Looking to the Future: Drafting Commodities

The Hornets have two lotto picks this year, but history shows that it is unlikely that they both stay here long term. So, what should they do?

Introducing Memphis's 2014 starting back court…. oh, wait

“We need to get THIS guy, because he can be our {X Position} of the future. Pencil him in for the next ten years!”

Such is the general logic come draft time. A fan, blogger, writer, or player personal director looks at the current roster and wants his or her team to select the right combination of skill and fit for the current team. And not just the current team, but the current coach. Why do we do this when we all know that history tells us that by the time a draft pick develops, the roster will most likely be completely overturned and the coaching staff will be gone?

When it comes to the NBA draft, you are simply drafting commodities in most cases- commodities that you are hoping to buy low and sell high (or hold onto), but more often than not they are just given away for nothing or traded for another poor performing commodity. If this is the case, logic says you should think about the entire market (all 30 teams), as opposed to just your current wants and needs.  As I stated in last week’s podcast, only seven of the sixty players drafted in 2007 are still with their current teams. I started with that year because those guys drafted in the first round in ’07 are all done with their rookie contract and have either earned their second contract with the team that saw so much promise or are off somewhere else, trying to get some other GM to believe what the first GM once did just five short years ago.

As we look at that 2007 draft that was considered weaker than 2003, but stronger than most, we find one All-NBA player (Durant) who is the cornerstone of his franchise. Of the other six guys that are still with their original teams, we have two quasi All-Stars (Noah and Horford), a solid starter (Conley, Jr.), and three fringe starters (Rodney Stuckey, Thaddeus Young, and Tiago Splitter). Of the lottery picks that are no longer with their teams, 4 are on their third team, three more will hit free agency this year with limited to no suitors, and one is out of the league (Acie Law).

Some players taken later in the first round have found success in other places; guys like Aaron Afflalo, Jason Smith, Jared Dudley, Nick Young, and Marco Belinelli, but the teams that originally drafted them got little to nothing for those players when they traded them. Other guys fetched their original team an asset or two, as Aaron Brooks yielded Houston Goran Dragic, Wilson Chandler was part of the Carmelo trade for the Knicks, and Javaris Crittenton was part of the infamous Gasol for Gasol swap.

Go back a year to 2006 and you will only find five guys who are still with their original team six years later. 2005- only three first round picks out of the 30 selected remain. So there you have it, 90 first round picks taken between 2005-2007 who should all be hitting their primes right now, and only 15 (16.6%) are with their original team. Lottery picks fare slightly better, as 10 out of 42 (23%) are still with the team that drafted them, but that means that the Hornets have about a 1 in 7 shot of both of their lottery picks this year being with the team in 6 years when they are hitting their prime.

This article is not meant to be depressing, quite the contrary actually. It is meant to show the big picture and to give weight to the cliche of “drafting the best player available.” Rosters change, as do team executives, coaches, and overall team philosophies. It is not about taking the guy that fits best now, but rather the guy who will have the most value around the league over time. This gives you options, and the more options you have the better. It might be stating the obvious, but when you look back on the guys who were traded from their original teams and actually got value in return, you will find quality big men and efficient scorers. Or, you can just take your chances and draft with your specific puzzle at this specific time in mind, but history says you are more likely to fail if you have your team in mind as opposed to the wants and desires of the league as a whole.

Other Tidbits:

– If you haven’t checked out Jason’s article on the lotto probabilities, do it now! And now that we know the results of the coin flip between the Hornets and Cavs (Cleveland won), we have a better idea of the Hornets floor when it comes to that pick. If the Hornets don’t have one of their combinations come up in the top three, they will likely have the 5th or 6th pick (as opposed to 4th or 5th). And having said that….

– The top six picks in this draft will be Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, MKG, Drummond, Harrison Barnes, and Bradley Beal- in some order, barring a prospect having an unforeseen off the charts workout or some team reaching for need. In that case, the two guys most likely to crack that top six are Austin Rivers or Damian Lillard, but just like Thursday’s NFL draft had a ‘top six’, so does this year’s NBA draft.

