Photo Credit: Sporting News
Now more than ever, there is one event during the NBA season that stands out not above but below the rest. No, it’s not the 82-game regular season, which has produced a similar-looking playoff field over the past three seasons, which has in turn produced the same Eastern and Western Conference champion over the past three seasons. Instead, it’s the NBA draft, which literally has not had, still does not have and likely will not for a long time have an impact on who the championship contenders in the near future of the league are.
Sure, the draft is great for the players and their families when the players walk across the stage with their new team cap on their head to pose for pictures with the league commissioner, Adam Silver. But beyond that, it is the most meaningless event of the year in the NBA world. Here’s why.
Let’s face it. When the Boston Celtics, this past season’s #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, traded away the #1 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, the chance that was a slight one to begin with of this year’s draft drastically changing the league went completely out the window. Even with the two teams who have been in the past three NBA Finals matchups, the Cleveland Cavaliers of the Eastern Conference and the Golden State Warriors of the Western Conference, having no draft picks coming into draft night, this players drafted in this year’s draft had and have roughly a 0% chance to change which teams are contending for NBA championships in the near future.
The Chicago Bulls, who traded Jimmy Butler, one of the best players in the NBA, to the Minnesota Timberwolves during the draft changed that narrative. No, not by the Butler trade, and no, they didn’t change THAT narrative, not the one about the draft not changing the complexion of the league. They changed the narrative about the NBA Finals teams of the past three seasons not having any draft picks. Yep, the Bulls sold…SOLD…that’s right, for $3.5 million…the 38th overall pick in the draft to this year’s NBA champion, the Warriors, who went on to select the player who experts are already calling the steal of the draft, Jordan Bell. Bell, a defensive nightmare for opponents, averaged 12.6 points, 13.2 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in five NCAA tournament games for the Oregon Ducks this past season.
Let me fill you in here. Assuming no injuries, the Golden State Warriors will be 2018 NBA champions. You heard it here first…okay, I probably wasn’t first, but that only adds to my point. I was first in the Jordan Bell era at least. Don’t get me wrong, they’d have won it without Bell, but Bell won’t hurt them either.
Finally, freshmen have now been the first overall pick in every NBA draft since 2010, with Markelle Fultz being added to that list this season with the Philadelphia 76ers’ first overall selection. In fact, this season, 11 of the 14 lottery pick players drafted were freshmen, the highest total in NBA history. Also, 16 of the 30 players drafted in the first round were freshman, also the highest total in NBA history. Only two first round picks were seniors, the lowest total ever, with the first of which coming at the 29th pick, the latest ever for the first senior selection of a draft. And finally, for the first time ever, freshmen took up the top 5 spots on the draft board, and they didn’t stop there, taking up the first seven spots of the draft, a new record.
Don’t be surprised if all of these records continue to be broken year after year, either. The one-and-done NCAA player trend has really taken off over the past few seasons, and it has shown no signs of slowing down. These freshmen are 18 and 19 year old teenage kids that are hyped up and drafted as the top NBA prospects. But none of them have any chance to compete on the same level as the best of the best in the NBA today like Kevin Durant, LeBron James or Stephen Curry. Despite what one LaVar Ball-abbermouth may tell you, his son Lonzo Ball isn’t even half as good as any of those players. And he was the 2nd overall pick in the draft!
These young players won’t drastically affect the outcome of each NBA season, which makes the NBA draft itself kind of a waste of time. In the near future anyway, don’t expect the NBA draft to become more meaningful. The amount of implications it has carried, carries and will continue to carry in regard to the outcome of each NBA season is at its lowest, and it may just keep getting lower.