Chances A 2nd Round Pick Won't Suck?

NEW YORK - JUNE 26: NBA Commissioner David Stern shakes hands with number twenty draft pick for the Charlotte Bobcats, Alexis Ajinca during the 2008 NBA Draft at the Wamu Theatre at Madison Square Garden June 26, 2008 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Alexis Ajinca was picked 20th but has only played 37 games. And he was a first rounder. What happens to players chosen 10 to 40 picks later? ...Usually not much. (Source: Yardbarker.com)

This year the Knicks have no first round picks, although there have been rumors that they might try to buy a late one.  On the other hand, they do have two second-round picks, and yet another rumor (as mentioned by ESPN’s Chris Sheridan) has them possibly buying two more second-rounders.  Me, I can’t help but wonder why?  Many fans seem excited about it and love talking about these hidden diamonds in the rough that we might find to help us turnaround.  My first thought is that if we truly do want to get LeBron or some of the big names to come here, how excited are they going to be about a roster with five rookies (particularly since none of ‘em would be lottery picks or even top 25).  My second thought was: how often do 2nd rounders even end up being valuable players, let alone useable?

I decided to do a little research to answer that question.  I looked at the draft classes from the five years from 2000-2004.  Why those years?  I figured rookies sometimes take a little while to hit their stride, so this means everyone’s had at least 6 years to finally hit their groove.  If they haven’t come into their own yet, we can safely assume it ain’t gonna happen.  I didn’t want to go too much further back though ‘cuz it wouldn’t have included the influx of foreign players.  Plus the year 2000 is cool.  Oh, and one thing to note is that the Charlotte Bobcats joined the league in 2004, so that year we’ve got 30 second-rounders, but the earlier four had just 29 guys each.

What was my method of analyzing who was useable?  They had to have played a minimum of 246 games, aka the equivalent of three seasons.  If they didn’t reach that cutoff, I don’t discuss ‘em.  I don’t care why they didn’t reach that #, maybe they were great but they had injury problems or decided to play in Europe for more money or touches.  Doesn’t matter to me, all I care is figuring out the likelihood of a second-rounder having at least some sort of NBA career.

I further divided ‘em up into four categories: Bench Boys, Part-Timers, Serious Starters, and Max Men.  Bench Boys were those who’ve averaged less than 20 minutes per game.  Players were placed in the other categories in a more subjective manner.  Whoa, whoa, why are we suddenly leaving stat-land and getting all subjective and touchy-feely here?  Because some mediocre players land on mediocre teams and get tons of minutes that no one else would give them (for instance our own Chris Duhon).  While other players have lower career averages because it took them a longer time to establish themselves (like Trevor Ariza and Michael Redd).  I don’t care how long it took a player to become valuable, but more how good they became.

Thus, Part-Timers are guys who were possibly starters during some year, but it didn’t last and management probably even knew at the time that they weren’t the long-term solution (and most other teams would’ve likely brought them off the bench).  Examples of this are Steve Blake and Earl Watson.  Serious Starters are guys who anyone would start, like Luis Scola or Ariza.  Ironically, one guy I chose to put on this level (Anderson Varejao) doesn’t actually currently start for his own team.  Max Men are guys who probably have been an All-Star multiple times, maybe even an Olympian, and at their peak were likely offered a maximum or near-max contract.  The only ones at this level are Gilbert Arenas, Michael Redd, and Carlos Boozer.  Yes, Arenas and Redd have suffered injuries and are no longer worth the max, but at one time they were easily the top dogs on their team.

So without any further ado, here we go.  Each players is followed by the # of games they played and their minutes per game:

2000 – (7 useable players)
Bench Boys
Jake Voskuhl – 450 games, 14.3 minutes/game
Eddie House – 661, 17.3
Eduardo Najera – 566, 18.7
Brian Cardinal – 356, 15.7
Jason Hart – 341, 15.5
Part-Timers
Marko Jaric – 447, 25.2
Max Men
Michael Redd – 568, 20.3

2001 – (8)
Bench Boys
Loren Woods 215, 11.3
Jarron Collins 514, 16.3
Brian Scalabrine – 474, 13.8
Part-Timers
Trenton Hassell – 644, 25.3
Earl Watson 676, 23.5
Bobby Simmons 435, 25.5
Serious Starters
Mehmet Okur – 604, 29.5
Max Men
Gilbert Arenas – 465, 37.3

2002 – (8)
Bench Boys
Roger Mason – 346, 19.2
Dan Gadzuric – 483, 15.1
Darius Songalia – 485, 18.9
Part-Timers
Ronald Murray – 487, 22.7
Matt Barnes – 444, 21.3
Rasual Butler – 557, 24.6
Serious Starters
Luis Scola – 246, 29.2
Max Men
Carlos Boozer – 510, 32.7

2003 – (10)
Bench Boys
Jason Kapono – 458, 19.0
Luke Walton – 430, 18.6
Matt Bonner – 430, 18.3
James Jones – 366, 18.9
Part-Timers
Steve Blake – 499, 25.7
Willie Green – 422, 21.8
Zaza Pachulia – 500, 20.1
Keith Bogans – 504, 22.8
Kyle Korver – 517, 25.1
Serious Starters
Mo Williams – 479, 30.5

2004 – (4) – #picks goes up to 30
Bench Boys
Royal Ivey – 378, 13.1
Part-Timers
Chris Duhon – 446, 28.5
Serious Starters
Anderson Varejao – 388, 24.1
Trevor Ariza – 383, 23.1

Those are the names, now let’s look at the larger #s more closely to determine the chances of a second-rounder being useful.  146 draft picks.  37 were useable.  16 Bench Boys.  13 Part-Timers.  5 Serious Starters.  3 Max Men.

Useable?
Out of 146 draft picks, 37 were useable.  That’s a 25.3% chance.  Not bad.  It means if we get four second-rounders, chances are good one of ‘em will at the very least manage to get spot-duty in the NBA for several years.

A definite starter?
Honestly, the line between Bench Boys and Part-Timers is pretty slim, and it could be easily argued that some Boys should be PTers. However, the bottom line is that none of ‘em would definitely get starter minutes if you randomly dropped them on any team. Therefore, our 5 Serious Starters and 3 Max Men give us only Eight Men In. Or slightly under a 5.5% chance you find an eventual starter in the second round. Yikes.

So if we do indeed buy two more second rounders, the most likely possibility is that only one of the four guys will even be useable.  Can we waste four roster slots to wait and find out which one it is?  Particularly since there’s more than a 78% chance that the one guy won’t ever be starter material.

I’m thinking we’d best stick with the idea of using free agency to improve our team…

Tags: Carlos Boozer Chris Duhon Gilbert Arenas Luis Scola Mehmet Okur Michael Redd Second Round Draft Picks Trevor Ariza

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