Do you remember when the #1 through #10 players in the NBA draft where almost assured to have a 70% Thriller-Killer to Bust-Crème Puff Filler ratio? Do you remember when in the second round you could find guys who may be short on elite athleticism but LOOOOONG on collegiate resume and high on basketball skill and acumen? Do you remember when the matriculation from High School to college was largely unknown…but the bright lights, big cities, and making of one’s manhood on the hardwood (II) began in the toughest conferences of the NCAA’s Division 1? Do you remember when the only FIBA and Euro-ballers to make the jump were the Sarunas Marciulionis’, the Drazen Petrovics, the Arvydas Sabonis’, the Detlef Schrempfs, the Toni Kukocs and the Sarunas Jasikevicius (MD Terps dude) (yeah, some of those dudes came over without being drafted but you get my point where the talent level is concerned, on who and how international NBA players came about being a part of the “Greatest Show on Earth)…the crème de la crème of International players, the BEST the world had to offer was the second or third tier stars coming over. Yeah, occasionally the Spurs, who happen to have NBA scouts placed on Pluto, Jupiter, Mars, and every continent back here on Earth, would draft someone resembling Sergeant Shultz of Hogan’s Heros. Or, Abe Pollin would draft a brother from East Africa who was 7 foot 7 and could shoot 3’s and was more interested in the world cup than the NBA. But other than that, from top to bottom, the NBA Draft was teeming with tough morsels of talent raring to get at the vets in practice. Boys who had done all they could do with their amateur children’s collegiate career and were ready to swim in waters with no bottom, with sharks who had no consciences.Kyrie Irving is going to be a special point guard, Derrick Williams is more athletic than we give him credit for, and will be too skilled and quick for 4’s, and too strong and skilled for 3’s (If Jared Dudley can make it, why are we worried about Williams?). Enes Kanter reminds me of a combo of Pau and Marc, with some Kaman thrown in. Kemba is Kemba…a winner. Jimmer will teach you how to Jimmer, and Alec may be ok. And then there is Bismack…Bismack, Bismack, Bismack! It is not that I wish failure for Bismack, it’s not that I think he’s a bad guy. In fact, this isn’t REALLY about Bismack as much as he happens to be the poster child for what is wrong with the current trend in pro basketball. LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG on athleticism…I mean LONG! Dude’s vertical, his quickness, his potential, are all through the roof. His skill, his development, his IQ, is about as tall as a stacked pile of tissue paper containing 4 sheets. And Bismack wasn’t a 2nd rounder. No! Bismack Biyombo at 6’7” was the 7th overall pick. A lottery pick was used on a Ruben Patterson-like defensive specialist. Now, as you review the list of names drafted that night, beginning in the lottery, and juxtaposing it upon the draft’s storied history, you will ask yourself: “Self”, I say. “Where are the difference makers? Where are the stars? Where are the HOF’ers?”
As we left the lottery we had three types of player: 1) The athletic freak, minimal skill, 1 to maybe 2 collegiate seasons. 2) The highly skilled, underwhelming talent who played 3 to 4 years, headed towards a Duhon-ish career. 3) The EURO…the Euro players who have been playing professionally, a number of them since 15 and 16 years old, have a jumpstart on the other two types as they’ve (a) been playing with grown men in their 20s and 30s, (b) had coaching from professional eat-sleep-drink-feed-my-family coaches whose job is to make them a complete, well rounded, money generating, win-getting production center. But, they are largely unknown quantities to everyone but the Spurs and those that watch FIBA. Then you face the buyout clauses with their current clubs, the fact that they have no merchandising value, and a fan that came to see a built/born/bred in the US product.
The draft is just one more indication of the huge plunge into mediocrity and inferior product the league is facing. No longer is there a premium placed on honing skill, mastering craft, and marrying athletics to talent, skill, heart, and IQ. The premium is placed on what you can sell and/or market, how fast you can get to the marketplace (with a largely unfinished product), how much Sportscenter airtime you can get, and who you can copy-cat your moves and game from. And so…we have an inferior product. An entire generation enamored with high-flying and getting rich as opposed to winning and being the best. The uber-athletes have flawed games and low IQs, and to take a gamble on the draft, the weak athlete develops himself to the peak of his talent and pinnacle of ability. But alas, if the natural order of things were set right, he’d be a D-Leaguer, a CBA’er, or in Euro-League. Hell, if you want to be accurate about the situation, certain players wouldn’t be in major D1 programs if the attention to really teaching the game and developing talent was held to the proper standard. WE, the fans would see a better quality product, and every draft class would be filled with talent and not just top-heavy outliers.
And so this draft served to confirm what I already know. Basketball is dying much like Hip Hop. A carotid artery is constricting tighter and tighter. Oxygen and life’s blood is being restricted and growth has stopped. You have to look no further than the current labor issues as another indirect indicator. An inferior product loses money, an inferior player is a bum, and a bum shouldn’t be there. He shouldn’t have been in the draft and the fan shouldn’t have to pay to see a guy who can jump over a house but can’t shoot a 15-footer, dribble with his left, or hit over 75% from the line.
Tune back in as I explain how all of this plays into where the labor agreement is, and why only 8 teams out of 32 are profitable. Some say contraction is the answer. I say it goes way deeper than that. The system from 11 years ago and on needs revamped (why are we now ranking the top 7th graders? ).