The Ted Stepien Rule, which disallows a team from trading consecutive future first round picks in back to back years, is complex enough without further complicating matters with protected picks. With so much media coverage given towards the Lakers acquiring Rondo and confusion surrounding what draft picks they can convey, the following is a brief explanation of exactly what picks the Lakers are eligible to deal using the Rondo (however unrealistic) trade scenario for application.
Lakers Relevant Draft Picks
1.2015 First Round Pick to Phoenix
Protected 1-5 in 2015, 1-3 in 2016, 1-3 in 2017 and unprotected in 2018
2.2017 First round Pick to Orlando
If at least two years after LA conveyed a first round pick to Phoenix, then LA conveys a first round pick to Orlando.
Protected 1-5 in 2017, 1-5 in 2018 and unprotected in 2019
*If LA has not conveyed a 1st round pick to Phoenix by 2017, then LA will instead convey their 2017 2nd round pick and 2018 2nd round picks or Orlando
1.2015 First Round Pick From Houston
Protected 1-14 in 2015, 1-10 in 2016, 1-10 in 2017, 1-5 in 2018, 1-5 in 2019, 1-3 in 2020 and unprotected in 2021.
Houston Pick Trade Analysis
LA CAN trade the pick they acquired from Houston.
Scenario 1: Lakers convey their pick to Phoenix in 2015
Result: LA would then keep their 2016 first round pick, and may convey their 2017 first to Orlando (being two years later) if the pick falls outside the protections. Regardless, the Stepien Rule would be satisfied here, as LA would not trade back to back future first round picks.
Scenario 2: Lakers do not convey their pick to Phoenix in 2015
Result: LA would then be eligible to convey their 2016 pick to Phoenix if it fell outside the protections, but since the Orlando pick is conveyed at least 2 years after the Phoenix pick, the earliest the Orlando pick would be conveyed here is 2018. Thus, LA will still be in conformity with the Stepien Rule because the Orlando pick would not be conveyed in 2017. The same analysis applies if the Phoenix pick once again fell within the protections in 2016 and LA kept the pick, resulting in a carryover to 2017 (the earliest the Orlando pick could be conveyed then is 2019). Per the trade agreement with Orlando, if LA does not convey a pick to Phoenix by 2017 (abiding by the 7 year rule at the time), then LA conveys two second round picks to Orlando, rendering the Stepien analysis in this regard moot.
Thus, LA can trade the Houston pick in a potential Rondo deal without violating the Stepien Rule.
Lakers Own Picks Trade Analysis
LA CANNOT trade any of their own picks until 2021 because of the protections on the Houston pick and the protections structure of their current outgoing picks.
The Stepien Rule is again concerned with the possibility of trading first round picks in back to back years, and because the Houston pick has protections until 2021, where the pick becomes unprotected, it could conceivably not be conveyed anytime until that time. On the other side, the CBA only permits LA to have one pick structure of a protected pick (to Phoenix) and a first available pick two years after the first pick is conveyed (to Orlando) outstanding at one time. Thus, the first available pick LA could trade is in 2021, and abiding by the 7 year rule, that pick would have to be conveyed unconditionally (ie unprotected). Notice that Houston’s pick will surely be received by LA in 2021 because it is unprotected then, but it COULD be conveyed earlier, thus LA could not convey a 2020 pick at this juncture because of the possibility of conveying a pick a year earlier to Orlando.
LA’s Best Rondo Offer
Accordingly, LA’s best CBA legal Rondo offer is likely Steve Nash’s $9,701,000 expiring contract (which contains a 15% trade kicker that LA must pay), Houston’s 2015 first round pick, and multiple second round picks (the earliest of which can be conveyed in 2016, so likely ’16 and ’17). It should be noted that Jordan Hill cannot be traded until January 15 and has a de-facto no trade clause, so his inclusion is not realistic given Boston’s attempt to make a deal prior to December 19th at Noon so any player acquired could be traded via aggregating salaries again prior to the February 19th trade deadline. Overall, this is largely academic because the Lakers do not seem like a realistic destination at this time, but at least this serves as a guide to how LA can and may use their picks moving forward.