The Wizards, in their ongoing quest to be the most irrelevant American professional sports team, have now traded away every one of their own second-round draft picks between now and 2024. They’ve dealt three second-round picks in salary dump moves just this season; yesterday they dealt a future second-rounder to offload salary flotsam, in order to get under the dreaded luxury tax.
Second-round draft picks don’t usually yield star players, but that doesn’t mean they are without value. Good teams use them to snag role players and developmental prospects—Rodions Kurucs is a sometimes starter for the playoff-bound Brooklyn Nets after being taken in the second round of the 2018 draft; Monté Morris is playing huge and valuable rotation minutes for the Denver Nuggets after being taken in the second round of the 2017 draft; hell, two players who are starting for the Wizards this very season—Tomas Satoranský and Thomas Bryant—are former second-round draft picks. Dealing them here and there to sweeten a deal is standard NBA business; dumping a half-decade’s worth of second-round picks on short-term fixes and to clean up your own salary mess is plain bad business.
The Wizards, of course, engage in more bad business per season than most other NBA franchises do in a decade. Trading second-round picks is the least of it, but anyway it’s a go-to move of their cottage cheese-brained general manager. They traded all their picks in both the 2016 and 2017 NBA drafts; they traded their first-round pick in the 2014 draft and sold their second-round pick to the Lakers; they dumped two second round picks in the 2013 draft. In all, by the time 2024 rolls around they will have used ten second-round picks in twelve years to draft zero players. Fred Katz of The Athletic asked Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld about this reckless and short-sighted habit of discarding picks, and Grunfeld’s answer is, well, see for yourself:
“I’d say having the G League has something to do with it. We’ve gotten some good players from there. We’ve picked up Thomas Bryant off waivers, who’s better than most second-round picks you can get. I think Jordan McRae has done some good things for us. Chasson Randle,” he said. “We’ve never had a G League team before. And it was quite a bit of savings. By giving up the second-round pick, we saved a substantial amount of money, and we can use that money to buy a second-round pick if someone is available that we like. Second-round picks, as you know, during the draft are always being bought and sold. So, it gives us more flexibility from a financial standpoint to buy one if we see someone that we like.”
So Grunfeld’s explanation for why the Wizards are “freer to trade second-round picks than the average franchise” is that they have a team in the NBA’s developmental league. As Katz points out, 26 of the NBA’s 29 other teams also have developmental league teams. Every team in the league can buy second round picks; all but three of them have developmental teams. It seems more and more like the Wizards actively do not want to be taken seriously.