After a seemingly endless string of playoff games, the NBA season has reached its conclusion, which means it’s time to welcome the next wave of players to the league. The NBA Draft commences Thursday at 6 p.m., and should prove to be one of the most intriguing drafts in recent memory. The odds are high that Markelle Fultz will become a 76er, but after the number one pick, anything goes. There’s the ever-intriguing questions as to which school will have the most players drafted, and which owners will make the biggest bone-head moves, but the biggest wonderment for Thursday night—how Lavar Ball will react if Lonzo Ball is not drafted by the Lakers. My best guess? He’ll bump up the price of the ZO2’s out of spite. With headlines galore, here’s what to watch for on Draft Day.
One-and-done rules again…
Ever since David Stern passed the provision in the 2005 collective bargaining agreement that draft prospects must be at least one year removed from high school, the “one-and-done” rule has dominated the NBA Draft—Since 2006, all but one first overall pick has spent one year in college (only Blake Griffin in 2009 stayed past his freshman year, and Andrea Bargnani played in Italy). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who knows a thing or two about sticking around the college game, recently called the one-and-done rule a “travesty” for college basketball, stating “It’s not even six months and they’re gone.” It’s tough to fault these super-talents for taking hold of their opportunity to make substantial money and play in the NBA, but we’ve seen a decrease in skill and fundamentals and an increased reliance on athleticism—these tremendous athletes find success in the college game, but a majority of them fade out in the NBA due to lack of lower-level preparation. Whether you share similar feelings towards Abdul-Jabbar’s sentiment, there’s no denying that the one-and-done players will prevail on Thursday, with at least the first ten picks projected to have short-lived college careers.
…So does the Point Guard
As the NBA evolves to a faster pace with increased perimeter shooting, we’ve seen the decline of the dominant big man and the rise of the scoring point guard. Heck, the top two MVP candidates in 2017 are point guards in James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and both Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving were key in leading their teams to the Finals—this year’s draft should continue the trend. In an absolutely stacked point guard class, it’s possible that we’ll see five point guards go in the top ten—Washington’s Markelle Fultz, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, NC State’s Dennis Smith and Frank Ntilikina of France. The point guard is now the most important position in the NBA.
It was announced Sunday that the Philadelphia 76ers would trade the third pick to the Boston Celtics for the number one overall pick and additional future picks. While this doesn’t drastically alter the projected draft order, it changes the landscape of the East. Fultz is almost certainly heading to a 76ers team with young talent and in need of a guard, and Boston receives future picks. Another factor in the draft are the Draft Day trades. Over the past five years, the NBA has seen an average of 11 trades made on Draft Day—while we may not see a Chicago-Bears-trading-for-Mitch-Trubisky type of blockbuster deal, the deals made on Thursday will certainly have an impact on the 2017 season.
The Paul George effect
George recently told the Pacers that he will enter free agency in 2018, and prefers to sign with the Lakers—a move that would alter the landscape of the NBA. It seems likely that the Lakers will sign George after trading D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick. However, the Lakers are not the only interested candidates—The Clippers are looking to strike a deal, Boston is still looking for another superstar, even the Heat pose as a potential landing spot. So how does this impact the draft? The Pacers will certainly look to draft for a future without their superstar, while other teams in contention to land George will aim to add pieces to potentially build around him.
For all the speculation and analysis, we won’t truly know the impact these draftees will have on their respective teams until they take the floor next season, but one thing about the draft is certain: the choices the owners make can alter the image of their franchises, for better or for worse.