Draft picks are unpredictable trade pieces. Teams commonly in big markets (see: New York) mortgage their futures for a shot at winning in the present. At the NBA Draft, decisions made maybe three, five, even seven years earlier, come into effect.
This year's NBA Draft Lottery will solidify fate for certain teams. Two franchises in the draft lottery have already given up their first-round picks. Three lottery teams are hoping protection clauses can preserve their early draft presence.
Brooklyn Nets (to the Celtics)
On Draft Day 2013, the Nets acquired future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry and D.J. White from the Celtics in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans. The Nets also included unprotected first-round picks in the 2014, 2016 and 2018 drafts (as well as the right to swap picks in 2017). Garnett and Pierce did help produce an Eastern Conference Semifinal appearance under coach Jason Kidd in 2013-14, but all three were gone by the 2015 trade deadline. The Nets finished with the league's third-worst record in 2015-16. But the Celtics, who were tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, own the pick and a 15.6 percent chance of picking first overall.
New York Knicks (to the Raptors)
Let's stay in the city that never sleeps (and never seems to have draft picks). Back in 2011, the Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony in a three-team deal with the Nuggets and Timberwolves. In the trade, the Nuggets gained the right to swap first-round picks in 2016. Then in 2013, the Knicks traded the first-round pick itself to Toronto, along with Marcus Camby, Steve Novak and Quentin Richardson, to acquire Andrea Bargnani. The Raptors, who are playing in the Eastern Conference Finals on the same night as the draft lottery, will get no worse than the No. 12 and are likely destined for the Nuggets' spot at No. 9. The Knicks should just be happy they preserved their 2015 pick, landing Kristaps Porzingis at No. 4.
Washington Wizards (to the Suns)
Desperate to reach the playoffs in an underachieving year, the Wizards traded for Markieff Morris this past February. The tradeoff was losing Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair and a 2016 top-nine protected pick to the Suns. The Wizards finished with the second-best record among lottery teams, meaning if the ping-pong balls fall with the odds, Washington would stay in the No. 13 slot and lose the pick. The team has 2.2 percent chance in the lottery to crack the top three and keep the pick.
Los Angeles Lakers (to the 76ers via the Suns)
In July 2012, the Lakers scored Steve Nash in a deal that was supposed to set up a four-headed monster of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. Nash played 65 games in two seasons for the Lakers. Howard left after one season. The pick moved too. In February 2015, the Suns traded the top three-protected pick to the 76ers. The Lakers have the second-best odds to get the first pick in the draft, so assuming one of the three ping pong balls picked shows yellow and purple, the Lakers keep their pick. If they somehow drop out of the top three, the 76ers gobble up the pick.
Sacramento Kings (to the Bulls or 76ers)
This is an incredibly odd scenario. The Kings traded Omri Casspi and a first-round pick to the Cavaliers in June 2011 for J.J. Hickson. The pick was top 14-protected in 2012, top 13 in 2013, top 12 in 2014 and top 10 from 2015-2017. The pick, which the Cavaliers shipped to the Bulls in 2014, still lingers as the Kings have remained in the protected a range. If the pick stays protected in 2016 and 2017, the Bulls get a 2017 second-round pick instead. So, can the Bulls get the pick this season? It's unlikely, but not impossible. The Kings had the eighth-worst record in basketball this season. Three of the six teams in the lottery behind Sacramento would have to jump the Kings for the Bulls to end up with the No. 11 pick. (The Bulls also have their own pick, currently at No. 14.)
One could argue the Kings actually have a better chance (although still slim) of losing their first-round pick another way. Last summer, in a trade that sent Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry to Philadelphia, the Kings also gave the 76ers the right to swap first-round picks if they so choose. Philly currently has the highest odds to attain the No. 1 overall pick. In other words, if the Kings somehow are lucky enough to jump the Sixers (Sacramento has a 1.9 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick), Philadelphia would just take the pick. The Kings would be left with the Sixers' pick, which can be no worse than No. 4.
Oh by the way, Casspi, whose trade caused this whole mess, returned to the Kings as a free agent in 2014.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.