That doesn’t mean that those will be the top six players three years from now, it just means that those six guys sit at the top of most teams’ boards and will have the most value should a team want to trade out of that pick. Guys like Drummond and Barnes, however, do not fit Demps’s profile so it will be interesting to see what the Hornets do if they get the 5th or 6th pick and they have to choose between: Drafting one of those guys, trading the pick, or reaching for someone outside of that group. My bet is that they will look to deal- either by packaging both of those picks to move up or swapping the pick for a young vet.

– Quincy Miller announced this week that he will enter the NBA draft after most assumed he was heading back to Baylor. With solid workouts, Miller could sneak into the back end of the lottery, and depending on what the Hornets do with their first pick, he could be in consideration for the Hornets with their second pick. Body wise, he looks like Aminu but his strengths and weaknesses are different. Miller is less athletic and not as good of a rebounder, but has a more effective jump shot and can extend his range out to three-point range. Still, there are better prospects and selecting him at 10 is unlikely.

– Let’s settle this argument (that really isn’t a good argument) here and now. One camp says that the Hornets should have lost their last few games to increase lottery odds. The other says that you can’t predict what ping pong balls will pop up, so keep playing hard and let fate determine what pick you have because often times a team with fewer balls wins the lottery. One camp will be unneccessarily nasty to their other after May 30th, with thumbs on their noses shouting “I told you so!” on this site and other forums. But the results don’t matter in this case, as neither can be predicted, it is all about the process. The logic is simple:

More options is better than less options —— True

Better players are better than worse players —— True

The more players you have to choose from, the greater your chance at better players—– True

So, there is no debate that the higher your pick, the better it is because it gives you more guys to choose from, right? And nobody is going to debate that the draft lottery is set up in such a fashion that the worse your record is, the better your chance at getting a higher pick, right? So, based on the process alone, losing both games this week was the right thing to do if your goal was to maximize your chance at better players. By beating Golden State, Hornets lost 42 lotto combinations that could have gotten them the #1 pick and decreased their odds of getting a top 3 pick by over 10%.  Now, if you want to argue that winning, building culture/team chemistry, etc. is better than more ping pong balls, then that is a sound argument and one that you are entitled to, but the argument that less ping pong balls are better than more is a bad one, even if the team gets lucky on May 30th.

– Look for a special podcast coming soon where we will have ESPN’s David Thorpe on where we will talk to him about his selection of Gustavo Ayon as a first team All-Rookie, the Hornets other young players, and some of the prospects in the 2012 draft. Also, our podcast with Dell Demps has been pushed back to early June, as we will pick his brain in the weeks leading up to the draft.

– I will go a little deeper with my big board this week because I believe there is a chance the Hornets could trade out of the 10th spot if a team with multiple picks (Boston/Houston) and/or a team willing to take on a contract (Ariza/Okafor) wants to move up. Just like the 2007 draft, there will be guys taken in the late teens or 20’s that turn out better than some late lotto picks.

McNamara’s Draft Board

1. Anthony Davis- I still say the comparison is Duncan. People say “not as talented offensively”, but he is as talented as 19 year old Tim Duncan and more talented than Ewing or Hakeem coming out of college on offense .

2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist- I have a new comparison- Ron Artest, but flip the personality 180 degrees. Imagine Artest in his prime- non-stop motor, top notch defense, finisher in transition and around hoop. Artest was a top 15 player in the league for 2-3 years, MKG can be the same but for longer.

3. Thomas Robinson- Might be the best fit for what the Hornets do on the offensive end.

4. Bradley Beal- Belinelli might have earned a spot on the team next year, and if that is the case, it might be hard to get Beal on the court. Still, you take talent over fit.

5. Harrison Barnes- He has shown he can be special if he doesn’t have to do too much, can just focus on scoring. Defense is well above average. I see him a little different than most- my NBA comparison is Steve Smith.

6. Andre Drummond- Too much potential not to roll the dice if the other five are off the board.

7. John Henson- I talked about how he is growing on me in last week’s podcast, then this week Thorpe called him a perfect fit. I agree- almost have to take him if he lasts to #10.

8. Jared Sullinger- We did this a couple of years ago when we had a first team All-American in Kevin Love and a lanky, raw, high-upside 3/4 hybrid name Anthony Randolph both come out in the draft. Some people loved Randolph and even after their first NBA seasons, they said he would be a superior player to Love. We saw how that played out- you take production over “upside”. History will repeat itself with Sullinger vs. Perry Jones.

