Atlanta Hawks: Do they value 2nd rounders more than 1st?


The Atlanta Hawks miss a lot with their 1st round picks. Would it be all that farfetched to think that they see more value in their 2nd round picks?

The Atlanta Hawks have historically been one of worst teams in the NBA when it comes to drafting in the first round. They traded away the rights to Pau Gasol for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, picked Josh Childress over Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala, and most painfully selected Marvin Williams over Deron Williams and Chris Paul.

That occurred in a different era of the front office, but similar things have happened during the Mike Budenholzer era in Atlanta. They traded away 2014 first round pick Adreian Payne to the Minnesota Timberwolves after he played sparingly last season. Atlanta miraculously acquired the 15th overall pick again in 2015 only to select Kelly Oubre for the Washington Wizards only to trade their selection Jerian Grant to the New York Knicks for Tim Hardaway, Jr., who plays sparingly for the Atlanta Hawks in 2015-16.

It sounds a little crazy, but do the Atlanta Hawks find more value in the second round of NBA Drafts than with what they can get in the mid-to-late part of the first round? In all honesty, they might and here’s why.

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Atlanta has made the Eastern Conference Playoffs each of the last eight seasons and have earned a mid-to-late first round pick by not qualifying for the NBA Draft Lottery. While good players fall out of the lottery all the time, the odds of getting a starter outside of the lottery is pretty rare. The problem with the first round is its perception. Fans and in some instances general managers overvalue what a team can get with a 15th to 30th overall draft selection in the NBA.

In the NFL, general managers are wildly expected draft a Pro Bowler anywhere in the first round, 1st to 32nd. It’s more likely to occur in the NFL as teams have seven rounds of picks and 53-man rosters to compile. The NBA gets two rounds and a 15-man roster, only 13 of whom can play in any given game.

Is it the skewed perception of an NBA first rounder? Is it that they receive guaranteed contracts, while second rounders often can go play overseas or spend a year plus in the D-League? Is there actually more value in the second round than we realize? Yes, for those reasons.

If you look at the last three drafts of the Atlanta Hawks, Mike Muscala, Lamar Patterson, and Walter Tavares were all second-round picks and have been on the 15-man roster for Atlanta, all of whom played overseas immediately after being acquired by the Hawks draft day.

Since the Atlanta Hawks don’t have a D-League team, it is significantly easier to stash and store players overseas and not subject their contracts immediately out of the gate to the NBA Salary Cap. They will get more minutes playing against better competition overseas than what they would face in the D-League and could hasten the player development process to become contributors within a few years of being drafted.

Second round picks are as definite in what a player can become, thus are possibly more valuable. Two of the Atlanta Hawks’ best players are former second round picks in Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver. They’ve accomplished more in the NBA than most lottery picks ever do.

While Atlanta will target certain players they really like in the middle of the first round like they did with Dennis Schroder in 2013, they may actually be on to something with their player development program. Muscala and Patterson were more ready to play as rookies than some mid-first round picks like Payne who rode pine.

I’m not saying that traded for Tim Hardaway, Jr. was necessarily the right move, but Atlanta could afford to take that risk knowing that they should have had the 29th pick instead of the 15th because of their rights to swap picks with Brooklyn Nets. Hardaway was one of three players Budenholzer like a lot in the middle of the first round in 2013, the other two being Schroder and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Next: Paul Millsap: Atlanta Hawks' 2015 1st quarter MVP

In essence if Atlanta can continue to hit with their second round picks as well as they have in the Budenholzer, then they can effectively take the pressure of having to do well in the middle of the first round and can navigate the draft more creatively than most teams. Who knows, maybe Marcus Eriksson or Dimitrios Agravanis are the next two Atlanta second rounders to hit?

Championship teams find niches in the system to exploit that others fail to realize. One of the easiest areas to exploit is in the back-end of drafts. San Antonio does it and in the NFL the Seattle Seahawks, the New England Patriots, and the Green Bay Packers all do it. Atlanta is being methodical with their draft selections, as they aren’t firing blind in the second round like many teams typically do. This is how a team builds depth. Let’s Go Hawks!