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Thinking Moneyball About The Houston Rockets Draft

I was a stupid baseball fan in 2002. The extent of my baseball draft knowledge extended to the first few picks overall, maybe a local college player or two, and whoever else the television broadcast and newspapers covered over the next few days.  Keep in mind, this is about two years before I discovered Baseball Prospectus' annuals, so to say my baseball opinion was amateur is more than fair.

The 2002 draft was special. The Pittsburgh Pirates were the only team choosing ahead of my Devil Rays, and somehow, for whatever reason, they decided to choose Bryan Bullington. This allowed the  Rays to select B.J. Upton. A high school shortstop who some compared to Derek Jeter, filling my naïve heart with glee. Surprisingly, this post isn't all about Upton, like many of my others are. Nope, this was also the infamous Moneyball draft.

Oh no, I'm not going to write about the players involved or anything else beaten over the head a million different times. Nope. I do want to compare my feeling of intrigue from last night's NBA draft to spectators of the A's draft though.

Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey is a sabermetrician. For that reason alone, I pay attention to what his team does. Basketball sabermetrics intrigue me, even if I'm not immersed in the topic like with baseball.  So last night, I flip the draft on in the early moments of round two, and I leave it on as I do some writing for other sites.

Then I hear it, again and again. "I have a trade to announce, the Houston Rockets have acquired ‘x', pick ‘y' for cash considerations and a future second round pick."

I swear it seemed to happen every other pick.


Around the time of the NFL draft I recall reading a post, perhaps by Sky himself, about the value of second round draft picks. The money spent on first round picks was more excessive than the talent differentials. Naturally, the New England Patriots were the team trading into the second round willingly and often while others scrambled to get into round one.  The Patriots have discovered that second round picks are undervalued much in the way the A's found that draft picks were undervalued.

Connecting the dots from this point on isn't difficult.

I don't know the answer to this question, and honestly I probably won't spend the time researching it for myself, but I do wonder out loud: how valuable are second round draft picks in the NBA? Speaking from my knowledge, albeit limited, I know that second round picks do not carry the price-tag or guaranteed contract of their first round brethren. I also know that acquiring a second round pick requires only an open checkbook, at most.

Left without a first and second round pick to begin the night, the Rockets traded into the second round three times. The players themselves aren't too relevant, the process is. What the Rockets did was essentially buy three lottery tickets. They secured potentially useful players for cash, which as far as I know will not count against their salary cap figure, and for a ‘future second round pick'. Considering the price of a second round pick seems minimal, why do I have the feeling trading a future one isn't a big loss?

I have the feeling Morey may know something the rest of the league doesn't know.