Friday, April 8, 2011

Potential NBA Lockout Keeping Players Out of Draft

With so many different sports stories occurring everyday one of the bigger stories that many fans are unaware of is the almost guaranteed NBA lockout that is going to occur next season.  While the NFL lockout may end in time for the start of the 2011 season the NBA lockout, according to league experts, is almost certain to cancel the entire season and its effects are already being felt as almost daily top prospects are declining to enter the draft and are opting instead to return to school.

The lockout itself will be initiated by the owners and led by NBA Commissioner David Stern with the main goal being the reduction of the current NBA salary cap.  Other issues will be discussed as well such as the current age limit on entry into the NBA as well as the recent trend of players 'choosing' their team by forcing trades.  This means that the current CBA will be voided and if a player is drafted they will more than likely miss their rookie season and may be joining a league that theoretically won't exist.

The uncertainty about the future of the league is already having an affect as some top prospects have decided to return to school rather than declare for the draft.  The most high profile of these prospects is Jared Sullinger who last week stated that he would return to Ohio State next year for his sophomore season.  Sullinger was considered to be a top 5 pick, with some experts even having him going 1st overall, but he has opted to return to school rather than becoming a pro.

Other top prospects who have stated they are returning, or who have yet to make up their mind, are North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller, Arizona's Derrick Williams, Colorado's Alec Burks, Texas's Tristan Thompson and  Jordan Hamilton and Vanderbilt's Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins.

Not every top prospect has been scared away by the lockout though as earlier this week Duke's Kyrie Irving decided to declare for the NBA draft rather than come back for another season.  Irving was considered a top 5 pick although with so many others staying in school he may now be the consensus #1 overall pick which no doubt had some bearing on his decision.

In an interview with the Associated Press the freshman point guard summed up his decision to become a pro, "it was really a tough decision for me.  If I would have come back, I would have gained a lot more experience under Coach K.  That was hard to let go, especially in the culture that's built here that I was a part of. It's something that I'll remember for the rest of my life.  But on the other hand, deciding to go the NBA is just my ultimate dream," he added. "I've been dreaming about it for a while, and having that opportunity to be such a high pick at such a young age is an opportunity that many people won't pass up."

Even before players started dropping out of the NBA draft it was already being labeled as one of the weakest in years.  There was no consensus top pick as mock drafts had a constant rotation of Sullinger, Irving, Barnes and Williams going first overall and now with so many players deciding to stay at school the talent level of the 2011 draft may be at an all-time low.
This is awful news for lottery teams that were really hoping to draft a franchise player to help turn their team around.  What's happening now is that players that were considered 'bubble first-rounders' are now moving their way up the draft board because the better players are staying at school.  This means that teams will teams be forced to use their 1st round picks on mediocre players who are extremely over valued and more than likely won't be able to provide the impact needed for those teams to improve.

There is something positive to take out of this issue though as now more kids will have a chance to stay in school a year longer then they would have initially wanted to, which has multiple benefits.  For one they will gain more experience playing another year, they will also grow both mentally and physically making them better prepared to enter the league when they do declare.

Staying for a second year might also convince some players to stay for all four years and actually graduate, which in theory is the purpose of going to college.  Rather than going to a school for 8 months and then leaving as soon as possible more players might choose to stay until they earn their degree, which if they stay for 2 years they will be halfway to achieving. 

The players that do declare for the draft and get selected will be joining a league that won't exist much like the players in the upcoming NFL draft.  They may end up missing their entire rookie season and being forced to play overseas for a year just to stay in shape and be ready for when the lockout ends.  That is if they can get a roster spot on an overseas team as no doubt more established players will be more sought after than untested rookies.
If that is in fact the case then the players who opt to stay in school may be at somewhat of an advantage. The national exposure that college players receive is invaluable and may make them better prepared for when the league resumes.  The players that are drafted may be forced to take an entire year off if they can't sign with a team overseas and that will really hurt their development.

No matter how the NBA lockout situation shakes out the damage has already been done  There is enough doubt out there to force players to stay in school rather than entering the draft.  A draft that was already short on talent is now even shorter and those bottom dwellers hoping to rebuild through the draft are going to have to wait another year.

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1 comment:

Raela Drigger said...

With the lockout looming, the future of the NBA is temporary on hold. It's probably a blessing in disguise if some of the players decide to return to school. At least it gives them a year more to study and learn. I hope the lockout is resolved as soon as possible, because amazing happens only in the NBA.