There’s A Reason NBA Teams Couldn’t Care Less Around Second-Round Draft Picks

Commissioner Adam Silver at the NBA Draft

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On Thursday, the NBA trade deadline officially passed as teams across the league scrambled to make some last-minute deals in the hopes of either setting themselves up for the latter half of the season or (as the Nets did) looking toward a more distant future after admitting the current campaign is a lost cause.

If you kept a close eye on the transactions that unfolded in the hours leading up to the deadline, you likely noticed a pattern that was pretty hard to ignore thanks to the many, many teams who opted to hand out second-round draft picks like candy on Halloween to sweeten the various deals that went down.

When you consider basketball is one of the few sports where a single player has the potential to dramatically change the fortunes of a franchise, you might think teams would be a little more conservative when it comes to doling out one of the two draft picks they have to work with each year.

With that said, you don’t really have to look too closely at recent history to understand why second-round picks have become the NBA equivalent of Monopoly money.

There are obviously plenty of cases where a first-rounder has had an immediate and profound impact on the league, but if you dive into what’s transpired over the past decade or so, it’s very clear the NBA Draft is a textbook case of diminishing returns.

For the purpose of this exercise, let’s take a look back at every single draft class starting in 2010 and ending in 2020, a stretch that saw a grand total of 330 players selected in the second round.

Of that group, a grand total of four guys (Isaiah Thomas, Draymond Green, Khris Middleton, and Nikola Jokic) have managed to punch their ticket to the All-Star Game. By comparison, there are 65 largely forgotten draft picks who have never even appeared in an NBA game—including 15 of the 30 selected in the second round of the draft in 2015.

The only real anomaly worth mentioning is Malcolm Brogdon, who won Rookie of the Year honors after being selected by the Bucks with the 36th overall pick in 2016 but hasn’t really dazzled much since then.

I’m going to be very generous and lump Brogdon in with that aforementioned quartet to make the argument that 1.5% of second-round draft picks selected over that span have paid notable dividends for the teams that selected them.

As a result, it’s pretty easy to see why franchises are more than happy to use them as bargaining chips while trading for a more established player.

Connor O'Toole avatar
Connor Toole is the Deputy Editor at BroBible. He is a New England native who went to Boston College and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Frequently described as "freakishly tall," he once used his 6'10" frame to sneak in the NBA Draft and convince people he was a member of the Utah Jazz.