Some people, ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz for instance, have argued that the NBA should kill the draft. The system is broken, teams are tanking, lottery teams stay lottery teams… The fix: End the NBA draft and have all rookies enter the league as free agents. Why? Well, the NBA is a “business,” free market this-and-that, yada-yada-yada…
However, in constant attempts to analyze the NBA as a business — “It’s a business,” often being a canned talking point of players and team personnel alike when unable to explain the real reasons behind a maneuver — people forget that one of the first principles of business is that the customer comes first (or that the customer is always right). Whatever the case, will somebody please think of the children?
Yes, free agency rumors and the current mass, social media dissemination of them can be fun for fans, but only media members (and maybe a few teams attempting to cloud their intentions), really benefit from the noise.
The NBA draft is for the customer. Well, it’s for the players, too. And, it also benefits the league’s marketing of itself and its individuals. So, there’s no need to muddy ceremonial pomp and circumstance with dollars and cents. Because if there are league-wide issues with the way the business of basketball functions, there are other ways to resolve them aside from eliminating one of the NBA’s most-covered events.
To say that the draft, “feeds a system that encourages bad behavior, favors incompetence over achievement and cheats young men of the privileges that talented people in a free labor market should receive,” as Arnovitz writes, belittles the benefit of branding (and is a little dramatic, if you ask me). And if there’s one pro sports league that knows how to brand itself, even through highly-publicized criticism, it’s the NBA.
The NBA draft is part of what defines the league. It is here to stay, and that’s the way it should be. Nonetheless, at this year’s draft, I asked three basketball “personalities” about their opinion — two big-time college coaches and a member of the media. Kentucky’s John Calipari and North Carolina’s Roy Williams were about as diplomatically non-committal in their responses as one would expect. Good for them. TNT’s Craig Sager gave thought-provoking answers with substance, and he also took time to talk about the value the draft adds, as well as sharing a couple of his more memorable moments from covering drafts over the years (one story involves Chris Webber, one Kevin Garnett).
Notes of Randomness:
- Expect the Wizards to target their own free agents, James Singleton and Cartier Martin, before turning their attention to new free agents. Either Roger Mason or Mo Evans (or both) potentially returning to the team is still in the picture, but each helping Sam Cassell coach the Wizards in the summer league doesn’t necessarily correlate to intentions of offering them a contract for 2012-13. With unfathomable roster turnover in Washington over the past couple of seasons, bringing back solid character guys (and improved performers) like Martin and Singleton will send positive vibes to the other Wizards who have come to know these two players well.
- Unrestricted free agent John Lucas III (born in Washington, D.C., BTW), is indeed a prime free agent target of the Wizards, as the Washington Post’s Michael Lee has also reported. Lee also relays that the Wizards have reached out to Kirk Hinrich. However, that is likely just a courtesy conveyed by Ernie Grunfeld, as it would be hard to get Hinrich to settle on the uncertainty of D.C., even if guys like Nick Young and JaVale McGee have been replaced with the likes of Nene, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor.
- With Lucas’ performance for the Chicago Bulls during Derrick Rose‘s injury woes last season — including him throttling the Wizards in his first ever NBA start at age 29 with 25 points, eight assists and eight rebounds — the indication is that several NBA teams are interested in his services. However, Washington might be the best fit. Targeting Lucas or another combo guard who tends to be more adept at the point is not necessarily a slight to Shelvin Mack (who still needs a lot of work), but it’s more a result of Washington aiming for a playoff appearance, not another ticket to the lottery. The Wizards need someone who is a threat to manufacture points off the bench while also being a capable passer, who also can be signed relatively cheap. Lucas comes closest to filling all those requirements.
- The initial idea was that 32nd overall pick Tomas Satoransky would team up with fellow Czech Jan Vesely and suit up for the Wizards at the Las Vegas Summer League. Not so fast. TAI’s Lukas Kuba has relayed some comments Satoransky made to the Czech media indicating that he would prefer not to play in the summer league so that he may play with Czech national team this summer — the Czechs, starting August 15, will be aiming to make EuroBasket 2013 via the qualifying tournament in Germany; preparations will begin later in July. Vesely, on the other hand, has been non-committal about his preference for playing for the Czechs this summer, usually indicating that the Wizards are more of a priority for him. Stay tuned.
- Finally, and I don’t know why this amused me so much, but deep in the catacombs of the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ (where we hope the NBA Draft will never be held again), in some random side area and on the floor near old chains and chairs, sat an olden, framed photograph of Kris Humphries, as a New Jersey Net, dunking by Shaquille O’Neal in a Boston Celtics uniform. I snapped a phone picture of this relic … one day it’s probably going to send some old custodial codger’s kid to some Garden State technical/vocational school. The gift that keeps on giving.