While they currently only have the 57th overall pick, the Clippers could look to buy a second round pick in next Wednesday’s NBA Draft to give them another shot at adding a prospect. After all, the 57th pick has a pretty low yield rate–in the last 5 years, 25 players selected 56th-60th haven’t done a ton in the NBA. Eleven of them have never even made an appearance, and of the fourteen who have, most were little-used two-way contract players. The only two guys I see at first glance who actually played a consistent rotation role were Abdel Nader and former Clipper Tyrone Wallace.
Nader has become a replacement-level forward who should get a minimum salary deal in free agency this season, while Wallace was a fan favorite for the Clippers but quickly flared out of the league, being cut by the Clippers, Wolves, and Hawks in 2019. Diamonds in the rough happen sometimes. Isaiah Thomas became an All-Star after going 60th in 2011. Ramon Sessions had a solid career as a backup point guard after being the 56th pick in 2007. The 2005 draft had Amir Johnson and Marcin Gortat, both who had long and successful careers, go back to back at 56th and 57th. Luis Scola, who went 56th in 2003, rounds out the list of bottom-5 picks who had extended NBA careers. That’s it for this century.
That’s all to say that pick 57 on Wednesday night has a 50/50 chance of either never making the league or turning into a two-way player who provides depth in a few regular season games, with really, really low odds of becoming anything more than that. If the Clippers want to carry a rookie on their 15-man roster this season, they probably won’t find a deserving one at pick 57. Buying a pick earlier in the 2nd round is far more likely to yield a player worthy of a minimum deal, allowing whoever they select at 57 to replace Johnathan Motley on a two-way contract.
Each team is allowed to give and receive up to $5.6M in trades each year, with the salary cap year resetting when free agency opens after the draft. The Clippers have paid out cash in two trades this salary cap year, to acquire Moe Harkless last summer and to dump Derrick Walton Jr’s contract to the Hawks last season. As a result, they have about $4.2M in the war chest to purchase a pick or two next week. Based on past transactions, I’d expect that a pick in the early or mid 30s could cost the full $4.2M amount, while picks later on could cost less and perhaps leave LAC with room to buy two picks or save some money–not that saving it does a ton of good from a fan’s perspective. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it situation, with LAC’s annual $5.6M allowance resetting next week, so as long as LA’s scouts have their eyes on someone in the 30s and 40s I’d expect them to splurge in an attempt to maximize their chances of finding homegrown talent without first round picks for much of the next decade.
LAC also has a pretty good track record of being willing to make these purchases since Steve Ballmer bought the team. They had multiple picks in 2018 (12 and 13), and in 2019 they flipped a future 1st to pick Mfiondu Kabengele at the end of the 1st round before taking Terance Mann in the second. But in the 2017 draft, without any picks to their name, the Clippers purchased picks 39 ($3.2M) and 48 ($2M) to select Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell, respectively. In 2015, the Clippers spent $600,000 to purchase the 56th pick and take Branden Dawson. Those moves haven’t yielded an important player for the Clippers yet, but second round picks are always long shots to become solid NBA players. Every additional gamble they take increases the odds that, at some point, they’ll end up finding a useful player in the second round.
To read more about the players the Clippers could be looking at in the second round, check out Robert Flom’s statistical breakdown of this year’s guard and wing classes. Robert’s post on this year’s big men will be out Monday.
The second round of the NBA Draft is always chaotic and unpredictable. Already, 20 of the 30 picks in this year’s second round have been traded over the course of the last several years, several multiple times. It’s a safe bet that plenty of them will move (again) on draft night, and utilizing otherwise expendable second round picks to sweeten bigger deals or secure future assets is probably more appealing than the Clippers’ cash. So while it’s still useful to survey the teams that have multiple selections and packed rosters and could be looking to sell when they’re on the clock Wednesday night, keep in mind that many of these teams might see selling their pick to LAC as a last resort if better deals that they’re angling for don’t come together.
