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Monday, May 24, 2004

The NBA Draft

Quick, outside Emeka Okafor, who will be the first college player taken in the NBA draft? Who will be the first college senior taken in the NBA draft? How many U.S. high school players will be taken in the top half of the NBA draft? Good questions, all.

SportsProf is not one of those critics who will argue that the NBA draft should be only for upperclassmen (i.e., college seniors and juniors or players who are 21 and older if they don't fall into the ranks of college seniors and juniors). Why? For one thing, the best players should get the opportunity, regardless of age. For another, this sort of thing has been going on in tennis for years, and no one, for example, blanched publicly when Aaron Krickstein of a nice Detroit suburb opted to go pro at 16 instead of staying in high school and then playing college tennis for Michigan or USC or Stanford. No one blanched when the likes of a Pam Shriver eschewed any chance of college to play professional tennis. Of course, I'm joking a bit, but why shouldn't basketball players have the same freedoms that tennis players do?

So what's the difference, really? Every year there are kids who turn pro in tennis, and every year there are kids who opt for the NBA (the former number has to be much larger than the latter). And, in both sports, there are the successes, and there are the failures. Some kids would benefit from college -- either to mature physically or mentally -- and some kids are ready. The bottom line is that if the kids are ready, let 'em play.

Now a discerning reader might point out that the current states of both those sports are rather bad, and I wouldn't disagree. To me, men's tennis hasn't had the draws since the height of the Agassi-Sampras battles, and, quite frankly, those paled in comparison to the era when McEnroe, Connors, Borg and many others battled mightily. As for the NBA, the product is not very good (at least not until the regional semis), and there is too much dilution of talent. The Jordan era was exciting, but the rivalries that existed the in '80's among the Lakers and Celtics (with the 76ers and Pistons mixed in) were absolutely first rate. There really aren't any parallels between the two sports, but neither is a whole lot of fun to watch except when the biggest tournaments -- or the biggest games -- are on the line.

There are many big men being discussed now on various websites, such as the big kid from Korea (who is something like 7'4") and the former construction worker from Brazil who is 6'10", 280 and spent a few years at American colleges. It seems like there are about 20 or so players in their late teens or early 20's who are 6'10" or bigger who are the subject of much discussion. Here's to hoping that a lot of them can play, and that a good subset of them can play down in the low blocks! Gentlemen, the NBA needs you.


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