2010 Draft Impacted by Impending Lockout
There’s an old saying that some people can’t see the forest for the trees – i.e. they focus so much on the big picture that they miss the little details. When it comes to the NBA Draft, it’s often the opposite. People spend so much time looking at the trees (a handful of players comprising the top lottery talent) that they lose sight of the forest (the draft’s true depth).
A combination of factors have come together to make this one of the deepest Drafts in years. Some may claim it’s a weak draft because there’s only one “sure thing” (John Wall) and the “elite” talent drops off dramatically after the top 4 or 5 players. That, after all, is the traditional measuring stick. However, since the NBA Draft doesn’t end after those players are picked a better measure of depth is just how deep the actual total talent goes (novel idea – I know). Are players that normally would be drafted in the first round falling to the early second? Are guys that would easily be second round picks most years getting pushed into the territory of the undrafted? That certainly seems like that will be the case for 2010.
The question of just why this is the case this year is multifaceted.
The 2010 NBA Draft pool set records for the highest percentage of early-entry players to stay in the draft (62.5%) and the most total underclassmen who stayed in (50). The easiest explanation for this boom is the NCAA’s decision to move the deadline for early entry-players to withdraw from the draft and return to school. This year deadline moved from mid-June to early May. This cut the time for players to hear opinions, train, and ultimately decide their pro futures. Some of those who were mentally teetering on the fence may have decided to go for it because they had not received enough information to dissuade them.
But the real culprit is more likely the elephant in the room that David Stern would like to pretend doesn’t exist – the potential of a lockout in 2011. The impending labor doomsday likely pushed many a player into this years draft in order to make money now. Why risk coming back when there may not even be a 2011-2012 season to get paid during? There undoubtedly were agents who played this angle hard. And even a player himself thought he could use an extra year of college hoops to hone his skills, he had to question which gamble was greater - to come out as an unfinished project or perhaps having to wait two more years before even getting the chance to cash an NBA paycheck. Especially for a teenager or early twenty year-old, it’s hard to turn down to the instant gratification.
The result is a bottom-loaded 2010 draft class. Players with mid-first round talent are likely to be pushed into the late-first and early second round. It’s more significant than it seems at first glance because the difference between the end of round one and the start of round two is a guaranteed contract.
However, while it makes for a nervous night for many prospects fringing between rounds, it’s a blessing for teams with late round picks. (which explains Portland giving up 2 million dollars to move up 10 spots - from 44 to 34 with the Warriors) There will be a wide swath of skill available. Talents like Eric Bledsoe, Craig Brackins, Larry Sanders, and Lance Stephenson aren’t usually falling to the late first round, but they will be found there this year.
The effect of the talent influx will only cascade from that point on, bumping talent further down the draft board. It’s likely to be especially taxing on this year’s class of NCAA seniors. Collegiate stars like Luke Harangody, Sherron Collins, and DaSean Butler are the type of players who always get picked up in the second round by teams looking for experience over upside. Usually, the upside projects that are really worth taking a flyer on are gone by that point in the draft. In 2010, that may not be the case, meaning these college vets might not hear their names called at all.
Because of this, The undrafted free agent market this year will have much more name recognition and overall talent. This should lead to a Summer League that is filled with intriguing battles for roster spots. For the most part, Summer League is usually nothing more than a stretching out of drafted players, allowing them to familiarize themselves with their new team, and those auditioning for spots in Europe. It’s pretty clear which guys are going to stick around in the NBA and which are just there to fill out the rosters. This year should be more interesting, as players that would normally get drafted in years where the talent pool is shallower battle the draftees to prove who really belongs.
Those who can’t find NBA homes will be part of an exodus of American talent to European and interntal leagues the likes of which hasn’t been seen in previous years. Who knows? Some of them might be coming back to the states in a few years if they can impress.
Hours after David Stern steps away from the podium for the last time, the talk will be about guys like Wall, Turner, Wes Johnson, and Favors. But it’ll be the names called well after those that will really intrigue. It’ll be those names that ultimately define the value of the 2010 Draft.