The Bulls acquired a draft pick from the Bobcats on Feb. 18, 2010 when they sent Tyrus Thomas to Charlotte. With the Bobcats holding a 25% chance to land the #1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and the Bulls over the salary cap with no real option to get enough under it, the "Charlotte Pick" is loosely thrown around in conversations as an asset for the Bulls to trade.
To understand the value of holding a right to a future Bobcats pick, it's important to understand the conditions under which those rights can be used by the Bulls or the rights' future owner.
- The pick is a first round pick.
- The transfer of that pick from the Bobcats to the Bulls is conditional -- or "protected".
- Though, the pick promises to yield some value in who will be drafted, the conditions allow for much uncertainty in the present, diminishing it's value as a current asset.
How is the pick "protected"?
RealGM is consistent with the rhetoric used to describe the conditions under which the Bulls would acquire ownership of Charlotte's first round pick, stating it's "top-12 protected in the 2013 Draft, top-10 protected in 2014, top-8 protected in 2015 and unprotected in the 2016 Draft."
This means the rights only transfer from Charlotte to Chicago before 2016 if: (a) Charlotte lands lower than #12 in the 2013 Draft Lottery; (b) Charlotte lands lower than #10 in the 2014 Lottery; or (c) Charlotte lands lower than #8 in the 2015 Lottery.
Can the Bulls turn down the pick to wait gamble on getting a higher pick in one of the following years?
No. Whichever of those options occur first places ownership of the pick in the Bulls' hands.
If the Bobcats were to barely make or miss the playoffs in 2013 and land a pick lower than #12, the Bulls can't wait on something like the 11th pick in 2014 or the 9th in 2015 or something higher in 2016.
When can the Bulls trade the rights to this pick?
Any time they want to, but the conditions under which the pick is protected transfer to whomever the Bulls trade those rights.
What is the maximum value of the pick?
Obviously, the max value of the pick is the first pick in the 2016 Draft. But without the right of refusal, there is uncertainty regarding the pick's value. The conditions under which the ownership rights are transferred are in the hands of how the Bobcats perform and the lottery balls.
With so many variables deciding not only how high the pick will be but also how soon it can be used raises so much uncertainty that it's almost equally uncertain to determine how the Bulls can trade it to their advantage right now.
The problem with the Bulls selling the pick as a potentially high lottery pick is that by the time that pick enters the top-10, the Bobcats will be a team with at least five recent lottery picks -- whomever they pick in 2012, 2013, and 2014 along with Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker. Regardless of how we evaluate Biyombo and Walker now, teams with five lottery picks over four seasons have cores likely to not land them picks higher in the top-10. And even if the Bobcats continue to be awful and land high lottery picks, they'll play the 2015-16 season with six recent lottery picks should they match offer sheets to Biyombo and Walker, not making the 2016 pick look so hot.
The math and history of so many lottery picks says that this pick doesn't crack the top-10 when the Bulls are slated to acquire the ownership of it. That said: Michael Jordan once drafted Adam Morrison with the #3 pick and Kwame Brown with the #1 pick and has serious problems resisting overrated players out of the UNC program.
Who would want the rights to this pick this offseason?
It's difficult to zero in on this. The rights to this pick still has value to aggressive front offices who expect to be perennial playoff teams because their only shot at any lottery picks over the next few years is acquiring them via trade.
The Bulls aren't going sneak up on a bad team by significantly trading up in a draft with the Charlotte Pick, but is an effective deal sweetener to acquire an established NBA player from a team looking to either: (a) get further from the luxury tax; (b) insure themselves some youth while otherwise stacking up on big money stars and filling the roster with cheap veterans; (c) teams with a lot of youth now in whom they seek to invest their salary cap.
The Nuggets fit in there somewhere as well, but not sure where.
Can the Bobcats still move their 2013 through 2015 first round picks?
Yes. They can still conditionally trade their picks and even choose to protect it. Charlotte still owns anything 12-or-higher in 2013, 10-or-higher in 2014, 8-or-higher in 2015, and anything in 2017 and beyond.
In other words: Charlotte owns their 2013 pick if it's top-12, 2014 if it's top-10, and 2015 if it's top-8 to all capacities one would "own" rights to a pick, including the right to transfer ownership, as long as they receive a first round pick in said deal.