NBA Draft: Why teams are suddenly valuing second-round picks

Adam Silver (Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Adam Silver (Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) /

The NBA trade deadline managed to live up to lofty expectations and then some. However, an odd trend emerged from all of the transactions: the surprising amount of second-round picks that changed hands. Previously, seconds weren’t generally valued, but it’s seemingly swung in the opposite direction with teams using them in place of first-round picks.

For example, the San Antonio Spurs had previously requested two first-round picks for Jakob Poeltl and one for Josh Richardson. However, they “settled” for a first and two seconds for Poeltl and four seconds for Richardson. They weren’t alone. Milwaukee gave up five second-round picks to land Jae Crowder from the Nets, and the Trail Blazers received five in a four-team trade.

Second-round picks are becoming increasingly useful to NBA teams.

So why are teams suddenly interested in taking back so many second-round picks? There are several reasons, one being that teams are trading the assets they have available, and playoff teams rarely have first-rounders to deal. Receiving teams are often willing to accept picks in exchange for their assets rather than lose them for nothing. In the case of Poeltl, Richardson, and Crowder, they are all upcoming free agents and were unlikely to re-sign with their previous teams.

Another reason is that some teams may actually be stockpiling second-round picks as a result of upcoming NBA draft rule changes. The new collective bargaining agreement has allowed for the addition of a third two-way roster spot as well as a second-round pick exception that allows teams to sign players to long-term deals without having to use other exceptions.

Both are major changes to the rules that suddenly make those picks far more valuable. Based on the trade deadline, several teams are ready for that possibility. Those teams can afford to select intriguing prospects in the second round and develop them on their G League affiliate with the three extra two-way roster spots.

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Ultimately, the teams that are collecting second-round picks are likely doing so with an eye toward the future. With changes to the draft imminent, the addition of two-way roster spots, and the improved quality of the NBA G League, hoarding seconds could soon prove to be a wise investment.