Thursday saw an avalanche of Woj bombs hit Twitter with a late flurry to cap one of the craziest NBA trade deadlines in recent memory. While the biggest domino to fall was undoubtedly Suns newcomer Kevin Durant, after a whirlwind 24 hours of nonstop activity, the prevailing sentiment among fans was … what’s with all the second-round picks?
It started with Jae Crowder’s layover in Brooklyn, employed by the Nets for all of 12 hours before his arrival in Milwaukee, traded to the Bucks in exchange for five second-round picks. Golden State would follow a similar blueprint, acquiring five second-rounders for draft bust James Wiseman, who will look to revive his career in Detroit. That draft haul would later come in handy with Golden State flipping those picks for old friend Gary Payton II, who spent last year with the Warriors before defecting to Portland in free agency.
What could possibly account for this unprecedented run on second-round picks, a commodity seen as largely expendable? There’s a myriad of explanations why this phenomenon might occur, with the most likely theory being that rebuilding teams like the Nets will take any asset they can get their hands on, stashing lottery tickets in hopes that one might eventually cash. Think of it as the spiritual successor to Sam Hinkie’s “Trust the Process” movement, a philosophy rooted in the belief that tanking will eventually reap positive results, but only if teams are patient enough to stay the course.
It’s not unheard of for second-round picks to blossom into stars—Nikola Jokic and Draymond Green find themselves on Hall-of-Fame trajectories while Malcolm Brogdon has emerged as a frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year honors. Still, the hit rate is exponentially lower than it would be in the lottery or late first round, which is why teams, especially ones with championship aspirations, assign them so little value.
For the Warriors, moving on from Wiseman was a financial no-brainer, alleviating their cap woes in one fell swoop. It’s the same reason why teams covet expiring deals, gladly absorbing a bloated contract now for the promise of cap freedom later. But that still doesn’t explain the league’s newfound obsession with second-round picks, an obscure currency that unwittingly became the star of the NBA trade deadline.