The Los Angeles Lakers have more first-round picks than fans realize

Jan 1, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka looks on during warm up for the game against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka looks on during warm up for the game against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

There has been a lot of talk about draft picks with the Los Angeles Lakers potentially trading for Kyrie Irving this offseason. Whether it be for Kyrie or for a backup plan, Los Angeles is going to have to trade at least one first-round pick to make something happen.

The first pick that the Lakers can trade is all the way in 2027. Los Angeles can effectively offer its 2027 first-round pick, 2028 first-round pick and 2029 first-round pick. However, if the 2027 or 2029 pick is included, the 2028 pick would have to be a pick swap per the Stepien Rule (teams cannot go back-to-back years without some kind of first-round pick).

While 2027 is five years from now and as big as the Anthony Davis trade was, there is actually a misconception about how many picks the Lakers actually have in the coming years. Los Angeles cannot trade a pick until 2027 for various reasons but when you actually break it down, LA is not as pick-deprived as some make it out to be.

How many picks the Los Angeles Lakers ACTUALLY have in the coming years:

The New Orleans Pelicans received three first-round picks and one pick swap as part of the Anthony Davis trade. New Orleans has already executed on two of those picks, getting the fourth overall pick in 2019 and the eighth overall pick in 2022. It is unfortunate that this year’s pick was at high as it was, but it is what it is.

New Orleans did flip that fourth overall pick into even more assets that actually helped the team get the core it has today. The actual fourth overall pick, De’Andre Hunter, has been fine. 

The Pelicans only have one more outright first-round pick from the Lakers from the AD trade, as well as one more pick swap. New Orleans has the right to swap picks in the 2023 draft with the Lakers if the Lakers have a better pick than the Pelicans do.

If the Lakers are unable to trade for Irving then they could have another pick in the lottery. However, if the team gets Kyrie, that pick is going to be in the 20s and even if New Orleans swaps, the picks will be close together. At the end of the day, the Lakers will still have a first-round pick to make a selection with.

Then the Pelicans have the right to either the 2024 or the 2025 first-round pick. If the Lakers bottom out and have a horrible pick in 2024 then the Pelicans can take it then. If not, they can roll the dice and get the Lakers’ 2025 pick, regardless of where it falls.

After that, the Lakers have all their picks, including their 2026 first-round pick. So in the next seven years, there is only going to be one year in which the Lakers won’t have some sort of first-round pick (2024 OR 2025 depending on what the Pelicans decide).

So why can’t the Lakers trade a pick until 2027?

The Lakers cannot trade their 2023 first-round pick because it is a swap. While they are still getting a pick, they don’t know if it will be theirs or the Pelicans’. LA could absolutely agree to a trade in principal next offseason before the draft in which they select the player that whatever team wants at their pick, trading said player to that team after the draft. We see that all the time in the NBA, hence why Luka Doncic wore a Hawks hat on draft night.

The team then doesn’t know whether it will have a pick in 2024 or 2025. LA can’t trade a pick when it does not know which year the Pelicans will take their selection. That also has a carry-over impact to 2026 as well.

Since the Pelicans can take the Lakers’ pick in 2025, the team cannot yet trade its 2026 first-round pick as that would break the Stepien Rule. If the Lakers trade the 2026 pick, then the Pelicans decide they want the 2025 pick instead of the 2024 pick, it would break the rule.

However, if the 2024 NBA Draft rolls around and the Pelicans decide to take the Lakers’ pick then that will not only give LA its 2025 first-round pick, but would also open the door to trade the 2026 first-round pick as well.

Simply put: despite only having one year in which the team won’t actually have a pick, the NBA’s complicated trade rules keep the Lakers from trading any of these picks until things get sorted out.

With all that in mind, does trading two first-round picks to swap Russell Westbrook for Kyrie Irving make more sense? Let us know in the comments down below.