BASKETBALL 101: NBA DRAFT
Aspiring basketball players dream of the day when, sitting in a new suit among family and friends, their name is called.
"With the first pick in the NBA Draft, the Charlotte Bobcats select . . ."
After hugging their parents and friends, they walk across the stage, receive a handshake from NBA Commissioner David Stern and put on the cap of their new team. What was once a dream when shooting hoops in the driveway or at the playground has come true: the gym rat has been selected in the NBA Draft.
NBA DRAFT LOTTERY
The NBA Board of Governors, meeting in Salt Lake City in June 1984, voted to adopt a lottery system among the non-playoff teams to determine the order of selection in the First Round of the NBA Draft beginning in 1985. From 1966 through 1984, the teams that finished with the worst records in each conference participated in a coin flip to determine which team would draft first.
In the NBA Draft Lottery, the team with the worst record in the regular season has the most chances for the number one pick, while the team with the best record among the non-playoff teams has the least number of chances. The Lottery determines the order of selection for the first three teams only; the remaining non-playoff teams select in inverse order of their regular season records.
Fourteen ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 are placed in a drum. There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. Prior to the Lottery, 1,000 combinations are assigned to the Lottery teams based on their order of finish during the regular season. Four balls are drawn to the top to determine a four-digit combination. The team that has been assigned that combination will receive the number one pick. The four balls are placed back in the drum and the process is repeated to determine the number two and three picks. If the one unassigned combination is drawn, the balls are drawn to the top again.
Following the first 14 picks in the NBA Draft, teams that participate in the playoffs select in inverse order of their regular season records; in the Second Round, all teams select in the inverse order of their regular season records.
PRIOR TO THE NBA DRAFT
The NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando gives projected NBA Draft picks the opportunity to play against top flight competition prior to the Draft. The camp, which consists of both drills and games, is closely watched by NBA general managers, coaches and scouts looking to find the next hidden gem. The NBA Pre-Draft Camp provides many players who may not be considered "big names" a chance to showcase their talents.
NBA teams will sometimes bring in Draft eligible players to work out prior to the Draft. The players typically are brought in as pairs, based on position. After being measured and weighed, the players are put through a series of personality tests, basketball drills and athletic tests to judge their abilities. These individual workouts allow teams to answer any questions they may have about a player's character, height, talents and weaknesses.
HOW TEAMS CHOOSE
Some teams select a player based on need; for instance, they need help rebounding or shotblocking. In this case, a team would take a player to fill a void.
Some teams take the best player available, regardless of position. For the Boston Celtics, the opportunity to draft Paul Pierce with the 10th pick in 1998 was too good to pass up, although Pierce played the same position as young Celtics star Antoine Walker.
Some teams select a player because they know he is coveted by other teams. The Toronto Raptors chose Antawn Jamison with the fourth pick in 1998, knowing the Golden State Warriors wanted his services. The Raptors were then able to trade Jamison to the Warriors for his college teammate, Vince Carter, and cash.
COLLEGE PLAYERS/HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS/INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS
Some would argue that four year college players are better prepared for the pros then high school or early entry underclassmen. They may be more mature and accustomed to the pressures of competitive play and media demands. These players have had four years of college practices and games, so they often have stronger fundamental basketball skills.
Some college underclassmen (freshmen/sophomores/juniors) may declare themselves eligible for the NBA Draft in order to see where they might be projected to be picked, based on opinions from NBA scouts and teams. Players are eligible to return to their college teams if they withdraw their names prior to the Draft and have not hired an agent.
Though the NBA has an abundance of stars from high profile university programs, many of the NBA's best players attended small or non-NCAA colleges. These schools allow overlooked players and late bloomers a chance to grow and shine, though not under a national spotlight. The NAIA has supplied the NBA with a number of players who were both All-Stars and world champions, including Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Though once overlooked by big time college coaches, Pippen and Rodman did not go unnoticed by NBA scouts.
Some schools are known for developing and producing pro basketball players, often at a specific position. Georgia Tech has produced a number of great point guards, including Indiana's Kenny Anderson, Dallas' Travis Best and Phoenix's Stephon Marbury, while Georgetown has produced top quality centres, such as New Jersey's Alonzo Mourning as well as Dikembe Mutombo.
General managers may be put in a difficult position when considering selecting a high school player. Do you pick a high school player who may turn out to be a superstar or a college senior who, though not a star, could compete right away? High school players are selected by NBA teams based largely on talent and potential. The most successful of these players, such as the Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Garnett, are brought along slowly by their teams while being mentored by older teammates and former players.
Each year the NBA Draft has more of an international flavour, as the level of basketball talent around the world continues to improve. Although international players may take time to adapt to the NBA, the success of international stars such as Germany's Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks) further convince NBA teams to select from the global pool of talent.
Ball Hawk: A strong defensive player with a penchant for stealing the ball.
Can't Miss Prospect: A potential star whose basketball skills are catching up with his physical gifts. In 2000, such a pick was Darius Miles (drafted by the Los Angles Clippers; now with the Cleveland Cavaliers).
Can't Teach Size: A phrase used to explain why teams select big men, who are always at a premium. Often big men are drafted with the expectation that their skills will develop in time. There is another saying: "If you're going to make a mistake, make a BIG one!"
NBA Body: A player who is physically strong enough to withstand the rigours of NBA play. Kenyon Martin of the New Jersey Nets is one recent draftee with a strong enough physique to compete against NBA power forwards straight out of college.
Nose for the Ball: A good rebounder.
Project: A raw player with great potential. Teams choose "projects" based on their draft position and the status of their team. Teams lacking in talent with short term goals of winning may select established players and college seniors versus unproven players.
Sees the Floor: A player who can anticipate plays before they happen and is able to pass the ball well.
Separation: A term scouts use to describe players who, when they jump to shoot, seem to "separate" from their defender, getting an unobstructed look at the basket. Scouts look at this as an indicator of a player's ability to score.
Sleeper: An underrated player.
Steal: A player who is drafted lower than projected but turns out to be a more effective player than those chosen ahead of him.
Tweener: Derived from the word "between," as in, a player is between the height of a guard and a forward. Tweeners often have the skills of a big man, but the height of a guard.
Untouchable: A player or draft position, usually the top pick, that will not be traded.
Upside: A player with long term potential. Players with upside are generally good athletes with great "tools," such as size, leaping ability, long arms and quick feet. These players need some seasoning and experience before they can become effective NBA players.