"The #1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft goes to.... The Cleveland Cavaliers!"
After the announcement was made, I've never seen so many unhappy fans about being awarded the #1 pick in a professional sports draft. Everyone keeps saying how this draft is weak at the top, but deep. Huh? There's no marquee player to take at #1, no guy that EVERYONE wants. So what? By getting the #1 pick, you are GUARANTEED to get the guy you want. If you are afraid of the pressure involved in making a pick that better not be a bust, you shouldn't be an NBA GM. Pressure is part of the business. Deal with it and make the pick.
Instead, fans and media members alike are all calling for the Cavs to make a trade... package that #1 pick with something else and get a plug-n-play vet from another team. Sounds good on paper, but you need a trade partner for that. The Cavs have to decide what is a reasonable amount of time for this latest rebuilding process - new coach Mike Brown should play heavily into whatever decision they make. Trade, take Otto Porter to fill a need, or take Nerlens Noel as a project with amazing potential..... time will tell what they do. But this brings up the thought in my mind that perhaps the entire NBA Draft process - even the NBA itself - is flawed. If I was in charge of remodeling the NBA, what would I do? I'm glad you asked...
First and foremost, I'm a Football Chick. While I don't like everything that goes on in the NFL, I at least understand it, how it developed into today's system, and why not much really needs to change. The draft itself works for me (although I do miss my Saturday and Sunday draft marathons of the early rounds). Players whose high school class is 3 years past graduation are eligible for the draft. There are two reasons for this waiting period.
1 - guys physically mature in their early 20's. That's just a fact. They need the extra couple years to reach a better physical condition to deal with the size/strength of opponents who have been in the league for a while and "beasted-up."
2 - staying in college for 3 years strengthens the NFL minor league system. And let's face it - NCAA football is the NFL development league. Period. And it's a superior product because the guys stay for at least 3 years and there is consistency for teams who can count on that when recruiting.
In hockey, players are eligible for the NHL entry draft between the ages of 18-20. However - PAY ATTENTION HERE - if they do NOT get an agent, the NCAA still gives them amateur eligibility and they can go to college. The pro team actually drafts the "right to sign" the player. They have 2 years to sign the player, during which he can play in college. If he is not signed and stays in school, the team has until 30 days after his last college game to sign him. Hmmmm. Very interesting. So they let players finish developing - if they need further development. Nice. That's what the NBA needs to consider.
Very few players are "Day One NBA Ready" when drafted. I'd like to see the NBA change up the draft process to look something like this.... Any player age 18 or older is eligible for the draft. If the team wants to sign him now, he gets an agent, they do a deal, and he's in the NBA. If not, team has two choices: let player go to college or sign to D-League contract. If he goes to college, he commits to 2 years. At the end of that time, team can either sign him to D-League contract, NBA contract, or pay him a buy out amount and release their rights to him.
This model keeps the college system strong, lessens the impact of years like this one where there is no one worth "#1 money" and also helps in further developing players that need it. I don't see why the players association would argue - these draftees aren't players yet and have no vote. I don't see why the teams would argue - they don't have to drop big money on a guy they aren't 100% sure of. And I don't see why the NCAA would argue - they allow hockey players to have a draft status and it would only strengthen the college hoops game.
Yeah, I'm probably dreaming. But it's something the NBA should consider. With the exception of a few weeks in March, NCAA Basketball is irrelevant. With this model, the NCAA could sell jerseys with the players names on them for their Draft Team instead of their College... think of the money to be made! Heck, the NBA team could even set aside some jersey sales money for the player to have AFTER he's done with college... The marketing possibilities are endless. But most importantly, it gives us fans a better product, in whatever basketball format you love.