Of all the pro sports, basketball has the best draft. The NBA process is short, sweet and stocked with guys we’ve heard of and seen play.
Major League Baseball has to outfit dozens of obscure minor-league teams in its draft, which drones on for 40 rounds. A total of 1,216 players were selected last month, nearly 40 percent from high school or junior college. They’re complete strangers to most of us, just like the majority of the 766 draftees who attended four-year colleges.
The NFL inexplicably has stretched its draft to a somnolent three days, kicking off the marathon with a first round that absorbs an entire night of primetime for just 32 picks. That’s followed by two rounds on Friday and the last four on Saturday, for a total of 224 players including a bevy of anonymous interior linemen.
Hockey? Let’s leave it at this: The NHL takes two days to draft 211 players and roughly 75 percent are from outside the United States. Canadians, Swedes and Russians have a much better chance of knowing who’s who.
To be fair, the familiarity factor in basketball has fallen over the last 20 years, too. It began in 1995, when Kevin Garnett sparked a flurry of prep-to-pro selections. The NBA instituted a one-and-done rule for the 2006 draft and that helped, the only reason fans saw plenty of games featuring LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram, the projected top picks Thursday night.
But the influx of players from overseas has risen to the point where more than 20 percent of the league hails from elsewhere. Kristaps Porzingis, last year’s international sensation, was taken at No. 4 and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. The hot foreign flavor this year is Dragan Bender, a Croatian power forward who played professionally in Israel and is a projected Top-5 pick.
A dozen or more international players could be selected Thursday, including Thon Maker, a 7-foot-1 Australian by way of South Sudan. We also might hear the names of a few little-known freshmen who didn’t play at the likes of Duke and Kentucky and thus didn’t make weekly appearances on national TV.
Nonetheless, the NBA draft is way better than its counterparts, if for no reason other than length.
It’s one night, two rounds, 60 players and see you later.
Then we have an opportunity to watch several of the highest-rated rookies a couple of weeks later in the NBA Summer League. The annual showcase is expected to feature 13 of the top 14 selections, including a potential matchup of Simmons versus Ingram when the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers meet on July 9.
There might not be much drama surrounding those teams’ intentions, but the fun starts afterward with Boston. The Celtics own enough picks (eight) for a new rotation and using all of them is not feasible. Boston’s attempts to trade No. 3 have been rebuffed according to multiple reports, setting up the possibility for sweetened, on-the-clock negotiations by general manager Danny Ainge.
The Phoenix Suns offer nearly as much intrigue. The Suns have four picks overall and two in the lottery. They picked a bad time to possess such bounty because next year’s draft class is considered to be significantly deeper, but that could lead to lots of movement due to teams’ widely varying opinions on the available talent.
Unfortunately for fans of the home team, the Wizards are set to be spectators only. They have little to offer teams with excess picks and less motivation to jump into the second round. Similar players will be available as undrafted free agents.
There will be a lot of new faces at Verizon Center next season – up to nine open roster spots – but it’s unlikely any will be heard from on Thursday. Just as well. A player picked at the Wizards’ old spot, (13th, which went to Arizona), possibly could blossom into a valuable contributor. But at least we don’t have to second guess whatever move Washington made.
Instead, we can enjoy the natty suits, colorful ties and sharp shoes as players make their way on stage to shake hands with commissioner Adam Silver and try on new hats. They shouldn’t get too comfortable with the headgear, though.
A swap could occur before they return to their seats.
But the best part for all parties involved is the relative brevity. Everything will be done at the end of night. Players can assess their situations, teams can gauge their needs and we can get on with their lives.
There are better ways to kill time than bludgeoning yourself with a draft on TV.