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How to commit to a second round draft pick, starring Dwayne Bacon

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Bacon is the first 2nd-round draft pick taken and kept by the Hornets since 2012, which speaks to the team’s often low valuation of the second round in recent years.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Florida State vs Xavier Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The intrigue of second round draft picks are in their potential value, despite that many of the players taken often don’t pane out. We brush that aside though, particularly when cases like Draymond Green, Isaiah Thomas, and Paul Millsap exist. All three (and a few others) are proof that All-Star caliber talent can be found in the second round, and maybe that’s part of the reason Charlotte Hornets fans are left frustrated by the team’s use, or rather, non-use of them.

Where misconceptions about who the Hornets draft exist, one that is all too real is how often Rich Cho and the Hornets front office trade away second round picks. Since 2011, the Hornets have traded three of them on draft night, and all involved the infamous phrase “cash considerations.” In 2013 and ‘16, they didn’t even have second rounders to trade.

Remember Jeremy Tyler? Traded to Golden State in 2011 for cash. How about Dwight Powell? Sent to Cleveland in 2014 for cash and Scotty Hopson (who never played for the team). And let’s not forget Juan Pablo Vaulet, who they took in 2015 and dealt to Brooklyn for 2018 and ‘19 second round picks, and, you guessed it, $$$$. Who wants to wager what will happen to those future seconds?

One thing to keep in mind is that only Powell remains in the NBA, as Tyler now plays in Japan, and Vaulet has yet to leave Argentina. These guys weren’t good enough to make it or even play in the league, which kind of speaks to the point that most second round picks don’t work out (though it should be pointed out that Vaulet is just 21, and could still make his way to the NBA at some point).

But there’s another side to this, and it’s that all three players appear have been selected with little to no thought, as if the front office had no intentions of ever keeping the picks. Maybe the team keeps more of these picks had the Greensboro Swarm existed before last season, and with the addition of the two-way contract, which allows teams to sign players to hybrid contracts that don’t count on the official roster, we may see more second rounders taken and kept. But until last Thursday, Charlotte has kept their second round pick and player just once under Cho — in 2012 to take Jeffrey Taylor, who didn’t finish out his rookie contract.

Maybe I’m making Cho’s case for him — second round picks tend not to pan out, so better to use them as an asset of sorts. Grab some cash, and more importantly, leave a roster spot open for a veteran who could actually make an impact, or to take a flyer on an undrafted prospect for a season on an unguaranteed contract. Makes sense, but its hard to be on board when the results have been more of a mixed bag to this point.

Whether the Hornets value second round picks or not became kind of a moot point heading into this offseason. With limited cap space, the team had little choice but to keep the pick and select a player. The lead up suggested they were serious as well; not only did they acquire Dwight Howard, but they swapped second round picks with Atlanta and moved up, a concept that appeared seemingly impossible prior to last week. And then it came time for Charlotte to draft, and they did, and then The Vertical’s Shams Charania unveiled our deepest fear:

Of course this was happening, why did we expect anything different? Except it was different this time, because instead of simply giving it away, the team traded back nine spots while also, drum roll please, receiving “cash considerations.” Maybe the latter was too much to handle, because Hornets twitter had a collective meltdown when the trade was announced, and Cho appeared to have suddenly lost the good graces of the fanbase simply for trading back in the draft.

But this speaks again to our valuation of second rounders. For many, the second round is low-risk search for a potential diamond. Even if a team constantly strikes out, they aren’t guaranteed to them for long so it isn’t all that detrimental long-term. But constantly giving them away is a non-committal practice that can be increasingly frustrating over time. It isn’t that these players probably won’t work out, it’s that the team isn’t even attempting to find out whether they will or not.

So by picking Dwayne Bacon, the Hornets have committed to their first second-round draft pick in over five years. Normally, the 40th pick wouldn’t be the center of attention, but for Hornets fans, Bacon is a rarity. The fact that he actually sat at the podium next to Cho and Malik Monk was a marvel in and of itself. It was so unfamiliar, Cho accidentally called him Dwyane Wade.

We now have two rookies to watch develop next season, and with Monk doubtful for summer league, a lot of focus will be on Bacon. We know he lead Florida State in scoring (averaging five more points a game than sixth overall pick and former teammate Jonathan Isaac). He isn’t overtly quick, but his size, strength, and change of pace allows him to get to the basket. He needs to improve his 3-point shot, but he is prolific from mid-range, where he shot 50 percent last season according to Draft Express. Additionally, he can operate and score in the pick-and-roll.

His lack of quickness could be his undoing as a scorer unless he can continue to score using his strength, a la Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, etc (not saying he’s going to be either, but those two weren’t known for beating defenders off a quick first step). While he has defensive tools, he wasn’t always committed at that end, which could spell trouble for him with Steve Clifford. His upside is likely limited, but despite his weaknesses, his size as a wing is unique to the Hornets roster, and could help him crack the rotation and become a solid second unit scorer.

Whether Bacon makes it in the league or not, he holds significance right now for being a second round pick taken by the Hornets. If he works out, those of us frustrated by the years of trading for cash can feel vindicated. If he doesn’t, at least we can say the team took a chance on him. More than anything, that seems to be what most of us want.