9. Austin Rivers- Tell me how he busts. I am not saying he will be a star, but there is no way I can see him being out of the league in five years. At worst he is Lou Williams, and that is pretty good. Swing for the fences with first pick and take the nice double with Rivers at 10.

10. Kendall Marshall- High turnover rate scares me a little, but Marshall is another guy whose floor is pretty high. Team leader that can run any kind of offense.

11. Tyler Zeller- Another safe pick who probably wont ever make an All-Star team, but he will at least give you what Jason Smith and Tyler Hansborough give their teams.

12. Jeremy Lamb- Scorers are always wanted in this league and Lamb can shoot the lights out. Again, not a need for the Hornets, but if they trade down for Rockets two picks, Lamb could be a luxury pick.

13. Terrence Ross- Another guy who can shoot the lights out and play solid defense, Ross also rebounds well for his position. Considerable amount of upside as well.

14. Royce White- Another guy I have higher than most, I ask- how does White fail (on the court)? I know the fear of flying is a problem and there are some character red flags, but his skill set is unique and he can effect the game in multiple ways. Guys like that don’t bust.

15. Marquis Teague- I know people will call me crazy for putting him over Lillard, and I know Lillard will go higher, but 20 guys went higher than Kenneth Faried this year, so that means nothing to me. Teague took time to adjust in the first half of the year, but showed his true colors over the final 15 or so games, and he will only get better in the pros. He will be better than his brother Jeff.

16. Terrance Jones- I know he will be much higher on other peoples’ lists, but I hate guys with inconsistent motors and I think Demps agrees with me. Reminds me of Antawn Jamison with less talent. Thanks, but no thanks.

17. Damian Lillard- He had a couple of chances to showcase his game against legit competition and he put up pedestrian numbers. Best comparison I have seen is Mo Williams, but a Mo Williams isn’t worth the 10th pick in this draft.

18. John Jenkins- Another guy who will be ranked way lower by others, but if you have an A+ skill set, you will have a 10 year career in the NBA. If you were to tell me that one guy in this draft becomes the next Dell Curry, Jenkins is the guy I would pick- eerily similar.

19. Perry Jones III- If he is still there at 19, I would take him. So, basically, I wouldn’t tae him.

20. Doron Lamb- See Jenkins.

21. Kevin Jones- You want the guy who could become the next Paul Milsap? Here he is.

22. Dion Waiters- Very poor man’s Dwayne Wade can give your second unit a spark. He will bust if teams try to make him a starter, but as a 6th or 7th man, he can be a difference maker.

23 and 24. Arnett Moultrie and Tony Wroten, Jr.- Both guys have top 10 talent, but suffer from low basketball IQ and an on again/off again motor.

25. Myers Leonard- You take a chance at this point because he’s seven feet tall and he can run.

Looking to the Future is a weekly column that can be found only on Hornets247.com every Saturday. For past columns, click here.


32 responses to “Looking to the Future: Drafting Commodities”

    • Terrible comparison. Glen Davis has nowhere near the offensive skill level of Sullinger. Sully is more comparable to Zach Randolph/Elton Brand than to Davis.

      • I think all three of those guys are comparable. Glen Davis has a very good skill set – I mean, a 6’4 PF wouldn’t be in the NBA without one – but brand and randolf coming out were MUCH better athletes than Sullinger. He is a “B” athlete, undersized, below the rim PF who will struggle to get his shot off on the NBA and hss been too undisciplined to keep his weight down and conditioning up. He could barely get the ball on the rim vs Robinson and Withy in the Final Four. He is not someone you build a national championship around. Sean May and tractor traylor also come to mind.

    • I agree. I think Terrence Jones will be the steal of the draft. The young man is so skilled. I use to think that superb skills was a attribute that could be taught. Now I believe much like physical talent it can be refined, but for the most part your either born with it or not.

  1. Here’s to a brighter future in the bayou. with the new owner, the hornets will certainly stay in New Orleans and they have a guy that owns a high class NFL team so hopefully the winning culture will seep into the Hornets as well.

