Things can get a little weird in the late parts of the second round of the NBA Draft. Most of the high-upside players are off the board and teams are trying to find a diamond in the rough with an upperclassman or a foreign prospect.
There are some notable instances where teams have found great talent late in the draft. Just look at Isaiah Thomas or Manu Ginobili. But for every diamond in the rough, there are dozens of prospects who fail to ever play meaningful NBA minutes or even get on NBA roster.
The Wizards have generally avoided the scrum for the last remaining players on the board during Ernie Grunfeld’s tenure. Only three players taken after 45th pick have gone on to play regular season minutes with the team (Andray Blatche, Dominic McGuire, and Hamady N’Diaye). The rest have either been traded away or haven’t developed into NBA talent (Vladimir Veremeenko, Aaron White).
However, with the way the league has changed in recent years and the way the Wizards specifically have grown into a playoff contender, it’s worth revisiting that approach. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Since 2010, only 30 of the 70 players drafted with the last ten picks in the draft have gone on to play minutes in the NBA
To be fair, this is a little misleading. As we’ve seen with Tomas Satoransky, it can take some time before a player makes the move from an international league over to the NBA. Over time, this number will certainly change.
At the same time, it’s unlikely that all or even two-thirds of the players who were taken with those picks will go on to play a minute in the NBA. Sometimes a guy gets stashed and just never winds up coming over, whether it’s because the money is better for that player overseas, or just because they aren’t good enough to make it in the NBA.
Some might see that as an argument against using picks so late in the draft, but it’s really just the opposite. It’s a lottery ticket that costs nothing. Players who are stashed overseas don’t for a roster spot or on the cap sheet until they start playing for the team. If they develop into an NBA talent, great, if not, you haven’t lost anything by taking a chance.
There’s a secret third round to the draft that means more than ever
As more teams use late second round picks as fliers for players who could pan out down the road, it’s getting easier to find players who can be useful right away as undrafted free agents. Essentially, it’s the third round of the draft, but teams with poor records don’t get an advantage like they did in the first two rounds.
It’s a system that actually has advantages for both teams and players. Teams who are lacking in draft assets still have a chance to add young players on cost-effective deals. Meanwhile, players get to pick and choose from different offers and figure a development path that makes sense for them. That’s why you see players like Sheldon Mac last year who told teams not to draft him last year.
Miami's Sheldon McClellan will sign a partially guaranteed contract w/ the Washington Wizards, source says. Turned down stash offers in 2nd.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 24, 2016
Plus, now with two-way contracts on the horizon, there’s even more incentive for players to try to duck out of the second round. It’s much easier for players to find good opportunities on their own terms in the current NBA landscape.
As weird as it sounds, you can probably argue there’s more talent available in the “third round” than there is with the 52nd pick. If you’re not willing to go that far, you can at least say you have a better shot at finding someone who can be useful right away.
The flip side is, the Wizards have to compete with everyone else in the league for the players who go undrafted. Last year, the Wizards had success with the third round, signing Sheldon Mac and Daniel Ochefu to deals after the draft ended. They leveraged their open roster spots to get some of the better undrafted free agents who wanted a shot to prove themselves on the NBA level right away. It’s still too early to say if the Wizards found anything useful in Mac and Ochefu, but at least they gave themselves a chance to find something by using the third round to their advantage.
This season it might be a little more difficult for Washington to get quality undrafted players. The Wizards won’t have a D-League team ready until at least 2018, so they won’t be able to use that as a selling point for potential players looking for a chance to develop. Plus, players might see Mac and Ochefu as roadblocks to potential opportunities on the team, assuming they’re still on the roster next season.
Do the Wizards have the capacity for another deep prospect on their roster?
Between Mac, Ochefu, and Chris McCullough (who the Wizards acquired in the Bogdanovic trade), do the Wizards have the resources to take on another project on the current roster? Roster expansion and two-way contracts help, but without a true D-League affiliate, most of the education has to come while playing on the big league squad, where they’ll take up roster spots.
Dedicating four rosters spots to guys who may not be ready to make an impact is dangerous, especially if you’re trying to contend for the Eastern Conference Finals next season. If Mac, Ochefu, McCullough, or whoever they take with the 52nd pick is ready to take the next step and be a contributor next season, that’s great, but if not, that’s one less spot they could have used on someone else who could have made a difference.
In a perfect world, the Wizards would find someone with the 52nd pick who can make a difference right away and none of this is an issue. But in the more likely circumstance that they don’t find an immediate contributor, hopefully they can utilize Europe and the undrafted rookie market to help fill immediate holes.