The Ted Stepien Rule

Via Hoopsworld (finger point to @original_ari)

Chris in Ny:
If the Knicks acquire a first round pick in 2012 will they be able to trade their 2011 and 2013 first rounders?

Chris — They can trade two picks, but there’s a wrinkle that complicates matters.

Here’s the full answer: The “Ted Stepien Rule” prevents teams from trading their future first round picks in consecutive years. So if a team (like the Knicks) has traded its 2012 first round pick, it can’t trade its 2011 or 2013 picks. Note that the Stepien rule looks only at the future — it doesn’t matter that the team also traded its 2010 pick. That pick is in the past, and the Stepien rule ignores it.

Even if a team might not have a pick (because it’s lottery-protected, for example) it’s still subject to the Stepien rule. If a team might not be without a future first round pick, then they can’t trade the pick in the year before or the year after.

The Knicks have traded the right to swap 2011 #1’s to Houston, so New York will end up with the lesser of its pick and Houston’s pick. But they will have a pick, so their 2011 pick is not considered to be traded as far as the Stepeien rule is concerned. A team doesn’t need to have its own first round pick in a given year — any first round pick will do.

So here’s the Knicks’ situation: They will have a 2011 first round pick (either their own or Houston’s). They have traded away their 2012 pick (again to Houston), but it’s top-5 protected all the way to 2015. If the 2012 pick is in the top-5 then Houston gets their 2013 pick instead. If the 2013 pick is top-5, then they get the 2014 pick. If the 2014 pick is in the top-5 then they get their 2015 pick. If the 2015 pick is top-5, then they stop trying to send a first round pick, and give them two second round picks instead.

So New York may be without its 2012, 2013, 2014 or 2015 first round pick — and we don’t know for sure which one it’ll be. This means that right now New York can’t trade its picks in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 or 2016 — because if they do so they might be without a first round pick two consecutive years in the future — and that’s enough for the Stepien rule to put the kibosh on it.

But let’s look at what happens if the Knicks acquire another team’s 2012 pick:

* If their own 2012 pick ends up going to Houston, then they will still have a pick in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, so their 2011 and 2013 picks can be traded.

* If their own 2013 pick ends up going to Houston, then they will have one pick in 2011, two picks in 2012, none in 2013, one in 2014, and one in 2015. They can trade their 2011 pick and one of the 2012 picks.

* If their own 2014 or 2015 pick ends up going to Houston, then they are in the same situation as 2013 — they can still trade their 2011 pick and one of their 2012 picks.

So final answer — If Donnie Walsh acquires a 2012 pick from another team, he can then trade two future first round picks (presumably to Denver). One will definitelty be their 2011 pick (the lesser of theirs and Houston’s). The other will be either a 2012 pick or their 2013 pick, depending on whether their 2012 pick is in the top five.

Any trade agreement to move two picks would have to spell this out — it would specify that they are trading whichever 2011 pick they end up with after Houston has their say; and it would specify that it will be their 2013 pick if their 2012 pick is conveyed to Houston, or one of the specific 2012 picks if their 2012 pick is not conveyed to Houston.

Got it?