All-Gold Strike Team: Ten second-round picks who hit it big over the last decade
“The Point Forward All-Stars” will have a new theme each week centered on a single shared trait that brings together the team members. This week, we take a look back at the last decade’s worth of second-round picks.
Previously: The All-Grateful Team | The East’s All-Letdown Team | The All-Atrocious Team | The All-Ignored Team | The All-Stocking Stuffer Team | The All-Recalibration Team | The All-Payday Team | The All-Gridiron Team | The All-Sanctioned Team | The All-Dunk Contest Team | The Non-Champions
Second-round picks, by definition, have always been the NBA’s bridesmaid, and never the bride. Look no further than this year’s All-Star Game, where a whopping six No. 1 overall picks (LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis) dominated the headlines and highlights, while Paul Millsap was the only second-round selection to compete in the game.
The bridesmaids were stuck watching Irving took home All-Star Game MVP honors, Griffin threaten the All-Star Game’s scoring record with 38 points, and Wall winning the Slam Dunk Contest, but they would have their moment to shine just a few days later. Last week’s trade deadline saw a total of zero first-round picks exchange hands, even though a slew of deals were consummated and a good chunk of the league’s teams have been effectively eliminated from playoff contention. That left any asset-seeking architect of a rebuilding program to scrounge up the next best thing: second-round picks.
Nobody rolled up his khakis and dug into the muck quite like Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, who managed to acquire six second-round picks by participating in deals with the Clippers, Pacers, Cavaliers, and a three-team deal with the Nuggets and Wizards. Of course, those picks were simply added to a stockpile of draft considerations that Hinkie began compiling as soon as he took over in Philadelphia last summer.
We all know the example of Manu Ginobili — three-time champion, two-time All-Star, future Hall of Famer — who was miraculously plucked by the Spurs with the No. 57 pick in the 1999 draft, but we also know that he is clearly the exception and not the rule when it comes to second-round pick performance. What exactly are the odds facing Hinkie and his colleagues when it comes to finding contributors in the second round? And who exactly, besides Ginobili, has emerged as second-round gold strikes in recent years? Let’s take a look.
(All statistics are through Feb. 25.)
Surveying Second-Round Picks
The Point Forward analyzed the 300 second-round picks made between 2004 and 2013, charting players by asking the following questions:
- Did they succeed in making the NBA?
- How many minutes did they log and how many years of experience did they accrue?
- What were their average Efficiency Rating (PER) during their NBA career and how many total Win Shares did they accumulate along the way?
The survey confirmed many of the widely-held notions of how difficult it is to hit pay dirt in the second round, while also quantifying how difficult it is to find talent there. The following are five takeaways from this examination:
1. The washout rate is very high. Many second-round picks never actually realize their dreams of competing in an NBA game. In fact, nearly one-third of the second-round picks made in the last 10 years (98 out of 300) have not played in the NBA.
Even making it to Year Two can prove difficult. Of the 270 second-round picks taken from 2004 to 2012 — in other words, the guys in our 300-player sample who could have played for at least two years — only 141 have two or more years of experience. Roughly speaking, that means a player selected in the 2014 second round can be expected to have just slightly better than a 50/50 shot of playing two NBA seasons, whether they happen immediately upon selection or at some point down the line.
Of those who do find a way to stick, many move on before they can get truly comfortable (or cash in with a new contract). The average career length of all second-round pick taken from 2004 to 2008 — including those who never made the league — was 2.7 years. That number rose to 3.8 years among second-round picks who appeared in at least one NBA game, a figure that’s still below the NBA’s overall average career length of 4.8 years.
Consider this for context: an NBA player who averages 25 minutes a night and appears in 70 games will log roughly 1,750 minutes over the course of a season. Of the 180 second-round picks taken between 2004 and 2009, only 55 have played at least 1,750 minutes over their entire careers. In other words, less than one-in-three second-round picks over a six-year period have managed to hang on for what we would consider a single season’s worth of decent playing time.