Like I mentioned the other day, somewhere before the end of the first round most teams stop taking the draft seriously. The underlying assumption is that if a player drops past pick number twenty it is unlikely that he will become a good pro. This is counterfactual thinking, as every year there are numerous picks taken later in the draft that turn into valuable players. Therefore the easiest way to take advantage of the draft is usually to exploit the perception that later picks cannot turn into very good players. The goal in the late first round and the second round should be to identify players that you think will be effective in the NBA and then to draft them.
Late first rounders and second rounders are all very, very cheap assets to have on your roster. You can lock them in contractually for several years for a relative pittance, especially compared to their veteran counterparts. This means you are allowed the luxury of screwing up late picks. Let's say you have three picks in a draft, and all come well after the lottery - you can hit on only one of your three picks and still consider it a successful draft. That's because these later picks are so inexpensive. Those three drafted players combined will only cost you maybe three million dollars a year - essentially the equivalent of one proven, mediocre veteran. Late picks are so valuable because they are so cheap - and they have the potential to turn into superb players.
It is always smart to have a few of these later picks on your roster. They are too cheap and attractive an asset to not have on a team. But what NBA team really does this? Who cultivates late picks really well? San Antonio? Houston? Sacramento? Anybody? No team does it exceptionally. We have to start paying more attention to this "boring" part of the draft, because there is incredible undiscovered value there.
Every draft there are talented players waiting to be picked and thrown into the right situation. The key is finding those guys and then trying to give them a decent opportunity. Sometimes it's obvious. For instance last year it was shocking Kenny Faried lasted on the board as long as he did. Here was a guy who was truly a superior college rebounder, and led the country in PER and WS/40 his senior year (his junior year he was third and first, respectively.) Apparently that didn't matter to most teams. This season he had one of the highest rookie Player Efficiency Ratings ever. He lasted to pick #22.
It usually is not quite as obvious as in the case of Faried, but every year there are players similar to him. Some late 2012 first round picks and secound rounders will turn out to be very good. In the next post we will go over a few possibilities of who that could be.