Lakers understand the cautionary tale of giving up too many draft picks for a star

Dwight Howard and Steve Nash spent as much time in pain as on the court during their Lakers' tenure.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

When Magic Johnson decided he had enough of the Anthony Davis trade negotiations with New Orleans, it was about the sheer number of draft picks the Pelicans wanted.

Johnson’s final offer was two first-round picks, salary-cap relief and six players, including all the home-grown players left on the roster aside from their rookies. New Orleans wanted six to eight draft picks.

Only for a player as talented as the 25-year-old Davis would the Lakers even consider giving up those players.

Teams don’t often surrender multiple first-round picks in trades, and when they do the results can be dramatic. The Lakers have seen the best and worst of this. They gave up multiple first-round picks for Steve Nash, who never contributed much because of injury and age. They also gave up multiple firsts for Pau Gasol, who helped them win two championships.

Their opponent Thursday night, the Boston Celtics, have benefited from receiving multiple first-round picks. Boston is another contender to trade for Davis, but can’t do so until July.


Here’s a look at some notable trades involving multiple first-round picks during the last 10 years.


The Trade: The Boston Celtics send Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets, who give up four role players, unprotected first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018, plus the right to swap firsts in 2017.

When: July 12, 2013

What happened to the Celtics: Boston gleefully reaped the rewards of this trade for years to come. The first of the picks was only 17th overall, but the next two years yielded Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum each with the No. 3 overall pick. They then used the final Nets pick to trade for Kyrie Irving two summers ago. Boston has become a perennial Eastern Conference contender.

Paul Pierce (34) and Kevin Garnett combined to play three seasons for the Nets.
(Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

What happened to the Nets: Brooklyn is barely beginning to recover. At the time, the Nets believed the two future Hall of Famers, then in their mid-30s, could deliver a championship. Instead Garnett spent two seasons with the Nets and Pierce spent one. Their rebuilding efforts were stalled by a constant lack of draft picks.

Note: This is the most glaring cautionary tale against giving up too many draft picks.


The Trade: Oklahoma City traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets with Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward. Houston gave up Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick.

When: Oct. 27, 2012

What happened to the Rockets: Harden quickly signed a long-term extension and became a cornerstone of their franchise. He won the MVP award last season and is in contention this year. The Rockets later added Chris Paul and positioned themselves as a threat in the Western Conference.

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What happened to the Thunder: Oklahoma City eventually lost Kevin Durant in free agency, too, but was able to acquire and keep Paul George and has never fallen into significant disarray. One of the two first-round picks the Thunder acquired turned into center Steven Adams, a critical piece to their roster.

Note: In retrospect there might have been a way for the Thunder to keep together their young core of Durant, Harden and Russell Westbrook, but at the time they felt they were getting something rather than losing Harden for nothing. Harden has proved to be well worth the two first-round picks the Rockets gave up.


The Trade: The Lakers acquire Nash from the Phoenix Suns in a sign-and-trade for two first-round picks and two second-round picks.

When: July 11, 2012

What happened to the Lakers: Nash couldn’t stay healthy enough to truly contribute, and the same was true for Dwight Howard, whom the Lakers traded for that year as well. A team that seemed built for a championship run entered the darkest days of its franchise shortly thereafter. Ironically, the Lakers were so bad that they kept the pick that had top-three protections for three consecutive years, drafting D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.

What happened the Suns: Phoenix never truly capitalized on its spoils from this trade. The Suns used one pick to draft Nemanja Nedovic, who was traded for Archie Goodwin on draft night in 2013. The Suns traded the second first-round pick for Brandon Knight, sending the pick to Philadelphia.


The Trade: Miami acquires LeBron James and Chris Bosh in sign-and-trade deals, giving the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors each two first-round picks. The Heat also gave Cleveland the right to swap 2012 first-round picks.

When: July 10-11, 2010

Fans cheer as the Heat introduce their Big Three: Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James.
(Marc Serota / Getty Images)

What happened to the Heat: Miami went to four consecutive Finals and won two championships with James and Bosh joining Dwyane Wade to form a superteam.

What happened to the Cavaliers and Raptors: Miami was so good during this time that the picks it relinquished weren’t of much consequence. One of the first-round picks Toronto received was a pick it originally traded away. With it, the Raptors drafted starting center Jonas Valanciunas.


The Trade: Phoenix sends Goran and Zoran Dragic to Miami for Danny Granger, John Salmons, a protected first-round pick and one unprotected first-round pick.

When: Feb. 19, 2015

What happened to the Heat: Goran Dragic signed a five-year deal worth $90 million that summer and became an All-Star in 2018. The Heat have made the playoffs twice since trading for Dragic — they lost in the conference semifinals in 2016 and lost in the first round last year.

What happened to the Suns: The first of those picks conveyed to the Suns in 2018. Phoenix used it to draft Zhaire Smith, who it then traded along with the other first-round pick to Philadelphia for Mikal Bridges.

Note: Dragic was the last player whose trade netted multiple first-round picks.


The Trade: Denver traded Timofey Mozgov to Cleveland for two future first-round picks.

When: Jan. 7, 2015

What happened to the Cavaliers: Cleveland got a center for James and the next year the Cavaliers won their first championship by a professional sports team in Cleveland in 52 years. Mozgov left in free agency after that title.

What happened to the Nuggets: Denver sent one of the picks and Jusuf Nurkic to Portland for Mason Plumlee. The traded the other one to Philadelphia along with JaVale McGee as they worked to clear salary-cap space and rebuild. They haven’t made the playoffs since, but are a virtual lock to do so this year and could have the best record in the NBA by the end of the season.

Note: At the time many thought the Cavaliers gave up too much for Mozgov, but both were picks they had acquired in previous deals.



When: 5 p.m. PST, Thursday.

On the air: TV: Spectrum, TNT; Radio: 710, 1330.

Update: Third in the East, the Celtics have won their last five games and nine of their last 10.

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli