Why the NBA could be better off with a shorter draft
ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)- A beautiful scene played out in West St. Louis late Thursday night, when Patrick McCaw, surrounded by friends and family, was in tears as he learned his pro basketball career would start as a member of the NBA’s Western Conference champions from Golden State. McCaw was selected in the second round by Milwaukee who then shipped him to one of the best teams in basketball.
It’s a great situation for McCaw, who started his high school career at CBC before finishing at a Maryland prep school. He entered the draft after his sophomore season at UNLV, and while you could understand his reasoning–a new coaching staff coming in that didn’t recruit him and the prospect of being in a program in transition–it’s a tribute to him that he worked through the draft process and was thought of by Golden State as a first round talent still available in the second round. He is also reported to have earned something rare for a second round choice–a guaranteed contract.
If it were up to me, McCaw would have been a first round pick in a draft that would only consist of a single round. Here’s how and why:
The league saw a record 26 international players taken in a single draft this year. Unlike Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield who hails from The Bahamas, most of them did not play in college here. Fans here have never heard of them and there’s a decent chance they never will. Unlike the MLB and NFL drafts, NBA teams can retain draft rights years into the future. International players are regularly drafted and then stashed overseas to keep until they develop enough to the point where they’re ready to compete here. The San Antonio Spurs have been masters of this over the last 20 years, getting Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli that way en route to multiple NBA titles as a model franchise. But have you ever heard of Adam Hanga? He’s been tearing it up in Europe for ten years and was selected by the Spurs in 2011. And four years after they drafted Livio Jean-Charles, the French forward may finally be ready to bring his game stateside. Jean-Charles and Parker were late first round picks, but in recent years, we’re seeing draft and stash players taken in the top ten selections which means the lifeblood of new talent that’s supposed to be coming into the league every year, isn’t. Who’s excited about that?
Before anyone thinks I’m advocating for fewer international players in the NBA, I’m not. But until the league feels comfortable enough with its ‘D-League’ development system to bring those players here, the NBA should follow Major League Baseball’s lead when it comes to foreign talent. The Cardinals didn’t draft Aledmys Diaz and Seung-hwan Oh in recent years, they competed for them as free agents and through a posting system. The only difference is that baseball operates without a salary cap.
That system would work in concert with a single round NBA draft consisting of players who played in college stateside. More recognized talent, which, in theory, is ready to contribute immediately at the pro level, should translate into better results on the court instead of a dead weight contract for a player who can’t get off the bench. It means more interest and higher TV ratings for the draft, a reward for the networks pumping billions into league coffers. If a smaller pool, along with the process that allows prospects to test the waters but retain their college eligibility ends up improving the college game, then that’s a great side benefit in my mind.
In this world, Patrick McCaw still can bet on himself, declare for the draft, and be that first round talent paid like a first round talent, not a second round steal. International players ready to play here will still play here. And the NBA would be better off for it.