The Flawed Knowledge behind the NBA Draft

NBA Draft

The NBA draft is slated for Thursday, and NBA executives are gathering information on players in hopes their team will make the right selection. From the Lakers and Knicks, who are in desperate need of some serious talent, to the Warriors and Cavaliers, who are just trying to find guys that can give some productive minutes as role players off the bench, every team has spots that need to be filled. What past drafts have taught us is that the young ‘one and done’ freshmen will be picked near the top of the draft and the older college veterans will be passed over. But the play of former draftees exposes flaws in this concept.

This year’s NBA Playoffs proved that players who declare for the draft after three or more years of college ball can blossom into NBA stars. Jimmy Butler, Demarre Carroll and Draymond Green are all prime examples. Butler is the Chicago Bull’s alpha dog, an NBA All Star and the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Demarre Carroll is the best player on the Eastern Conference’s used-to-be No. 1 seed, the Atlanta Hawks, and Draymond Green is a vital piece to the NBA’s champion, the Golden State Warriors. Each of these three players were looked over by NBA executives because they were older and did not possess the physical upside other players had. Jimmy Butler was a junior college transfer that played at Marquette University for three years. Demarre Carroll played at Vanderbilt for two years, then transferred to Missouri for two years, meaning he played college ball for a total five years (including a redshirt in between). Draymond Green was a four-year player at Michigan State. All these players were very good on their collegiate teams, but did not possess ‘future star power’ that NBA teams were looking for to be drafted as a lottery pick. So, why is it that NBA executives select freshmen early in the draft rather than more proven veteran college players? Honestly, besides the typical “he is younger with more potential” quote, I can’t see any other reason.

This is not to say that every one-and-done lottery pick is a poor decision. Normally, the one-and-dones drafted at the very top of the draft prove to be stars in the NBA (Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, John Wall and Kyrie Irving, to name a few), but these players are not the problem. The problem is the freshmen selected near the middle of the draft who have not proven themselves nearly as well as the ones selected toward the top. NBA executives draft these guys purely based off of potential, but these players almost never prove to live up to their “potential.” In the 2009 NBA Draft, Byron Mullens, a freshman out of Ohio State, was picked 24th overall. He posted dismal numbers of 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds that year. Demarre Carroll was selected 26th overall and recorded numbers of 16.6 points and 7.2 rebounds his senior season, not to mention three years prior of proven consistency. Obviously Carroll was a much more proven prospect, so why was he picked two spots later? The answer is simply because he was older and Mullens was a 7-foot center with “way more upside.” Right now, Byron Mullens is in the NBA Developmental League, while Demarre Carroll is a free agent this summer expected to receive a multi-year contract worth around 12 million a year. Also, in the 2011 NBA Draft, 29 teams skipped over Jimmy Butler, an eventual NBA All Star that is expected to receive a max contract of five years and upwards of 91 million dollars this summer from the Chicago Bulls. The only players in that draft you could make an argument have had as much success as Butler is Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard. So it looks like those other 26 teams might be a little regretful of their decision to pass on the college veteran for players with “more potential.”

The 2012 NBA Draft had an overload of one-and-dones selected in the first round. Between Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at No. 2, Dion Waiters at No. 4, Andre Drummond at No. 9, Austin Rivers at No. 10, Mo Harkless at No. 15, Terrence Jones at No. 18, Fab Melo at No. 22, Tony Wroten Jr. at No. 25 and Marquis Teague at No. 29, one-and-dones took hold of that draft by storm. And quietly, selected as the fifth pick of the second round, was Draymond Green. He was tagged by NBA Executives as “an undersized power forward” or, “a great college player that did not have the physical capabilities to succeed in this league.” But, little did they know how key of a role he would play on the Warrior’s Championship season. He possesses the ability to guard big men in the paint, while also having the quickness to handle the ball and beat you off the dribble. So when the Warriors inserted Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup for Andrew Bogut, moving Green to the five position, the series was over. No Cavalier big man could guard him on the perimeter, and Green sliced and diced his way to a triple double in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, which was ultimately the reason for the Cavaliers’ elimination. Looking back at the one-and-dones selected before him that are listed above, none of these players have had nearly as much success as Draymond has. And if you ask any NBA executive why they picked these players before him, they will say they had more upside. Well, as Draymond Green is holding his championship trophy, I think he got the last laugh.

This year’s NBA Draft is no exception with one-and-dones. Kentucky had seven freshmen declare for the NBA draft, something that has obviously never been done before. NBA Executives will be drooling over all these guys because they are “oozing with potential.” But, just like in years past, most of them will be selected higher than they should be and proven college veterans will be an afterthought in NBA eyes. Players like Jerian Grant of Notre Dame, Delon Wright of Utah and Justin Anderson of Virginia are all projected to be drafted outside the top 15 in most NBA mock drafts. They all had spectacular seasons and led their respective teams to NCAA Tournament bids at high seeds. But, they will be overlooked and drafted below many one-and-dones. And who knows, maybe one of these players will be the next Jimmy Butler or Draymond Green.

Follow Brian on Twitter @brianmischler