More is More: Why Philadelphia Wants Your Picks
USA Today Sports
The thing about this year’s trade deadline is that it was revealing for what it was rather than what it wasn’t. No “marquee” players moved, but a few good ones did. There were no blockbusters. But one team, the Philadelphia 76ers, traded many of its players for barely any players and a ton of draft picks. I don’t believe the days of expiring contracts having value are entirely over; every GM operates differently, so to assume that they will unanimously agree on a value of anything, including and especially second-round picks, would be ridiculous. But what Sam Hinkie did on deadline day — amassing nine (yes, nine, or 9) future second-round picks — reinforces that second-rounders rightly have value, and much more of it to a rebuilding team than an expiring contract.
Their worth, obviously, lies in their cost. No player chosen between picks 30 and 60 will make more than $1 million in a season during their rookie deal, most of which isn’t guaranteed, anyway. Chandler Parsons, for example, is stuck making $926K this season, per Basketball-Reference. His case is unfortunately considered rare, however, for a second-round pick. Parsons is one of the better players at his position in the league, and there aren’t many second-rounders who are putting up the types of numbers he is. Jae Crowder, by comparison, is making $788K this season, and Dallas has the option to pay Crowder $915K next season. While I’m not privy to that type of information, there’s not much reason to believe Dallas will not exercise that option unless it needs the roster space. He might only be an average player, but money talks louder than everything.
Believe it or not, some scouting departments are stronger than others, and the biggest reason many second-round picks do not make it in the NBA is because the people drafting them chose the wrong guy to begin with. Just because a player is drafted does not mean he belongs in the league, and just because a team has a draft pick does not mean it knows what to do with it. I’m putting my faith in Hinkie and the 76ers scouting department. I find it impossible to believe that, with five second-round picks in the deepest draft in a decade, the 76ers will screw this one up. The odds are in their favor. For every three nobodies in the second round, there are two Jae Crowders. And for every eight nobodies, there is one Chandler Parsons. Philadelphia is gambling — though “calculating” is probably the better word — that it can identify that player. Plenty of teams throughout NBA history have done it.
What if they fail? Again, the good thing about second-rounders is that their contracts can be easily shredded. This summer, Philly could wind up drafting five Jae Crowders, but I don’t see how that could be considered a bad thing. I can guarantee the 76ers would rather have three Crowders than one Jan Vesely. And all five of those second-round rookies will make COMBINED what Sacramento is paying Travis Outlaw to do exactly what Crowder is doing in Dallas. Want cheap labor? The second round is full of it.
The most conceivable outcome is that Philly brings all of these guys to training camp, keeps two or three, and cuts the others. But it beats what most teams do, bringing in the same guys summer after summer knowing well in advance that they don’t have a shot to make the team. Renaldo Balkman is done in the NBA, so why waste a camp spot on him when you can instead bring in one of your own guys? Worst-case scenario is they end up hopping on another roster next year, or they work on their game while playing for a D-League team (or in Turkey). This is America, after all. Bringing in more players who are fighting to start their NBA careers creates quite a bit of competition, competition that could easily spread up and down the roster, especially on one as young and ill-equipped as Philadelphia’s at present. Players who are trying to revive their careers are trying to revive them for a reason, after all. Players desperate to earn their first contract will work harder. And if they don’t, they’re not making guaranteed money, anyway. We don’t even need to go into how having five second-round picks frees up cap space for teams to surround their young guys with max-level players. That’s a given.
Philly isn’t reinventing the wheel, here. A strong scouting department can find Manu Ginobili at pick 57 or Parsons at pick 37. If Philadelphia’s talent evaluators are as strong as Hinkie’s deadline activity leads me to believe, the 76ers are about use the draft to take advantage of the same teams that have taken advantage of their poor roster in the standings all season. And they’re going to do it on the cheap.