What is the Ted Stepien Rule in the NBA?

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


Aside from the power moves, perhaps you are looking forward to seeing the draft picks of your favorite NBA teams each year. They jostle for a position or protect their roster members from external interests during contract year-ends to improve winning probability, hence why the NBA Stepien rule exists.

Now, what is the Ted Stepien rule in the NBA? Or is the Stepien rule real? Yes, and it means that the first-round pick of each team is not up for trades until their contract expires. There are more things and details you need to learn about it, so keep reading.

Who was Ted StepienWho was Ted Stepien?

Most NBA fans and enthusiasts are divided about this matter—some say it is beneficial, and others think it is a waste of potential. Since you are already stoked by the intriguing conditions and Stepien rule exceptions, it would be best to know more about the person who made this rule come into place. 

If you are to ask NBA fans who the worst NBA owners in history are, you will probably hear the name Ted Stepien one way or another. That being said, Ted Stepien was an owner of the professional team, Cleveland Cavaliers, from 1980 until 1982. 

Although he just owned the Cavaliers for three seasons, fans and commentators say he proved why owners should never meddle with the team. He made poor decisions that had a lasting effect by firing team personnel, including their head coaches.

The start of the regression made a premonition when Stepien fired their head coach, Stan Albeck, for struggling to handle the team in his first season and replaced him with Bill Musselman, according to an article by Washington Post

The Cavs fans first supported the decision; however, Stepien proved himself to be bad at making decisions by firing Musselman yet again, even before the season ended.

Who was Ted Stepien

Then, Don Delaney assumed the head coach position until the season ended but was fired after 28 games in the next season. Stepien brought in the 76ers assistant coach, Chuck Daley, but ended up in the same fate as other head coaches. He seemed to be erratic about making it into the playoffs, which caused him to make irrational decisions along the way.

In total, Stepien had fired five head coaches in just three seasons—but wait, the circus is not yet over. To make the situation worse, he had also traded out first-pick players who were high picks among other teams.

Nonetheless, Stepien must be credited for persuading Wilt Chamberlain not to retire in the 1981 season. Even so, fans had had enough of his mismanagement, racial comments against black players, and for being a cheap skate, thus compelling the NBA to change rules—that’s pretty much the summary of the Stepien rule origin.

Why Does the Stepien Rule ExistWhy Does the Stepien Rule Exist?

As you may have read in the sections above, Ted Stepien was a megawealthy businessman who founded Nationwide Advertising Services. However, he mismanaged the Cavaliers and made his reign from 1980 to 1983 a whole circus by firing several head coaches, making racial slurs, and drafting out first-pick players for outdated veteran players (which was the worst of all).

Fans and even enthusiasts are raging over the whole coaching carousel and farewell parties of draft picks. The constant trading-away mechanism of the Cavaliers reached the attention of the NBA officials and forced them to step in the way. Hence, the Stepien rule exists to protect players from unfair treatment and, of course, stop Stepien from causing any more ruckus.

After he sold the Cavaliers in 1983, the NBA made significant rule changes prohibiting teams from drafting away their players after successive years of being first picks. This provision marks a win-win situation for the team and players.

Why Does the Stepien Rule Exist

Through the NBA Stepien rules, players are enshrined with the immunity of being illegally and unfairly drafted out after years of hard work as a first pick player. On top of that, it allows coaches to make wiser decisions and improve winning chances.

Although the genesis of the NBA Stepien trades rules, it made a legacy that fans, players, and coaches in the present enjoy. It became a beneficial rule that made the NBA games even more exciting!

What is the NBA Stepien RuleWhat is the NBA Stepien Rule?

The NBA Stepien rule was already defined in the previous sections, but you probably wish to learn more about the specifications of this rule even more. This provision’s delineating line surrounds draft picks and player trades.

While some NBA provisions like the Gilbert Arenas rule can flatter its namesake, the Ted Stepien rule is the contrary. The NBA Ted Stepien rule states that NBA teams are prohibited from drafting their consecutive draft picks for years.

It means that players who have been consistently included in their first-pick roster should not be drafted unless the contract expires. The NBA had to intercept the 1980s NBA drafting mishaps of Ted Stepien to support the NBA teams from the exploitation of owners and protect players.

