On Thursday, the NBA held their annual player draft in Brooklyn, NY. There were no huge surprises or blockbuster trades.
Far from the spectacle of the NFL draft where 7 rounds stretch over three days (thanks to ESPN), professional basketball lasts only two rounds and is completed in about 5 hours.
The NBA draft is actually closer to calling players up from the minor leagues than elevating college players. While NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell mostly announces the names of college seniors as first round selections, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver rarely shares the stage with someone who played four years of college basketball.
Underclassmen, especially college freshmen (known as a “one and done”), and foreign players now dominate the first round. Professional basketball has clearly changed and the talent level and athleticism is miles ahead of the days of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
Only three college seniors heard their name called in the first round; Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant, and Utah’s Delon Wright. Five international players were taken and 21 underclassmen, including 13 freshmen.
Closer to home, the Orlando Magic followed the trend by drafting shooting guard Mario Hezonja from Barcelona with the fifth overall pick. Hezonja and his new teammates will huddle around new Magic Coach Scott Skiles when training camp opens in this fall. He is counted upon to fill some of the holes in the Magic lineup.
Among the countries sending players to the NBA camps from the 2015 draft are Spain, Republic of the Congo, Serbia, Turkey, Argentina, Lithuania, Greece and the very first player from India.
There are two ways to look at the way the NBA brings new talent to their game. First, the addition of foreign players bringing a different experience to their team is a wonderful addition.
Where would the San Antonio Spurs be without Manu Ginobli of Argentina, who played a key role in their multiple championships? Houston’s Yao Ming brought tons of attention to the NBA from China during his stay in Texas. There are plenty of other examples of foreign-born players adding to skill level of the game.
The one-and-done players are another matter entirely. Yes, they bring plenty of skill and potential to their respective teams, but they could have the same potential if drafted out of high school.
After Thursday night’s draft, the NBA will mostly fade from the sports pages until fall. The exception is the NBA Summer League where over a few days, many of these draft choices, free agents, and second-year players will fight for their place in training camp. Orlando is home to one of those leagues.
The summer league doesn’t draw many fans, but it is full of players with dreams of making it big and playing before full houses. Those dreams now reach around the world.