The Second Round Debate: Youth or Experience?

If nothing else, Tiny Gallon has got me thinking.

While debating whether or not I felt like he’d be worthy of taking a flier on in the second round, I got down to business and did a little research. My question heading into the fact finding mission was, “is there any evidence that taking a flier on early entry candidates in the second round is a better strategy than drafting seniors?” My logic of late has added up like so: seniors played four years in college, probably produced at an above average level (or at least average) and should be more ready to plug in to the lineup right away. I’ve been a believer that younger players drafted in the second round fell to the second round for a reason and probably wouldn’t produce immediately or possibly ever in the NBA.

So it was much to my surprise that my results gave no indication that my initial theory was true. Since 2004, 83 seniors have been drafted in the second round against 37 underclassmen (high school players not included since they are ineligible in this year’s draft). Of the 83 seniors, 29 have played fewer than 10 games in the NBA (35%), with 25 never having played a game in the NBA.

As far as underclassmen go, seven (19%) have played less than 10 games in the league, with only four not having played a game in the league. The numbers certainly favor drafting an underclassmen as far as getting a player who will stick around in the league.

Not only are underclassmen likely to stick around a while longer, but they also average 3.84 minutes more per game than seniors drafted in the second round and have a PER that is 1.22 points higher. Freshmen, with a very small sample size of just Trevor Ariza, DeAndre Jordan and Bill Walker have all fared especially well, with each of those three being members of their respective teams rotation by the end of the season. Ariza obviously has the benefit of a few more years and a few more teams over Jordan and Walker, but we know how things have turned out for a Ariza who appears to be apart of Houston’s core going forward.

Note: Number on right indicate the freshmen performances

This is all good news for Tiny Gallon, Lance Stephenson, Willie Warren and the others that appear likely to fall to round two. Perhaps the chase for a guaranteed multi-year contract is an enticement for those younger players who fall out of round one. It’s long been the standby that falling to round two is a death blow for early entry candidates, but the numbers would certainly suggest otherwise. If a player is good enough to come out and get drafted, they’re probably worth keeping an eye on. Players who have stayed for four years seem to have stayed in school for so long for a reason if they’re only second round candidates. There are exceptions to both rules of course, notably players like Chris Taft, Richard Hendrix and Jameson Curry who each have still yet to earn much time (if any) in the league, while the Marcus Thornton’s and Chris Duhon’s get consistent minutes. But trends exist for a reason.

Teams would be wise to look to younger players that fit their systems in round two.

Categories: Draft Talk

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1 Comment

  1. Good stuff. I’d be curious to see the distribution of mpg/PER for both groups as well–I would have guessed the youngsters would be higher risk/higher reward with fatter tails to the distribution, while the seniors would have a narrower profile. But it’s interesting that by the mpg standard the underclassmen were apparently lower risk as well.