Draft Rule Ripple Effect, Back to Reality

Thu, 01/15/2009 - 12:14am

By Adi Joseph

For the first time in 10 years, the NBA Draft is making sense again. And everyone's unhappy about it.


James Harden
AP Photo

We've gotten to know our future top picks. It's a weird concept, I know ­­-- one that takes getting used to. The past two drafts deserve asterisks. A shockwave was sent through the college basketball world when the NBA decided to mandate one year post-high school graduation for American basketball players before they could enter the league.

The fact that the decision coincided with two of the most talented, prepared high school recruiting classes in basketball history was a coincidence, but one that captivated NCAA analysts and NBA draftnicks alike.

The result of the high school draft market's boom in 2001, when Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler and Eddie Curry were picked first, second and fourth, respectively, absolutely shattered the way people thought of NBA Drafts. Madness ensued for a few years. High schoolers were facing major life decisions they were not prepared to make and NBA teams were forced to evaluate future millionaires against inferior competition.

I support the NBA's decision to disallow draft entrance for players straight out of high school. It hurt the game at all three levels, with high schoolers playing selfishly for a contract, the NCAA suffering from a lack of talent and the NBA forced to develop 18 year olds as both men and players. But the immediate ripples of the decision were hardly forseen as they should have been.

The First Year

It surprised no one that 2006 was a wasted year. Of the draft's top five selections, only one has proven to be anything more than a role player, No. 2-overall pick LaMarcus Aldridge.

The talent pool was lacking and there was little to be excited about, perhaps largely because draft analysts had become so adjusted to making bold predictions about players who had yet played sufficient basketball to properly be analyzed.

Players were over-analyzed and risky picks were dug up. Bargnani's selection at the top, in my opinion, was as much due to the lack of buzz around the American players as the Italian forward's potential.

The 2006 NBA Draft produced some solid NBA players. Portland guard Brandon Roy is a star, Memphis forward Rudy Gay is becoming one. But it will go down as the least talented class since the attrocity that was the 2000 NBA Draft.

Not to mention, all the draftnicks spent the year looking ahead.

The Fantastic Frosh

Greg Oden was at least David Robinson but maybe Hakeem Olajuwon. Kevin Durant was Kevin Garnett with George Gervin's scoring ability. Mike Conley was the new Chris Paul. Oh, and a gaggle of two-time defending National Champions had finally thrown their names into the hat.

The 2007 NBA Draft will go down as one of the most exciting in league history. The ban on high schoolers had left a class that the world had seen excel on the college level, and suddenly, everyone was a draft expert.

The Durant-Oden debate consumed sports culture. Even people who never cared for the sport needed to tune into the Texas games to catch the newest craze.

Six of the first 12 picks of the draft wound up being freshmen, eight in the first round, total. The idea of forcing players to spend a season in college, from the NBA scout's perspective, was to ease gauging how good a player was by putting him in a league of his peers, rather than the run-of-the-mill high school opposition such stars have never struggled against.

Let's look at the list of just the first-round freshmen, along with their stats for this NBA season:

1. Greg Oden, Portland (8.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 16.2 PER)

2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City (38.8 mpg, 23.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.4 apg, 19.0 PER)

4. Mike Conley, Memphis (7.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.0 apg, 11.7 PER)

8. Brandan Wright, Golden State (7.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 19.0 PER)

10. Spencer Hawes, Sacramento (11.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 13.0 PER)

12. Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia (13.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 12.9 PER)

19. Javaris Crittenton, Memphis/Washington (2.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.3 apg, 8.3 PER)

21. Daequan Cook, Miami (9.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 11.0 PER)

Even the players that have been thrust into significant roles, then, have not shown the efficiency one would expect of players in NBA rotations.

I'm not suggesting that these players all made the wrong decisions (though Conley and Crittenton needed more coaching at the college level, and both Young and Cook could have improved their stocks significantly by returning). I'm simply arguing that these players were not as ready as initially believed. The rookie class was disappointing last season in a year where people expected, incorrectly, freshmen would be prepared to make immediate impacts on a much greater level than ever before, simply because the class was more talented than previous groups of freshmen entrants.

Then it happened again.

Depth of Class

Where the 2007 NBA Draft led to heated arguments about who should be selected first, the 2008 Draft was more of a schmorgesborg of debates, almost all of which were centered around an incredibly deep and productive class of freshmen.

The top of the board, Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo, weren't as talented as Oden and Durant. But man, there were so many fascinating players in this draft. What was to be made of thick, white and slightly undersized UCLA bigman Kevin Love? Texas A&M center DeAndre Jordan had the ideal NBA body, but his production was limited. Syracuse forward Donte Greene started so strong but slowed so much by midseason.

Things were confusing. Things were up in the air. But there was a lot to be talked about. And, frankly, the group has been solid this season as freshmen. Mayo and Rose have been solid rookie of the year candidates while many of the bigmen have shown promise.

So What's New Now?

Those afforementioned freshmen classes were unbelievable -- two of the best ever.

This year, we're back to reality in more ways than one. The aftershock of the NBA's decision has seemed to wear off in many ways. Perhaps because of the lower talent level in this freshmen pool, the hype of every decent player entering the 2009 NBA Draft has not reached the same level of previous seasons.

This year, we get a nice draft class. One with more talent than 2000 or 2006 but less craziness than any other year this decade. It's a return to the 1990s NBA Drafts, where things make sense and players are generally proven. A mix of potential and production.

I, for one, love it.

I know exactly what kind of shooting guard James Harden is going to be in the NBA, and it's a damn good one. I can imagine Blake Griffin ripping down boards at a ferocious level against anyone in the NBA. Hasheem Thabeet's defensive dominance will certainly translate to the NBA.

I've seen these guys enough that I feel confident in saying that.

It's a feeling I hope to get used to enjoying, and I believe I will.

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Joined: 01/15/2009
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For the last nine or so games Bargnani has been the clear #2 player for the Raps. As much as I liked Sam Mitchell I'm glad he got fired because Triano has allowed Bargnani to finally show his skills. Obviously we should still be skeptical about Bargnani but I think by the end of the season people will finally start to believe in his talent.

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i think its interesting

let down your ego just a bit man, there are always newcomers interested in the nba drafts, new fans wanting knowledge, perhaps very few people have the level of draft knowledge you have

i enjoyed reading the article, its nice to see somebody else point of view, there is always someting new to the table.

Robert Niles Sa...
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I am going to have to agree

I don't think this is a bad article by any means, i just think there are many more pressing issues that can be written about aside from this. I agree that the level of writing has stepped off a notch lately, one of my favorite writers who wrote the rookie report and NBA acquisitions back to back hasnt been heard from in over a month. People reading these sites find writers they like and want to hear from them, that keeps them coming back.

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This article fails to

This article fails to mention the prospect of players leaving to go play in Europe because of this rule. Not sure why you wouldn't mention that when it could be one of the most interesting things to come out of the one-year rule.

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I'm simply arguing that these players were not as ready as initially believed.

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