Why The NBA Draft Actually Matters
By: Brett Melnick
July 2, 2014
The NBA draft brings about a lot of different emotions for players, owners, and fans of all 30 professional basketball organizations on a yearly basis. These emotions range full spectrum from happiness and optimism, to utter disappointment and the fear of another losing season. And, while it seems silly to have so much invested in just adding one new player to your already large enough team of players, these feelings and emotions are completely fair and justified. I mean, think about it. You, the owner of a billion-dollar organization, are given five minutes to choose a young, undeveloped player out of a pool of thousands of young undeveloped players. Not only that, but this player you end up picking is supposed to become to next face of your franchise, and lead your organization to becoming a dynasty. That’s a lot of stress for me just to think about- let alone the stress it must have on the owners, and players.
This past Thursday, the whole sports world watched in awe as Kansas star Andrew Wiggins was picked first overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA draft over his Freshman phenom rival, Jabari Parker.
This pick came to a surprise for many basketball personalities and fans, as it is believed that Parker is a more “NBA ready” player, and already possesses the necessary traits that will make him a solid player in the league.
All this talk about competition between Wiggins and Parker for the 1st overall pick, and the stress on organizations to find the right player for their team, led me to go back to the 2003 NBA draft– better known to non-basketball connoisseurs as the year Lebron James was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and was concepted into the NBA. 2003, otherwise known as 1 LE (the first year of the Lebron Era) was the first real year that players, owners, and fans unanimously agreed on the first overall player, and confidently felt that one high school phenom could become the face of a franchise, and ultimately the face of the NBA (*hate to provide spoilers, but 11 years later, exactly that has happened*).
Some teams however don’t have this kind of luck, and are forced to pick from a group of highly talented players, without having the confidence and assurance to know that the player they invest in will succeed or not. This exact situation occurred to the Detroit Pistons on that June afternoon in 2003, when they were forced to pick 2nd behind the Cavaliers, and choose between: Carmelo Anthony of Syracuse University; Chris Bosh of Georgia Tech University; Dwayne Wade of Marquette University, or; Darko Milicic, a Serbian skyscraper who had dominated the European basketball leagues for two years, and seemed to be the player most ready for the NBA.
Today we have the hindsight to know that the Detroit Pistons really would have had nothing to lose if they had decided to choose Wade, Bosh, or Anthony. However, the Pistons decided to take a shot in the dark, and drafted Darko Milicic.
Sadly, Milicic ended up being a bust in the NBA, starting in only two games in his three year stint with the Pistons. He is now out of the NBA- all while Wade, Bosh, and Anthony have continuously lit up the NBA statistic scoreboards ever since signing their first professional paycheck.
Now you may think, ‘so what? they made one bad pick. It’s not like its affecting anyone anymore’. But you’d be absolutely wrong. The choice of the Detroit Pistons to select Darko Milicic over a player like Carmelo Anthony was so major, it still in fact affects both players and organizations today- as well as many other organizations that had been affiliated with both players (Most particularly the: Denver Nuggets; Philadelphia 76ers; Orlando Magic, and; New York Knicks). *Wiggins Suprise Face*
After being drafted by the Denver Nuggets 3rd overall in 2003, Carmelo has been on two different teams, and is now on his way to test free agency, and hopefully find the right fit for himself to finally win an NBA title. However, had Carmelo been picked 2nd overall by the Detroit Pistons, the story would be completely different. Carmelo would have been drafted to a strong team, with a heavy depth roster, and a “bad boys” like chemistry. Not only would he have provided a strong offensive game to improve an already defense-sturdy roster, but he would have helped the team to have won an NBA title in 2004. This would have led Carmelo into a completely different schema of basketball playing. Winning a title in his rookie year would have given Carmelo the confidence to believe in team chemistry- something that many believe he knows very little of. This confidence to believe in the team, rather than the self, would have made Carmelo a much more franchise friendly player, and would have ultimately helped lead the Detroit Pistons to several more championships in the early to late 2000s.
Had Carmelo been drafted by the Detroit Pistons, he could have easily been thought of in the ranks with other NBA legends such as Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen, or even 2003 draft classmate Dwyane Wade– all known well for their many NBA championships, and strong team chemistry. Today however, Carmelo remains on the borderline for the NBA hall of fame-known best around the league for pouting a strong scoring record, and being one of the better NBA players to have not won a championship ring.
To sum it all up, I’d say the point of this case study proves that while it may seem silly to put so much pressure on the decision to pick one player over another in the NBA draft, the decision is actually really important, and can affect your team for decades. So, I have a word of advice for you all: give your favorite professional basketball organization some slack, and appreciate the NBA draft, along with all the hard work that scouts spend to learn and choose the right players for their respectful teams. Because, when it comes down to the end of the day, you may never know if you end up with a superstar, or a Serbian bust.