Why Isn’t The NBA Draft What It Used To Be?

The NBA Draft over the years has lost some of it’s sizzle. Is it because of the talent level - the lack of a dominant player? I’m in search of what happened to the annual event that kept me glued to the set for three hours and on edge for every selection.

One reason could be because most picks have more questions than Answers.

I was at the then Corestates Center the night the Philadelphia 76ers selected Allen Iverson #1 overall in the 1997 NBA Draft. With the selection of Jerry Stackhouse the previous season, fans could not wait to see the high flying Stackhouse coming  down from the rafters courtesy of an Iverson oop.

Times have changed and so has the electricity surrounding the NBA Draft. I still love to see the parents and loved ones who have invested time, finances and plenty of prayers into the lives of these young men and see it all come to fruition – that’s priceless. You’ll still get an outrageous suit or three (nothing compares to Jalen Rose) and a great story. But something is missing from the days of drafts past.

  • Personality – Who can forget Shaquille O’Neal mouthing “Who Me?!?!” when he was selected as the number one pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. Shaq had become a marketing giant before even centering for a jump ball. With several million in the bank, thanks to Reebok the Diesel was gassed and ready to go.
  • Players leaving early - In the case of many college freshman, their initial season in the collegiate ranks is a dress rehearsal for the pros. Alot of these young players we haven’t even seen because they’re in the wind after one season. And we still don’t hear from many because circumstances place then in a tough spot. Stay four years while my family struggles or enter the draft and get the quick payday? Lost in the shuffle is the game that got him there and in 2-3 years he’s a memory. There are exceptions like the Milwaukee Bucks’ Brandon Jennings, who jumped through a loophole and got the best of both worlds while getting to see the world.

  • Huge dropoff in talent - Whatever happened to the first 10-12 teams getting players that were going to crack the starting lineup? Last season the dropoff in potential overall talent after John Wall went #1 was staggering. Very few of the players that are selected on Thursday will be in their respective teams starting lineup or rotation come opening night if at all. Teams will trade to fit pieces in the right place but with the talent not as great it’s all a shot in the dark. 
  • Who’s #1 – Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams? Irving, a freshman point guard from Duke played a grand total of 11 games in his collegiate career due to a mid season foot injury but will almost surely be selected #1 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers based on his potential as a playmaker and scorer. Derrick Williams, a sophomore power forward from the University of Arizonza has 69 career games under his belt, including a highlight reel of an NCAA Tournament for the Wildcats. Williams is expected to be the selection of the Minnesota Timberwolves at #2.  Both teams could use either player but if you’re the Cavs do you select on the potential of Irving or the more proven player in Williams?
  • Foreign Impact – Has the non-familiarity of foreign players impacted the draft. There are at least two foreign players that will be selected in the Top 10 and more as the draft goes on.

Hopefully, I’ll be in the Wells Fargo Center tomorrow when the Sixers make their first round selection (#16). There won’t be a #1  overall pick in their laps this year – many are in anticipation of small forward Andre Iguodala being traded and maybe some movement with the #16 pick. Twenty five years after trading Moses Malone, this franchise can ill-afford another day like that.

9 Responses to “Why Isn’t The NBA Draft What It Used To Be?”

  1. I think the draft has become more boring because the draft is much more scrutinized by fans, pundits, and media members. The draft is now a full-scale production, which in itself actually kinda takes away from the greatness that was the draft. Before you had folks coming in their senior prom suits, and horrible shirt/tie combinations…now everyone has stylists and shit and that sucks.

    Moreover, because of our expansive cable selection, youtube, and pirated internet feeds, we can actually get tons of useful video on these international players. The olympics and international competitions help this as well. The big hit for the drafts in all sports moving forward will be the utilization of twitter and facebook, as I think it adds to the experience of the draft.

    In essence, the draft is WAY better…but its worse too. Kinda weird. Nice read TSF.

  2. kos says:

    Ron, Ed -

    Both of you are absolutely correct in the reasons for the NBA Draft not being as good as it used to be.

