Looking to the Future: Drafting Commodities

Published: April 28, 2012

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.



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