      • McGee trade made sense because it cleared Ariza’s contract, no long term salary coming back, got a pick, and a flyer on a 24 year old center with tools. If he worked for Monty, then you have a true 5 that can anchor the team. If not, you let him walk. I liked that deal a lot. Too bad it didn’t work out

  2. I can’t see us drafting Beal under any circumstance. Unless we agree to let Gordon walk before the draft….not happening.

    • If Beal is the best player available when we draft we will. Once again this league is about talent not fit. We could always trade one or the other if they both pan out.

      That’s the whole point of this post. Talent trumps need in the NBA. Now in the NFL the ratio of talent to need is completely different. When you only have a handful of guys who will have any impact at all in any given draft the key is to make sure you come away with one of this few players. Reguardless of position.

      • As seen from this year, we only go as far a Gordon; therefore, we need scorers. Gordon has never been the picture of perfect health. So, Beal gives you an additional scorer (even if it’s for the second unit) and a viable (hopefully) replacement for Gordon if/when he gets hurt.

    • I think Beal can play the point in this system. He’s listed as a “combo” guard. He is basically a more athletic version of Jarrett Jack. Gordon will handle the ball most of the time off the pick n roll in our system, our PG will have to be guy who is a light’s out shooter. Guys like Marshall are not that.

  3. I also can’t see us trading #10 to move back for 2 picks (HOU/BOS) and as a result have 3 picks. We already have enough solid role players….we don’t need bodies, we need elite talent to go around what we already have. We are in the position where its quality over quantity now.

  4. That’s why you take the best available player instead of racing for a positional need. By the time he develops the roster will more than likely be remade. And I’ll be happy with any of the top 6 players.

  5. And I like kendal marshall our damian lillard with the second pick if we get a big with the first. If not, then I think zeller is the man.

  6. Love your top 3 and your comments. To me the next 6 are “beauty in the eye of the beholder” and will depend on draft order. (While draft picks tend not to stick with their team, teams will still draft based on need and system fit because of the “win now” mentality.)

    Don’t understand your Marshall turnover comment. He averaged 9.8 assists and a 3.5 to 1 assist to turnover ratio while playing 33 minutes and being the primary ball handler. His turnovers averaged 2.8/game.

    Rivers and Beal both had slightly less than a 1 to 1 assist to turnover ratio and averaged 2.3 and 2.1 turnovers per game in nearly identical average minutes while not being the primary ball handler. Rivers has those assist and turnover numbers as an NBA projected combo guard who will need to handle the ball in the NBA, yet you rate ahead of Marshall. And Beal, who will likely handle the ball in the NBA like Eric Gordon, is rated #4 with those numbers.

    I don’t get how Marshall’s superior numbers hurt him while Rivers and Beals worse number don’t seem to hurt them. Marshall is in the next 6 (3-9) for me but Rivers is not.

    I see the next 11 players (Rivers plus your 10-20 except Zeller) as also more or less equivalent. I see Zeller as a #20-30 pick whose upside is an average to below average second team player. Smith and Handbrough average a PER of 15-16 and average playing half the game; they could both end up as starters in the NBA. I don’t see Zeller as ever coming close to that. Hope the Hornets stay away from him.

    • See below with regards to Marshall’s turnovers.

      Agree with you on Zeller. Love your detailed comments, as always. Don’t have to always agree to have mutual respect. I really like when someone has a different opinion and shows evidence for their opinions as opposed to just saying, “You are wrong…. X player will be great!”

      Keep posting—- Mac

  7. If you don’t get `your guy’, getting someone else’s guy is the best thing to do. Totally.

    Assets play a big role on and off the court, and most of the assets in the NBA aren’t on `your’ team, no matter which team you are talking about.

    Big fan of this.

  8. Realistically, what would the #5-6 pick fetch in a trade? I feel like the best case scenario would be a guy like Al Jefferson or Chris Bosh (assuming the Heat don’t win the title and are looking to rebuild) or someone else who just doesn’t fit with his team anymore for whatever reason. But it will be someone with a big contract. In that case, is it really worth trading for that person and losing our cap space to win 46-49 games next year and probably not get much better? Now, if we could get a young guy like Steph Curry or DeMarcus Cousins I’d be all for it, but I don’t think that trade is out there

  9. Michael,

    I think your introduction is a bit misleading. Yes, there is a lot of turnover in the draft and often a pick doesn’t work out for the drafting team. Certainly most picks will not become All-Stars or even quality starters.

