week as he fields calls about trading the No. pick in the July 29 draft
Michael Reaves (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

What are the odds the Pistons trade the No. 1 pick in next week’s draft? About 8 percent, history tells us. That’s less than the 14 percent chance they had to land that pick in the first place, but not exactly like your chances of being struck by lightning.

At any rate, smart money says the Pistons stand pat and exercise the No. 1 pick themselves. But in his first year on the job, Troy Weaver has proven emphatically that he’s not allergic to making trades and risk the backlash that comes with being on the losing end of transactions.

So the real odds the Pistons make a deal on draft night are only knowable to those with a firm sense of the following: Weaver’s views of the top draft picks, Weaver’s knowledge of the offers coming to him and Weaver’s educated guesses of his peers’ appraisals of the top picks.

If he’s not convinced there’s a significant dropoff from the best player to the second, third and fourth best, then any trade partner who has one of those three picks to offer could get his attention, one presumes, by offering one of the next three picks plus a premium. Houston, Cleveland and Toronto hold the next three picks. ESPN.com reported last week that Houston, Cleveland, Oklahoma City and New Orleans have made overtures to land the top pick.

Oklahoma City has the sixth pick and New Orleans the 10th so it’s a little more difficult to conceive of a package they could put together to entice the Pistons, though both teams hold massive amounts of future draft capital resulting from trades involving Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday among others.

In the lottery era, which dates to 1985, the No. 1 pick has been traded three times. Only one of those has come in the last 28 years, though. Philadelphia traded the No. 1 pick in 1986 to Cleveland for Roy Hinson and the Cavs took North Carolina 7-footer Brad Daugherty to start a draft that became more known for tragedy, starting with the death of No. 2 pick Len Bias less than 48 hours after Boston drafted a player they expected to join Larry Bird in extending the Celtics dynasty.

In 1993 – a draft held at The Palace of Auburn Hills – Detroit native and Michigan All-American Chris Webber was drafted No. 1 overall and then immediately traded by Orlando to Golden State for No. 3 overall pick Penny Hardaway and three future first-rounders.

That was the last time the No. 1 pick was traded for 24 years. Boston picked up a future first-round pick from Philadelphia to move from first to third, taking Jayson Tatum in 2017 after the 76ers drafted Markelle Fultz first.

That’s it.

The 2014 No. 1 pick, Andrew Wiggins, was traded by Cleveland to Minnesota a month after the draft but put an asterisk on that deal. On draft night, there was no intention by the Cavs to trade Wiggins. Only when LeBron James shockingly returned to Cleveland in free agency did the Cavs, in an attempt to build an immediate title contender, ship Wiggins and 2013 overall No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett to Minnesota for Kevin Love.

Speculation that the Pistons might trade the No. 1 pick began within minutes of their winning the June 22 lottery, but that’s nothing unusual. There’s always speculation – often based on nothing substantive – that the lottery winner is considering trading the No. 1 pick simply because due diligence demands they keep their options open.

The speculation has been oxygenated this year because of the number of teams rumored interested in trading for the No. 1 pick who happen to have enormous future draft assets to package. In addition to Oklahoma City at six and New Orleans at 10, Houston – as a result of trading Westbrook and Harden in the past year – also has future draft picks to bundle.

So maybe the chances of the Pistons trading the No. 1 pick are really something north of the 8 percent history suggests. Weaver, though, doesn’t seem at all like the type of general manager interested in hoarding future No. 1 picks and waiting two or three years to put them to use. So a package that includes lightly protected draft picks in 2024 and beyond probably doesn’t move the needle for him as much as it would others.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a package that shifts the equilibrium from “deal unlikely” to “now we’ve got something” for Weaver. But the most likely outcome on draft night next week remains this: When Adam Silver puts a team on the clock to open the 2021 NBA draft, that team will be the Pistons.

NEXT UP:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter