The Sixers’ decision to secure the No. 1 draft pick earned both glee and derision from fans, but it’s also a rarity in the history of the NBA draft.
In 70 years, only six trades have been made involving the No. 1 pick. Only three were made before the draft actually occurred, with the others resulting in No. 1 picks being traded after the draft but before the season began.
The most notable of the post-draft trades occurred in 2014, when Cleveland took Andrew Wiggins at No. 1 and traded him to Minnesota. Cleveland made the deal after LeBron James announced his return to his hometown team, securing Kevin Love by giving up Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.
Pre-draft trades for the first pick became slightly more common in the 1980s. In 1980, Boston gave both the No. 1 and No. 13 picks to the Golden State Warriors, picking up the No. 3 slot and center Robert Parish. Six years later, the Sixers traded first pick Brad Daugherty to Cleveland for forward Roy Hinson and $800,000 cash.
The closest comparison to this year’s deal happened in 1993, when the Orlando Magic traded the first pick (Chris Webber) to Golden State for the No. 3 pick. The swap in draft slots was the same, but the Warriors also gave up first-round picks in 1996, 1998 and 2000.
With this year’s trade, however, the Sixers will give up only one first-round pick in 2018 or 2019. They are also protected from losing another No. 1 pick, with the deal ensuring that Boston will receive a different pick if the Sixers win the top slot in the 2019 lottery.
These deals were a mixed bag for the teams involved. The 2014 trade was mutually beneficial, with the Timberwolves gaining the rookie of the year in Wiggins while Cleveland assembled the core of a team that went to three consecutive NBA finals. Other trades were less balanced — for instance, the Warriors’ 1993 gamble ended with the team trading away its No. 1 pick the next year, while the Magic picked up future four-time all-star Penny Hardaway.