    But there is only one NBA champion that didn’t obtain at least one core piece through the draft (the 05 Pistons who were as fluky as can be). Most title contenders over the years have cores that were drafted, not picked up in free agency.

    The draft remains the best way to get a franchise cornerstone. Even if the odds are still long.

  10. Michael,

    Your links to Thorpe articles at ESPN don’t work because they are in the pay section. I have seen others sites get around this. Can you or someone copy them each to a comment here?

    • If I do that, that little TrueHoop partnership will go away, and the rest of the guys will kill me. Good news is that we will have Thorpe on a podcast soon, and if you dont know someone who has insider that can let you read the articles, here are some key points.

      With regard to Gustavo as First Team All-Rookie, Thorpe states:

      ” I know he’s probably more of a power forward and seems out of place next to the college stars listed here, but his game and talent are real. He’s a coordinated and fluid big man who knows how to play. I’d guess every other team wishes he was on their roster.

      He plays the game as a veteran, which in many ways he is (he’s 26 years old), and his learning curve to the NBA was fast. There have been many instances when he has proved to be a valuable frontcourt player, none more impactful than his 9-point, 10-board, 4-assist performance (with a block and a steal and no turnovers) in just 22 minutes to beat a Houston team that simply had to win the game to have a playoff shot.

      As the Hornets retool, Ayon projects to be a similar player to the Bulls’ Omer Asik. Know how Chicago has simply refused to include Asik in any trades? Consider Ayon almost as untouchable in the Big Easy.”

      With Regard to Henson as an ideal second pick:

      “Henson gives the Hornets the best of both worlds no matter who they take with their first pick, other than Davis. He’s going to be an impact defender for them, with chances to be special in that system. The Hornets were bottom 10 in rebounding and blocked shots in 2011-12, so he fills a need there. And he’s an underrated offensive player with significant upside, who will fit in immediately with the existing roster while learning to be a better shooter and scorer. He will also be able to pair with Landry (if he is brought back) against plenty of rotations the Hornets will face.”

      And as a shameless plug, I will say a subscription to ESPN the Mag includes Insider, and that is one of the best values there is out there (outside of the best FREE site on the web: Hornets247.com)

    • I know my opinion alone isn’t enough, so I have brought backup ammo:

      Per DraftExpress:

      “Marshall only averages 3.1 turnovers per-40 pace adjusted, but that number is slightly misleading due to how little he looks for his own offense, which cuts down the opportunities for turnovers in that area of his game relative to other players. Just accounting for possessions used, Marshall was the third most turnover prone prospect in our database this season, coughing the ball up on 27% of his possessions.

      As he readily admits, he is prone to taking too many risks with his passing game at times, trying to make homerun plays or leaving his feet before he makes a decision and relying on his vision to bail him out, which leads to some unnecessary turnovers. While this is something a coach will need to live with considering how brilliant of a distributer he is, this is something he’ll need to account for in the NBA where every defender will be bigger and more athletic, lowering the margin for error on all passing windows.”

      Bottom line is his raw turnover numbers are fairly low because he rarely attempts to make plays for himself, but when he does, he is the third worst prospect with regard to turnovers. That is my concern. And it’s not like I am bashing the guy- I have him ranked FAR higher than nearly any other prognosticator.

  11. First time poster, I think Kendall Marshal would be useless with the Hornets… he just wouldn’t have the ball in his hands enough to make any meaningful impact, plus there’s the turnovers. I say pick Damian Lillard whenever you bloody well can. Lillard took advantage of his team’s offensive scheme. He was not really a guy who went out and got his own shot, so he’d be a perfect pairing with Eric Gordon. With the earlier pick, the Hornets should select Robinson. Once again, Monty Williams will be able to integrate Robinson into what the team will be doing if Gordon stays in the team, namely the pick and roll. Robinson is also the best player available after #2(I am just really, really big on Drummond. Folks, you can’t criticize the drive of an 18 year old! It’s ridiculous! He probably never even had a real job before! plus the guys are right that MKG doesn’t bring enough to the table to override Aminu and Ariza). I would consider a draft of Robinson and Lillard a most terrific haul.

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