    One thing that I can’t get out of my head though, is the draft being broadcast on ESPN. From 1984-2002 the NBA Draft was broadcast on Turner Sports (TBS or TNT). The draft itself wasn’t always great, but it always seemed like I was more interested when it was on Turner as opposed to ESPN. I think it has to do with quality of production values. When I watch a TNT NBA game, I think of great production quality. When I watch an ESPN NBA game, I think cable access.

    Also, ESPN tends to bring out their “gurus” for drafts. At least I know they do for NFL, I haven’t watched the NBA draft in the past couple of years. I wish the NBA would take a hint from the NFL and simulcast the draft on NBA TV with some of their announcers. ESPN seems like the focus goes away from the players all too often and onto their announcers and/or gurus.

  3. I think the foreign player phenomenon, along with the fact that a lot (if not most) of the players in the draft now are one and done or two and done players. We don’t have the same familiarity anymore with these kids as we used to, and the intrigue and excitement of someone taking a foreign player (or before the age limit a high schooler) has worn off. Now we expect it, but we don’t know these players well. That’s why I’ve lost a lot of my passion for the draft.

    It’s not so much a dearth of talent in my mind as it is we don’t really know what a lot of these guys are all about, even if we’ve watched them all season in college ball. One year of school isn’t always a good testament to what a player is. Sometimes it’s obvious with guys like John Wall, Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Durant. But sometimes we have no idea like William Avery, Johnny Flynn, etc.

    That’s my two cents here.

  4. Origin says:

    Great question RG and great points guys.

    I think one of the biggest reasons is ESPN……..I look at ESPN as I do BET. No matter what BET produces (because Viacom won’t break bread, besides The Game) the production is horrible.

    ESPN treats the NBA like a drunk uncle…..espn doesn’t really want to be bothered with it. They barely discuss the NBA during the season unless their is some sort of controversial player or incident. Look at this season the only reason they talked about the NBA at length was because of the Heat. When the NBA was on NBC they had double and triple headers. Now the NBA is on ABC and you are lucky to see the 2 to 3 double headers in a year (not counting the playoffs) on basic TV.

    When I watch TNT its all about presentation and the game of basketball as Kos said. When I watch ESPN its like I am watching TMZ everything is sensationalized and they spend more time talking about off the court stuff then whats going on the court.

    I truely believe if the NBA finals were on NBC and the draft was on TNT the ratings would smash ESPN’s ratings. Thats just how much better the presentation is. I still believe the worst thing the NBA has done over the last 10 years was leaving NBC and moving to ESPN. The Finals on ABC have only been able to come close to NBCs ratings in 2004 and 2011 and thats only because they of the issues that surrounded Kobe in 2004 and Lebron in 2011.

    I understand that there are more channels and more people have cable then in the early 2000′s when NBC had the NBA. But if TNT can get a 6 rating with the ECFs I know that NBC could have gotten better ratings then ABC when it came to broadcasting the finals. The Heat VS. Mavs was made for NBC!!!

    Basically in the sports world ESPN would be a “Jack of all trades, and a master of none”.

    Add to the fact that there are fewer star players staying in college to build up a following plus an influx of foreign players.

    But also there is also something that people overlook. Here is a league that talks a good talk about staying in school and playing 3 or 4 years in college to develop skill. Yet GMs continue to draft foreign players with no college exp (in America) and college players that have 2 years or less of college exp. You have 3 and 4 years players who get drafted late in the 1st round, 2nd round or not at all. These 3 and 4 year players have a lot of fan following. So if I was a person who is a college basketball fan I there would be no reason to watch the draft if all these 3 and 4 year stars aren’t being drafted until later in the rounds or not at all.

  5. Miranda says:

    I didnt even realize the draft was going on.

  6. [...] was an interesting draft. Ron’s question was never more evident. Everyone’s top two picks went as expected, foreign players most [...]

  7. Julius says:

    All those damned furriners taking up NBA roster spots. LOL. Sometimes the TSF regulars sound like some cracker hillbilly out front of his house complaining about those negroes movin’ into the neighborhood. Like it or not the NBA is getting greyer and that trend is only accelerating.

  8. Arlene says:

    We took a lot of criticism for drafting Hakeem when we already had Ralph. B?ut we were excited about the Twin Towers c?oncept. We were pretty sure it could wor?k, and once it did, ev?erybody around the league tried to copy it.

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