So, we all know that the Clippers don't have any draft picks for, essentially, forever. They've given them away in a variety of trades, and it's time to get all caught up. The good news is that the complex protections placed on the picks actually work a little bit in the Clippers' favor, saving them from themselves. They're essentially guaranteed to retain at least some of the picks, although the protections and rollovers prevent them from trading more of them.
I'd recommend that Clippers fans enjoy having players like Branden Dawson, Brice Johnson, David Michineau, and Diamond Stone around, because unless the Clippers trade for draft picks or buy into some second rounds, this past draft might be the most exciting one they'll have for a while.
The Austin Rivers Trade
We'll kick off with something really simple: when the Clippers nabbed Austin Rivers for cheap in the middle of the 2014-15 season, one of the pieces they sent out was their 2017 second round pick. Boston still owns it, and there's no protections or rollovers or swap options--it's just a cut-and-dry clean giveaway. While it always sucks to not have picks when the draft rolls around, I don't think Clippers fans should lose sleep over missing a pick in the 50s in exchange for the strong play Austin Rivers has given the team.
The Byron Mullens Trade
Ok, this trade is another easy one, though it's a little more complex. The Clippers dumped Mullens and Antawn Jamison at the 2014 NBA Trade Deadline in two separate deals to lessen their tax bill while opening up roster spots for bought-out veterans Danny Granger and Glen Davis. Jamison only had half of a season left on his deal, so it only took some cash from the Clippers for get Atlanta to take on his contract. Mullens, however, had a player option for a second season, and in order for Philadelphia to take on that salary, the Clippers had to give them their 2018 second round pick.
Now, having to give up another future second rounder in exchange for bailing on the off-season gamble that Mullens' was, plus the ability to add Glen Davis, wasn't the worst thing in the world, but it definitely sucks a little more in retrospect than having a second round pick be the cost of acquiring Austin Rivers.
Later, in a separate deal with the New York Knicks, Philadelphia acquired the right to swap the Clippers' 2018 second round pick with the Knicks 2018 second round pick. This means that whichever team has the worse 2018 record between LAC and NYK will give their pick to Philadelphia, while the worse of the two picks will belong to the Knicks.
The Jared Dudley Trade
This is where things start to get really complicated, and really sucky in retrospect. The Clippers had to dump Jared Dudley's salary so they would have wiggle room under the hard cap, which was forced upon them by the signing of... Spencer Hawes and Jordan Farmar. This deal went down in 2014, but with Boston already owning the Clippers' 2015 first round pick as a result of the Doc Rivers trade, the Clippers were forced to include their 2017 conditional first round pick in their deal with Milwaukee.
Milwaukee then shipped their 46th pick in the 2015 draft, along with this future Clippers first, in a draft-day trade with Toronto for Greivis Vasquez. The Toronto Raptors still own this pick.
The conditions are as followed: the pick is lottery protected in 2017, rolling over to 2018 if not conveyed in 2017. Then, it is lottery protected again, rolling over to 2019 if not conveyed in 2018. Then, it is lottery protected again, rolling over into two unprotected second round picks in 2020 and 2021 if not conveyed by 2019. Presently, this constricts the Clippers from trading a lot of future picks that they will end up owning, because those future seconds are potentially already owed in this trade. In some ways, this could be saving the Clippers from themselves.
This trade should be resolved relatively shortly: the Clippers will almost certainly be a playoff team next season in 2017, meaning that their 2017 first rounder will be conveyed in this trade, freeing up the 2020 and 2021 second rounders as well as making the 2019 first rounder eligible to be conveyed in...
The Jeff Green Trade
At this past trade deadline, in the 2015-16 season, the Clippers sent Lance Stephenson and a future conditional first round draft pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for Jeff Green. Green was on an expiring contract, so Memphis had no "salary dump" incentive and required extra sweetener from the Clippers to get a deal done.
Memphis then flipped their future Clippers first rounder on draft night for the two of Boston's second round picks, selections 31 and 35, which the Grizzlies used to select Deyonta Davis and Rade Zagorac. Boston now owns this pick.
Because of the rollover provisions on the pick that the Clippers owe to Toronto (via Milwaukee), they couldn't just trade their 2019 pick to Memphis. As a result, the pick they convey to Boston (vis Memphis) will come two years after they convey a pick to Toronto (via Milwaukee). This two-year gap is a result of the Stepien rule, which prohibits teams from trading two future first round picks in a row. Because the Clippers are overwhelmingly likely to make the playoffs in 2017 and convey their 2017 first round pick to Toronto (via Milwaukee), the Celtics will begin to have a shot at this pick in 2019.
Similarly to the pick owed in the Jared Dudley trade, this pick is lottery protected, and if not conveyed by 2020, it turns into the Clippers' 2022 second round pick. It's very possible that if the Clippers' stars leave in free agency, they could enter a rebuilding period and miss the playoffs in 2019 and 2020, which would allow them to keep both picks and send Boston that 2022 second instead. If the Clippers are a playoff team in either of those seasons, they will send a first round pick to Boston.
Any Future Trades?
Because of the "seven year rule", which prohibits teams from trading draft picks more than seven drafts ahead of time, it's unlikely that the Clippers will be making too many more future draft pick swaps in the near future. They still own their 2019 second round pick, which they could use to facilitate a trade, and now that the 2016 draft is done, picks in 2023 are fair game. The Clippers could potentially word another conditional first-round trade similarly to the pick owed in the Jeff Green trade. Just like the Jeff Green pick is written as eligible to be conveyed two years after the Jared Dudley pick, a future pick could be written as eligible to be conveyed two years after the Jeff Green pick. That would make the pick deliverable in either 2021 or 2022, depending on when Boston (via Memphis) gets the pick owed from the Jeff Green trade. Then, if the first round picks in those years are protected, the pick could roll over into either an unprotected first or second round pick in 2023.
It's important for us to continue keeping track of these picks that the Clippers are traded away so that we can track the rookies that they turn into, and, more importantly, the value that they fetch in subsequent trades. These will serve as strong lessons for Clippers fans and the Clippers' new front office, and their willingness to trade picks in the future will likely be influenced by how these deals turn out. One underrated aspect of Doc trading away future first picks, however, is his strategy of lottery protecting them indefinitely. No matter what happens, the Clippers will never miss the playoffs, and then have to convey their lottery pick to another team as a result of an old Jared Dudley or Jeff Green trade. I think there's something to be said for that strategy, where if the Clippers are still good, they'll just be giving up a late first round pick that has limited on-court utility, and if they're bad, they'll keep their picks early in the draft.