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Quinn: Suns 2029 first most valuable traded pick in NBA

No one can predict the future, but Sam Quinn of CBS Sports gives it his best effort, looking at all 56 traded first round picks. Suns 2029 pick, acquired by Nets in the KD trade, is his most valuable.

Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

To recap the haul the Nets got in the Kevin Durant trade: Brooklyn got Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and pile of picks: the Suns unprotected first in 2023 (which became either Noah Clowney or Dariq Whitehead ... your choice); the Suns unprotected first in 2025; the Suns unprotected first in 2027; a swap of the Suns’ 2028 pick; and the Suns unprotected first in 2029. They also got two Bucks seconds in 2027 and 2029 (which the Nets used in the Joe Harris and Patty Mills.) They also generated two trade exceptions, one $18.8 million.

It’s that 2029 first that Sam Quinn of CBS Sports writes Tuesday is the single most valuable picks of all 56 traded picks on draft boards all the way to 2030. The Thunder may have the most first rounders out there: 15, a combination of their own firsts and picks they acquired in trades, but of those 15, 10 are unprotected and five have protections. The Nets only have 11 — 10 unprotected, the same number as OKC, and one protected. (The Thunder have many more seconds than the Nets.)

Moreover, Quinn argues the Nets firsts are more valuable, topped by that final Phoenix pick. Quinn also believes that of the top six traded firsts, four of them are currently controlled by the Nets: three of the four Phoenix firsts that are still outstanding from the KD trade as well as the 2029 Dallas first, also unprotected, from the Kyrie Irving trade. Indeed, Quinn has the Nets with the first, third, fifth and sixth MVPs, most valuable picks, specifically, the Suns pick in 2029, the Mavericks pick in 2029, the Suns pick in 2027 and the Suns swap of their first (also unprotected) in 2028.

Quinn writes:

As you’ll see as this list progresses, the Nets have arguably the best collection of external draft capital in the NBA to use in trades.

In fact, he rates Brooklyn’s traded draft capital first, followed by the Jazz, Thunder and Spurs.

Quinn makes his argument — and his ranking of all 56 traded picks — based on several measures, including protections, whether the pick is coming from a good team or bad team and when the pick is conveyed. So how good the picks might be. It’s admittedly subjective, of course. No one can tell the future, but Quinn argues strongly that Phoenix is likely to age out.

Let’s go over everything that makes these Suns picks so tantalizing point-by-point:

—Durant’s contract expires in 2026. Beal’s contract expires in 2027. Durant will be nearing his 37th birthday when his deal expires. Beal will turn 34 right after his deal expires, and his statistics have trended down over the past two years already.

ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz wrote an illuminating profile of general manager James Jones in 2022 detailing just how little the Suns invest in the draft. They believe in importing veterans. Well... how easily will they be able to do that without picks to trade?

—Mat Ishbia is spending money like a drunken sailor... right now. If it leads to championships, he might keep doing it. But if Phoenix maintains its current spending habits, the 2026-27 season could be its fourth consecutive above the second apron. That’s when frozen draft picks start to really matter, and what’s more, the repeater tax became significantly more punitive in the new CBA. Ishbia is rich, but he’s not Ballmer rich. History suggests he will eventually settle down.

—Isiah Thomas is... involved? The Suns are adamant he has no official title. All reporting suggests that he is at least a meaningful voice in the room. Chris Paul suggested as much, at the very least. This matters because in his five years running the Knicks, Thomas would trade picks that eventually landed at No. 16 (Kirk Snyder, 2004), No. 9 (Joakim Noah, 2007), No. 9 again (Gordon Hayward, 2010) and No. 2 (LaMarcus Aldridge, 2006). Thomas has a track record here.

