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How The Bulls & Raptors Earned The Thunder An Extra Draft Pick

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There were 2,460 NBA games played this season, but the outcome of two in particular on the season's final day helped the Thunder earn an extra 2014 first-round draft pick.

The final piece of OKC's James Harden trade package was a top-20 protected draft pick, from Houston via Dallas. The pick was protected last season, this season, and for a few more after this.

• Although it was traded by Houston to Oklahoma City, the pick was originally the Mavericks'

• Top-20 protected means is that if the Mavs finished the season a record that would place them in the top 20 in the 2014 NBA Draft, Dallas would keep that pick.

The goal of a protected pick is to give the original team an accurate assessment of the value of the pick it is trading. So in this case, Dallas (and then Houston) knew it wasn't sending OKC a pick that would somehow turn into a top-5 selection this season.

So basically, in order for OKC to have acquired the pick this season, the Mavericks had to finish with a record that would place them 21 or higher in the 2014 draft order.

Entering Wednesday's games, the Mavs sat right at No. 21 with a record of 49-32. But right on their heels were the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls, who both sat at 48-33.

A Dallas win in Memphis would have secured the pick for OKC, because it would have given Dallas 50 wins, therefore guaranteeing them a better record (and higher draft pick) than either Toronto or Chicago.

But as we know, Dallas lost. That gave Toronto and Chicago a chance to win their respective games at the Knicks and Bobcats and tie Dallas with identical 49-32 final records.

And as we also know, both the Raptors and Bulls lost.

Chicago lost an overtime thriller in Charlotte, while Toronto blew a 20-point lead at Madison Square Garden en route to a three-point loss to the Knicks.

Those results both ensured that Toronto and Chicago would finish one game worse than Dallas, and in turn would occupy the No. 19 and No. 20 draft slots.

While some organizations might not throw a party for acquiring the 21st pick in the NBA, this is a big get for Oklahoma City. General Manager Sam Presti often uses the word "sustainability" when describing his franchise model, and having an extra first-round pick in one of the deepest draft fields in recent memory will help.

This draft field is so deep, Oklahoma City will likely select a player at No. 21 who would go in the top 12-15 in an average season. The Thunder also holds the No. 29 pick.

The 2014 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26.

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