Teams with 3 or more picks:
- Minnesota Timberwolves: picks 1, 17, 33
Very few teams are ever in a position to carry three rookies, and the Wolves are looking to break their playoff drought next year with D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, and the top pick in this year’s draft. Rumor has it that they’d like to trade up for a second lottery pick, so #33 could get thrown into that deal. If not, I expect them to move the pick to avoid rostering a third rookie, but 33 might not be a strong candidate to sell. The higher a pick is, the more likely it is that a team will come in with an offer of a future second round pick (or two), and while some cash-strapped owners might prefer cash to a future fringe asset, teams are only allowed to receive a total of $5.6M in cash and the Wolves have already received $4M this season. Technically, the Clippers (or another prospective buyer), could promise to trade next year’s cash (the new salary cap year begins the day free agency opens) for the player’s draft rights a few days after the draft (the Clippers did this with Jawun Evans in 2017), but that ties up both teams’ tradeable cash for the 2021 deadline and draft.
- Golden State Warriors: picks 2, 48, 51
Even though they’ve got financial issues trying to pay for a new stadium and massive payroll during a revenue shortfall, I have a hard time seeing the Warriors sell a pick, especially to the Clippers. Golden State is going to look to move the 2nd overall pick, whether in a draft day deal or later on during the off-season, and they have a bunch of open roster spots to fill with very limited tools to do so. I think they’ll make both of these selections (or if they don’t, it’ll be a productive trade, not a pick sale) and give those guys shots at making the roster or nabbing two-way deals.
- Charlotte Hornets: picks 3, 32, 56
The Hornets’ roster is desolate enough that they should really take a pick as high as 32 and try to find a rotation-caliber player. Once we get to 56, we’re into “wait and see if the guy you like goes undrafted” territory–especially with the Clippers picking right after them at 57. Could LAC buy pick 56 and go back-to-back? Could they give Charlotte a little cash to swap picks and move up 1 spot to make sure they get a prospect they really like? Sure, but it probably isn’t the best use of resources.
- New York Knicks: picks 8, 27, 38
The Knicks are always a little hard to get a read on because of how poorly they’ve been managed for as long as anyone can remember. They only have 6 guaranteed contracts for next year, though their team options and non-guaranteed deals could fill up the roster quickly. The 38th pick isn’t an obvious potential sale, especially since the Knicks had a low payroll last year and are set up for an inexpensive roster again in 2020-21, but it could still be an option if they’re planning on hanging on to some of their veterans from last year and don’t want to commit three roster spots to rookies.
- Sacramento Kings: picks 12, 35, 43, 52
The Kings are a really curious case, as they’re one of a number of Western Conference teams that hope to be on the cusp of competing for a playoff spot while realistically having a difficult path to the 8th seed (the league expanding the play-in tournament this season helps those hopes be more realistic). It would be pretty surprising if they used all four of these picks, and pick 52 isn’t very appealing, so 35 and 43 are both realistic sale candidates. Alternatively, the Kings could try to package these selections to move up, but I’m not sure where a deal like that materializes.
- New Orleans Pelicans: picks 13, 39, 42, 60
The Pelicans are another team that’s looking to get serious in the Western Conference playoff hunt. Their roster is young, but most of their young players are important rotation pieces, leaving them some flexibility to add prospects to their third string while also adding veteran depth to balance their youth. Pick 60 is unlikely to yield a year-one roster player or any return in a trade, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they move one of their earlier 2nds. The Pelicans took $1M from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis trade, but that leaves them plenty of space for incoming cash from selling one of these picks.
- Boston Celtics: picks 14, 26, 30, 47
Danny Ainge is notorious for milking his assets for everything they’re worth and being stingy in trades–I’d be shocked if the Celtics moved even a late pick that they have no use for for just cash. I have a feeling that multiple of these picks will be on the move, but they won’t be for sale.
- Philadelphia 76ers: picks 21, 34, 36, 49, and 58
Any time you head into a draft with this many options, all sorts of trades are going to be on the table. Daryl Morey could be looking to make a splash in his first big day in charge of the Sixers, so they might do any number of things. Once we get into the second round, though, I’m betting that some of these picks–at least #49–are still around, and the Sixers have the most expensive roster in the league and just gave big new contracts to hire Morey and head coach Doc Rivers. Philly’s ownership group has clearly spent money on their massive payroll and new staff, but they sold the 39th pick to the Clippers in 2017 and I’d expect they see having 4 second round picks this year as an opportunity to make money again.
- Chicago Bulls: picks 4 and 44
The Bulls have sold second round picks before, and just don’t have a ton of roster space this off-season. They’ve got 12 contracts already on the books with the restricted free agencies of Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, and Shaquille Harrison potentially bringing them to 15–before adding their 4th overall pick and any free agent acquisitions. I think that selling pick 44 could totally be in play here.
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