The rise of second-round picks: How the once undervalued draft assets are now shaping a new market landscape

The New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Richardson during an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, February 13, 2023, in Oklahoma City.  (AP Photo/Sue Ogrotsky)
New Orleans traded four second round players and Devonte Graham to San Antonio for Josh Richardson. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrotsky)

As the minutes ticked by last Thursday’s NBA annual trade deadline, team after team received player after player for second-round pick after second-round pick.

Several transactions turned into three-team and four-team deals, but the Los Angeles Clippers effectively poached Bones Hyland from the Denver Nuggets in two rounds of the second round. The Memphis Grizzlies sent three second round players in a trade for Clippers defenseman Luke Kennard. New Orleans traded four second round players and Devonte Graham to San Antonio for Josh Richardson. And the Hawks essentially sent five second-rounders to Golden State for Saddiq Bey, only for the Warriors to divert that number of picks to Portland and reunite with Gary Payton II. The list goes on if you want to find RealGM transaction log.

A total of 71 second-round picks changed teams between January 1 and 3:00 pm ET on the deadline day. During that window, just 29 seconds were handed out in 2022, 32 in 2021, 17 in 2020 and 32 in 2019, including conditional picks as well as picks that allow teams to choose between two or three more favorable options.

Not every second round selection is created equal. Not every first round pick is created equal. But this bona fide arms race for the championship with no clear favorite left rivals with little first-round capital to trade despite greater than ever motivation to progress. The bidders are selling everything except their houses and all their furniture that isn’t bolted to the floor. “You can’t trade first-round picks if you don’t have first-round picks to trade,” said an Eastern Conference analyst analyst. The Lakers and Bucks emptied their cabinets and moved to New Orleans to get Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, respectively. The Thunder control the picks of the Rockets, the Houstons control the picks of the Nets, and the Brooklyn now control the picks of the Suns after a deal with Kevin Durant in four unprotected first-round games between 2023-29. “Every time there is a market imbalance, there are wild deals,” one of the team’s strategists told Sportzshala Sports.

In addition, there were several players available before the deadline this year that the executives judged as worthy of their precious remaining first players. And for those who were available, their current teams expected more. Sources told Sportzshala Sports that the Pistons are looking for an unprotected first round player and then a few more to part ways with 34-year-old shooter Bojan Bogdanovic. The Mavericks and later the Nets turned down offers to draft Dorian Finney-Smith in the second round, sources said. The Chicago Bulls told various teams who were wondering if they could get more than two first-rounders for Alex Caruso.

But when the current bet for superstars like Durant, perennial all-stars like Donovan Mitchell, and marginal all-star players like Dejonté Murray is at least three first-round exposed players, you can see why some front offices will be afraid to send out the first round for a fifth starter in February. “A lot of teams are holding those picks to bet on the stars,” a Sportzshala Sports cap strategist said.

Milwaukee had already done that for Holiday and still felt the need to improve for another shot at the championship this June. The Bucks coveted Jay Crowder so much that Milwaukee sent two cornermen to Brooklyn for his services, and then assigned a cornerman to each of George Hill, Serge Ibaka, and Jordan Nwora to shift their paychecks to the Indiana Pacers. That’s a total of five second round picks to include Crowder in their quest for a second title behind Giannis Antetokounmpo.

There doesn’t seem to be any direct estimate of how many second round players equals the number of first round players, in the absence of a team that has a first round player, they are even willing to bargain. Again, not all second round players are created equal. Picking between number 31 and number 45 often gives teams a chance to get players their front office rates as having first-round talent, especially when that range now produces players who are willing to sign two-way contracts that don’t count. the cap of the applicant who cares about taxes. The term “fake second” came into vogue when teams traded protected second-round picks of the top 55, which only means that that team is in the top five in the league and a chance to get an NBA player in the last few picks. quite minimal.

But we have two clear examples of pick inflation in the second round. For the past decade, when teams traded a protected first round pick, it was standard practice for that pick to turn into a pair of second round picks if it was never passed. On that deadline, New York traded their top 14 2023 first-round defensive players to Portland in a deal that Josh Hart won. That pick is almost guaranteed to drop out of the lottery as the Knicks are vying for a playoff spot and are currently set to finish 22nd in June. And if that doesn’t happen, the draft capital owed to the Trail Blazers will turn into a staggering four second-round picks instead of two.

In 2021, with Orlando rebuilding and selling their veterans, the Magic were unable to find a first round player in exchange for Evan Fournier and settled for two second round players from Boston. The current conversion rate has clearly increased – and apparently doubled in some deals. The Wizards started this year’s second round in mid-January, taking three seconds from Los Angeles for Rui Hachimura after initially looking for a first round player for their former 9th overall. “I’m not sure if that defined the market, but it’s a copycat league,” an Eastern Conference executive said. Several rival teams considered the cost of taking over Graham’s contract with New Orleans—with two more years at over $12 million for the rest—as a first-round pick, but the Pelicans were able to get Richardson in exchange for the price of four second-round players. instead of. The Lakers brought back three second-rounders for backup center Thomas Bryant and then sent one of those picks, along with Patrick Beverley, to Orlando for Mo Bamba.

That’s really a quarter of the NBA’s asset pool. “Second round elections are currency,” said one of the assistant general managers of Sportzshala Sports. During this period, four, and sometimes five, equaled a dollar, and the deed was done. Additional second-round players can also be used on draft night to move up that valuable #31-45 range, and two or three seconds can often be given to first-round late picks when teams are on the clock. But some franchise owners also look at their choice in the 40s and decide it’s better to sell it for cash.

We’ll learn more about this trend at draft night. Last June, the Knicks sent Charlotte a 2023 first-round pick plus four second-round picks to help get Jalen Duren to Detroit and allow the Pistons to gobble up unwanted Knicks paychecks and help New York become a free agent. The league masters seem to continue to get more creative. And the second-round picks have helped blur more and more deals amid this contested NBA postseason chase.


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