Pick swap – Hawthorn 53 and 58 for GWS 48 #AFLtrades

A simple win-win swap of picks, not a “loophole”, not evidence of a broken system.

Hawthorn value in: 690 points (pick 48)

GWS value in: 1130 points (pick 55 – 585 points, pick 58 – 545 points)

Verdict: theoretically unfair but practically win-win. GWS get back 1.63 points of value for what they give away. However, the Hawks probably wouldn’t use half the value they gave away anyway, and GWS’ actual benefit is much lower (1.29 points back) because they won’t use the picks live.

Hawthorn are giving away two mediocre picks for one slightly better one, with the likelihood that they were only going to use one pick here anyway (they also have pick 15 and 18).

There’s been some grumbling on social media that this represents a “loophole” whereby GWS can generate more pick value by treating draft picks as a tradeable commodity. This is because picks 55 and 58 are worth more bid-matching points than pick 48. For GWS it represents a modest upgrade of 75 points, or enough to meed a bid at pick 50. This might help GWS secure Eastlake product Harry Himmelberg as well Hopper and Kennedy. It’s a pretty slight upgrade, but it’s a win for them regardless, while also being a win for Hawthorn.

This is what trade period is all about – clubs generating value through the judicious exchange of commodities (picks and players) to meet needs.

This isn’t a “loophole”, it’s just about clubs having different needs in a market. GWS need more picks, Hawthorn need less, so they swap 2 for 1.

Now, the thing with the AFL’s draft pick value chart for academy and father-son selections is that it gives every pick an explicit values. And once you assign every pick a number, if you add two picks together they will equal some single better pick. That’s just the additive property of integers – numbers sum together to produce bigger ones. Under the AFL’s draft chart system, picks 55 and 58 add up to pick 43 as a completely fair trade. The difference between pick 43 and 48 isn’t a cause for intervention or panic, it’s just the fuzziness caused by who has what picks available and who has what priorities.

This is the sort of trade that could have happened before the market bidding system – if GWS intended to take more late picks and Hawthorn only wanted their minimum 3. GWS need more picks because of the Academy system in this case, but that’s not an inherent requirement for this sort of trade to occur. For example, in 2013 Collingwood traded 3 picks for 2 of West Coast’s picks in order to change their draft position from 11 to 6. West Coast wanted local boy Dom Sheed and figured he’d still be there at 11. Collingwood presumably wanted Scharenberg who would not drop to 11. The clubs had different needs, so exchanged picks accordingly. Collingwood gave up three picks for two, but got a better first pick as a result. It was a positive-sum game, both clubs got what they wanted.

In actuality, the value of 55 and 58 is substantially more than 48, not just the slight upgrade suggested by the Academy system. The benefit the Giants are getting is a lot smaller in academy points than it would be with the value of the live picks.

55 and 58 as live picks means two chancey players, both of whom have a possibility of producing games for their club. They have expected outputs of 58 and 54 games respectively. That’s compared to one pick at 48 with a slightly higher expected output (69 games). By pick 48 there’s little premium available, so all three picks are, in technical terms, a “crapshoot”. If Hawthorn wanted more live picks this would be a bad move for them because they lose one roll of the dice.

But what this trade illustrates is that value has a context. Hawthorn don’t value pick 58, so they’re happy to use it to improve the odds on their third pick in the National Draft. It’s not a win-win because of the Academy system itself, it’s a win-win because one club needs more picks than the other one does.

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