What is the NBA 2nd Round Even For?

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This is the first of what will probably be many co-posts by Mark Knight and Jeff “huskylenz” Taylor.

Two nights ago, Husky fans watched in anxiety as we waited to see which and how many Washington basketball players would be taken in the NBA draft. Many of us have not been watching any NBA basketball for quite sometime and this was an opportunity for the NBA to get back some interest in the league from Seattle area sports fans still bitter over the thef…err relocation of the Sonics to Oklahoma City.

With three Husky basketball players among those often listed on mock drafts, there was a real opportunity for Romar to cement his reputation as a coach who could put talent into the NBA and for local fans to be able to build up a following in the NBA, like we have for Brandon Roy in Portland, Hawes and Brockman in Sacramento (before they were traded), and Nate Robinson wherever he happens to be playing next.

Isaiah Thomas was smoking up the combines and workouts with statistics off the chart in shooting, leaping, and strength. Some mock drafts were even showing Isaiah Thomas possibly sneaking up into the late 1st round. With ESPN declaring this draft “weak” especially at the point guard position, Thomas’ decision to go pro was starting to look like a good one.

So, we sat there for nearly three hours waiting for a Husky to be drafted. As international player after marginal mid-major player after unimpressive BCS-conference lacky were drafted in the 2nd round many of us started to wonder if Isaiah would be drafted at all. Or, if Matthew Bryan-Amaning might be drafted before him. Finally, after the long agony reached its crescendo with the drafting of Chukwudiebere Maduabum and Ater Majok by the Los Angeles Lakers, the Sacramento Kings took Isaiah Thomas with the 60th and last pick of the draft.

Which definitely brings up a bunch of questions about the relevance of the NBA draft anymore, what it says about college basketball, NBA GM’s, why there is even a 2nd round anyways, and whether there should be a separate international draft to prevent the “stashing” of players overseas at the expense of college players at home.

Question 1: What is the point of the 2nd round?

Jeff Taylor: Contracts are not guaranteed for 2nd round draft picks. Thus, being taken in the 2nd round is almost more of a curse than a gift for a college player taken there. A team can lock up your rights, so you cannot go out as a free agent and find a team who has a need for your skill set and who will allow you to blossom with playing time. Instead, you may end up at the end of a deep bench and never get a chance to showcase your skills and find yourself out of basketball all too quickly. The team that drafts you can bring you into camp and then cut you on the last day of training camp after there is no further opportunity to look elsewhere. If the NBA is going to have a 2nd round, it ought to have a minumum of a one-year guarunteed contract.

Mark Knight: First and foremost, I am one of those many people, that Jeff talked about, who started following the NBA from a distance when it left town. Therefore, watching the NBA draft this year was the first time in many years I even paid attention or even cared. The second round is an interesting round because many of the players you see drafted, you won’t see play for years, similar to baseball. While others you may see in a backup capacity in the NBA right away. Some are going straight to the D-League, some are staying in Europe, and some are going to the NBA. It’s just a weird conundrum when NBA teams are looking more for potential than they are for the ready product. You have a player like Kyrie Irving selected number 1 overall but hasn’t played very many college games much less win very many. While Isaiah Thomas is drafted last and he is a notarized winner.

Question 2: Should the NBA have a separate international draft?

Jeff Taylor: When teams are drafting players that even the ESPN analysts (who are paid to be “draft experts”) have never even heard of, you have to wonder what the heck is going on. Chukwudiebere Maduabum, Bojan Bogdanovic, Milan Macvan, Targuy Ngombo, and Adam Hanga were among the players being chosen in the 2nd round for inexplicable reasons. You don’t usually hear about the amazing talent coming out of Qatar, Hungary, and Congo. There are no indications that teams intend to have these players into camp this year competing for roster spots. So, they draft them simply to hold their rights overseas and see if they develop later on. Kind of like using European leagues as a minor league system. I suppose that is fine, but when you do that at the expense of college kids trying to play in the NBA this year, it hurts the players, as well as, the fans of both the NBA team and the colleges.

Mark Knight: This would seem to make sense. It’s almost as if the NBA needs to make a rule like the NCAA, that has players declare for the draft no matter where they come from. This draft they declare for they would be required to immediately enter into the NBA or the developmental league. If they aren’t ready to come and play in the NBA than an international draft would make sense. Like baseball, you buy the rights to players you won’t see for 5 or 6 years. However, this could get out of hand if the NBA starts wanting to draft high schoolers before they even go to college, just to have the rights to them.

Question 3: Did NBA teams take more international players due to the possible lockout?

Jeff Taylor: When Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania was taken with the #5 pick of the draft by the Toronto Raptors, there were a lot of confused people out there. He has a difficult contract to get out of currently in the Euroleague and likely could not come to Toronto next year. But, he is also young and could probably use a couple more years of development before he is truly NBA ready anyways. With a possible lockout on the horizon, why not just stash players overseas and go get them later, rather than have your player sitting around waiting? Same could be true of a number of these international “reaches”. 2nd round picks are always a gamble that might not work out. It is less of a gamble and less of a wasted pick if they are playing and developing somewhere else during a lockout.

Mark Knight: At the time I wasn’t thinking it, but it does make sense.

Question 4: What is up with NBA teams taking players who did practically nothing in college over proven winners?

Jeff Taylor: I have often wondered about this. You see a star player on a conference winning team drop deep into the draft or even go undrafted, while some no-name playing for a mid-major gets drafted higher. Perhaps these GM’s know how to evaluate talent better than me. But, Charles Jenkins of Hofstra is really a better point guard than Isaiah Thomas? And Malcolm Lee? Seriously? I know he is taller than Isaiah Thomas, but I watched that kid all season. He has no heart. He gave up on games. He disappeared at critical times. He was certainly no leader on the floor the way Isaiah Thomas is and I just can’t see him sticking in the league for a long time.

Mark Knight: The NBA once again drafts like the MLB, everything is for their potential. If the NBA drafted just known winners, Kemba Walker would have gone first out of all the point guards, he has proven he knows how to win. Kyrie Irving would have found himself undrafted. However, the NBA is willing to take the gamble on a guy with a ton of upside over a guy they may see as capped out in potential.

Question 5: Is it actually better to be a star overseas than a 12th man in the NBA?

Jeff Taylor: Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday did not get drafted. Both may still have the opportunity to make a roster as undrafted free agents. J.J. Barea did it. Reggie Evans did it. Chucky Atkins, Bruce Bowen, Avery Johnson, Brad Miller, John Starks and Bo Outlaw did it. But, many late 2nd round picks and undrafted free agents sit at the end of the bench for a couple of years making the league minimum before disappearing into obscurity. Many others, Will Conroy comes to mind, light it up in the D-league and never get much more than a 10-day contract here or an invite to camp there.

So, while these players are wasting their most productive years toiling to make that dream of being in “The League” for low pay (by NBA standards) and not playing, they could have used their peak years to become very wealthy stars overseas. Leagues all over the world are paying millions of dollars to mediocre American players to come over. US players fill up the rosters of countries with a love for basketball, but not much homegrown talent, such as South Korea, Israel, Lebanon, and Uruguay. Players lucky enough to make the very competitive leagues of Spain, Italy, and Turkey can not only get rich, but have a very successful career against very good talent.

Mark Knight: This has to do with the players individual dreams. I have talked to many collegiate players and there are so many that aren’t in it for the money. They want to make their dream of playing in the “league”, whether that is the NBA, NFL, MLB, etc., a reality. These players will sacrifice almost anything to make that dream come true. However, if a player is just looking for a higher paycheck and some more playing time, the international circuit may benefit them.