Henry Abbott of ESPN's True Hoop wrote:
TrueHoop reader Neal asks a fair question:
There are all kinds of reports that the Lakers will trade or sell their first-round pick and yet just the other day I wrote that "NBA rules prohibit trading your first-round pick in consecutive years. The Lakers have traded away their 2008 and 2010 picks. So they have to keep this one."
What's the deal?
Gather around for a little story.
Many years ago, Cleveland owner Ted Stepien (who died in 2007) earned a reputation as one of the worst owners in sports history. The Cavaliers were so bad that David Stern arranged special extra draft picks as an inducement to get new owner Gordon Gund to take over.
What did Stepien do that was so bad? All kinds of stuff, but his main crime was seen as trading away the team's draft picks every year without getting enough in return. It shut off the pipeline of new talent, and condemned the team to mediocrity.
So a new rule was instituted. It's sometimes called "The Ted Stepien Rule." And it says that you have to draft a player in the first round at least every other year.
But surely this rule is ignored all the time. Remember when Phoenix sold its first-round picks year after year? How did they do that?
The answer is that technically the Suns drafted players, and then sold the rights to those players having satisfied the rule by making the pick. The Lakers can do the same thing. By rule, they will have to make a selection this evening with the 29th pick. But then they can trade or sell those draft rights to any team they'd like.
Yes, this renders the rule almost pointless. But it's hard to know how the rule could be written perfectly. Would you force the team to keep the player for a few months? A year? Aren't there too many restrictions on trades already?
So the rule is what it is -- as much as anything, a reminder and warning to owners not to do what Stepien did. As the Lakers are defending champions, and Jerry Buss is seen as one of the best owners in sports, they're certainly at no risk of that.