As a result of the changes in the drafting rules, more players enjoy the rights from unfair drafting and mistreatment. Most of all, it challenges NBA team owners to make better decisions, or they will lose the franchise.

You may access the full drafting rules to learn more about the drafting rules and specifications. The drafting rules can be found under Section 7 of the NBA Consitution. You may also visit the official NBA website to understand the guidelines and rulebook.

3 Worst Trades in Cavaliers History3 Worst Trades in Cavaliers History

The previous sections talk about the Stepien rules, which were the result of the failed management of Ted Stepien over the Cleveland Cavaliers from 1980 to 1983, amounting to three seasons. During the ownership of Stepien of the Cavs in these seasons, the industry had seen some of the worst trades in the team’s history.

Pretty sure you are curious about who or how these players made it to the list. Check out the bulleted points below to know the worst trades in NBA history based on the consensus gathered from news sites like the Bleacher Reports and FadeawayWorld, from the Stepien trades to everything under the horizon.

  • James Worthy

This trade should be written in history as one of the worst trades in the NBA because of the poor decisions of Ted Stepien. James Worthy was traded off to the Los Angeles Lakers, later turning him into a 7x NBA All-Stars and a Hall of Famer.

Stepien made a hot mess when he decided to trade their Number 1 pick overall for a high pick player. Although they went into a 15-67 mark that season, it did not erase the fact that they wasted so much potential and could have been their saving glory.

  • Ron Harper

Harper even made its name as the greatest “what if” of the Cavs. Harper was one of the 8th top picks of Cavaliers in his time, but he ended up getting into the trade list to the Clippers in 1989. Unfortunately, the trade did not turn out well for the Cavaliers because they still struggled to keep up with their roster.

According to the legend himself, Michael Jordan, Cavs could have made it far if only they kept Harper, for he was one of the players who made his head hurt in the entire Easter Conference.

  • Jamal Crawford

In 2000, Jamal Crawford was traded for the Bull’s First-round pick, Chris Mihm, hoping to have better opportunities with the new asset. Nonetheless, Mihm did not stay long in the Cavs, for he could not keep healthy in the long run. It was not a great idea after all.

Although Crawford never had a good play at Bulls, his last season for the team had recorded an average of 17 points in each game and five assists, compared to Mihm with only 7.1 points in Cavs. Crawford was even named as 6th Man of the Year thrice.

Wrapping Things Up: What is the Ted Stepien Rule in the NBA?

If you are an avid supporter of the Cleveland Cavaliers, you have heard of the Stepien. What is the Ted Stepien rule in the NBA for those still unaware of it?

This rule, also known as the “Stepien rule,” states that a team in the National Basketball Association cannot trade its first-round draft pick for more than three years (NBA). In other words, the Cavaliers are not allowed to trade their first-round draft pick until their contract expires.

If you are planning to enter the league, you must never forget this rule in case you are selected as the first pick of your team. Do not worry about the Stepien rule; you can always learn that sooner or later! Nonetheless, you must first train as hard as you can before making your way to the NBA.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

> NBA Trade Rules Explained

> What is a Sign and Trade Deal in NBA?

> Why Do NBA Teams Trade for Players?

> Can NBA Teams Trade on Draft Day?

Picture of Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...

How is the NBA All-Star Team Selected

How is the NBA All-Star Team Selected?

Getting into the All-Star game is no simple feat. For some players, it may take several seasons of high-level play to get the nod. However, other exceptional talents come into the league with so much...

Read More
How Do Basketball Teams Qualify for the Olympics?

How Do Basketball Teams Qualify for the Olympics?

The Summer Olympics is the biggest stage in international basketball. These games have an unbridled cultural impact on a global scale. It brings the world together to appreciate a couple of weeks of high-level international...

Read More
What Does DTD Mean in Basketball?

What Does DTD Mean in Basketball?

Basketball is a world of its own with unique terms or jargon, in and out of the court. Through the years, more terms have been developed to represent specific things about the sport, and understanding...

Read More

Get our top basketball tips to become a better baller

Enter your email to get access to our best tips for success.