—Booker’s contract expires in 2028. Right now, he has every reason to be excited about a future in Phoenix. The Suns could easily win the championship this season. Whether they do or don’t, their post-Durant/Beal future is relatively bleak. There is a meaningful chance that Booker looks around in a few years and decides he can’t win in Phoenix. If Booker is gone after Durant and Beal age out and the front office has traded most of their picks? The Suns might be the worst team in the NBA to end the decade.

Similarly, he wonders whether Dallas will be that good in 2029.

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported that the Mavericks are worried about Luka Doncic forcing a trade as soon as the summer of 2024. We have reached DEFCON 1 in Dallas. If the Mavericks don’t start competing for championships now, Doncic is going to force his way out.

—The original Doncic trade was a masterstroke. Jalen Brunson was taken in the same draft. Besides those two, who was the last Mavericks draft pick to grow into a consistent, starting-caliber player in the NBA? That would be Josh Howard all the way back in 2003. This is not a team that should be trusted to rebuild.

Kyrie Irving’s track record. His exits out of Cleveland, Boston and Brooklyn speak for themselves. He’s missed roughly 35% of his games over the past eight seasons. There are just so many ways this can end badly for Dallas, and even if it goes well, he turns 32 this season. Doncic can become a free agent in 2026, when Irving’s contract expires. If they don’t win a championship or come close soon, Doncic might see Irving’s decline and might seek an escape down the line.

—Jason Kidd has coached Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic for six combined seasons. His teams have gone 239-236 in that time. In both cases, they overperformed in his first season: Milwaukee jumped from the NBA’s worst record to .500 in 2015, while Dallas won 52 games and made a surprise jump to the Western Conference Finals. And then all four of his remaining teams underperformed thereafter. Milwaukee went 44-38 in Kidd’s final season, and then went 60-22 in its first season without him. It’s entirely possible that the Mavericks simply picked the wrong coach,

He also ranks the 2025 Suns pick as the 34th best pick. Phoenix should still be good by then. He also ranks the only unprotected pick owed the Nets — the 76ers first protected 1-8 in 2027 they got in the James Harden trade — at No. 20.

As for the picks the Nets gave up in the first Harden trade, Quinn doesn’t believe that as a group, they will be anywhere near as valuable the picks the Nets got in the KD and Kyrie deals. He ranks their 2026 unprotected first at No. 21, the 2024 unprotected first at No. 26, the 2025 swap at No. 50, and the 2027 swap at No. 39. Why? Because he thinks the Nets, with their youth and stable contracts, won’t be bad. He particularly cites the presence of Mikal Bridges.

It’s worth noting that Brooklyn’s future is relatively bright as well. Mikal Bridges is on an All-Star trajectory at the league’s scarcest position ... Bridges hasn’t missed a game since the 2018-19 season. He literally played 83 games in an 82-game season last year. His presence gives the Nets a relatively high floor in the weaker middle of the Eastern Conference.

Finally, Quinn points out that under the new CBA, with its draconian sanctions on high-salary payrolls — aprons, repeater taxes, etc. — rookie salaries for first round picks will be highly valued. It’s a way to fill out rosters with good, if inexpensive, players for up to four years.

Bad teams have always needed first-round picks to turn things around, but now, good teams need them just as much to reload their rosters with cheap talent.

Teams are therefore being more judicious in how they wield their picks on the trade market. The days of Rudy Gobert netting five picks are gone. Right now, Portland is struggling to extract anywhere near that amount out of the Miami Heat for Damian Lillard. The Clippers don’t even seem enthused about giving up any draft capital for James Harden.

It will be a long time before there will be determination on who won which trade. For example, the Nets have had to give up one player, Tari Eason, taken with the 17th pick in 2022 they gave up to acquire Harden, and added one player — again Clowney or Whitehead, taken at No. 21, the Suns pick, and the No. 22, the Nets own pick. (The two teams had the same record.) They did generate two big trade exceptions in the trades for Harris and Mills which may or may not be used by next July. In the interim, what we will likely have is updates from Quinn who intends to do them annually!