NBA Should Ditch Their Draft
I realize this would never happen and I realize that a lot of people act like the words “God isn’t real” are being said when this idea is being put forth. With that said, I truly believe the NBA should do away with the NBA draft. Do I realize that there are both pros and cons to such a radical move? Yes. One of these cons is apparently that bad teams will stay bad. Color me unconcerned about the Sacramento Kings and what is disadvantageous to them given the fact that they often do it to themselves. They drafted DeMarcus Cousins high in the draft and where’s that gotten them?
Anyway, I’m about to make a comparison I know isn’t perfect because I’m comparing men who are about to be millionaires in most cases to “common” folks. This whole thing is relative. Imagine how the NBA’s draft method would play out in any other business. You’re a molecular biology major and graduated with a great GPA from one of the most prestigious universities in the country. You want to go work for one of the biggest laboratories in NY and you want to go about negotiating a position and salary with them.
Then you are told, “No, you don’t get to pick where you work. We’re going to send you to one of the sector’s struggling organizations, a company that doesn’t seem to have clear direction and is coming off of a disastrous year. Oh and you’ll also have a fixed income that’s decided by a third party.” Does that not sound like complete bullshit? Yet that’s what the NBA is all about every draft season. In the work force, the talented people and high quality places to work T-Y-P-I-C-A-L-L-Y get front of the line type of priority when it comes to their options. The reason I typed out “typically” the way I did is because I don’t really want to hear about your cousin Rico for whom this didn’t apply. I just wanted to make it CLEAR so the “Well Actually” police can stay off me.
Let me make this loud and clear before I go any further because I know this will be brought up as soon as folks read the first two paragraphs. I’m not saying you should feel sorry for a group of men who will produce many millionaires. Whew, I feel so much better so now we move along after that scheduled public service announcement.
Ben Simmons is expected by many to be the first pick in the upcoming NBA draft. I don’t know what his ceiling is but he is generally expected to be a very good player with the ceiling of a hall of famer. What’s his reward for being so gifted at his craft? He has no control over where he goes or the type of salary he can negotiate/demand, no control over the type of coworkers/environment or training staff for which he aligns himself. And he will likely be aligned with a team for whom he is the reward for a litany of bad decisions and/or has an unclear direction.
This doesn’t just apply to Ben Simmons either. There is a good chance that if you’re picked in the top 10 you’re going to a franchise who is flat out inept or has some kind of turmoil within the organization. Who does this apply to? The Sixers, Lakers, Suns, Pelicans, Nuggets, Kings and Bucks all pick in the top ten. Two teams managed to finagle picks from inept franchises (TOR from NY for the great Andrea Bargnani, and BOS from BKN in that ill-advised Garnett/Pierce trade) and then you have the Minnesota Wolves who seem to be on the rise.
Fuck Andrea Bargnani. I feel like every time I say that an angel gets its wings. Anyway, what I was saying…
A lot of people have a really strong disdain for tanking. Those same people love to bloviate about the ethics and sanctity of the NBA and why losing on purpose is akin to punting puppies Shane Lechler style. *Takes a minute for laughter at the high horses people love to leap on with regards to tanking.*Ok, I’m exaggerating a tad but doing away with the draft as a whole effectively eliminates tanking unless one wants to take the 2010 Knicks approach to things and clear the cap for free agents that don’t end up signing with the team. Instituting a free agent system for rookies puts everybody on equal footing. Every team in the league would have an opportunity to make a pitch to the available rookies if they choose to do so.
It also rewards the idea of actually building a positive (read: winning) work environment that makes the team enticing to these young men. And this would make a GM’s expertise paramount because gone would be the days of intentionally losing 65 games and fall into a top three selection and having a huge safety net. You have to have the cap space to make this happen, then you have to evaluate these kids and how they fit your program and what you’re trying to accomplish stylistically and otherwise. Organizations that have the good sense to have fiscal flexibility and a strong foundation in their front office can potentially be rewarded for their competence. For those who are anti-tanking the idea of rewarding competence has to be like the Holy Grail, right?
Having a clear organizational direction and stability would go a long way towards selling these prospects on the idea of joining their team. And it adds a consistent element of surprise to the NBA offseasons. Forging an identity to help separate your organization from the crowd becomes imperative.
What are you going to do to cultivate an environment that is appealing?
What is the sales pitch to prospects?
Imagine Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram free agency watch. What would that be like? Insanity. There would be so many different teams and factors to consider. The NBA would never have a dull summer ever again.
“Well, what about the small markets? What about parity?
Since 1991, eight franchises have won titles. 16 of those titles belong to three teams (Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls). I’m not going to delve too deep into why I’m not particularly keen on the term ‘parity’ but the Eastern Conference, outside of the Cleveland Cavaliers has plenty of parity. How is that working out as far as entertainment value in this year’s playoffs?
I think markets matter less now than ever with regards to players and desire to play on certain teams. If the teams work within the existing salary cap, I don’t see how that gives big markets any advantage over the aforementioned small market ball clubs. Money and winning talk. You can get either or both anywhere on this planet. LeBron James is an extreme outlier but he did all of this after being drafted to a Cleveland sports franchise. There is no real competitive advantage that the bigger market teams get in this particular case.
Another benefit to this kind of system is a likely increase in players remaining with one franchise. If these teams go out of their way to recruit these guys and they choose where they play, it’s more likely that a long marriage is built out of that. Is it for certain? No. Is it certainly more possible than in the situation where the best player in the draft is banished to the current worst situation in the league? Yes.
I completely understand that the NBA draft is one of the league’s biggest events and this would never happen but the whole principle around it is somewhat un-American. And on top of that, it gives you a reason to lose on purpose (which apparently is the worst thing you could ever do) while generally favoring incompetence over competence and attempted growth. Oh and it deprives young men of the perks that supremely talented people typically receive in the job market. All of that to me means more than the four-hour dog and pony show we receive on ESPN that one night in June. The draft and everything surrounding the business of it feels un-American. Do away with it.