By Rick Bonnell
Posted: Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013
The 2012 NBA draft was good, not great.
It had one can’t-miss prospect (New Orleans big man Anthony Davis), another quick-emerging star (Portland point guard Damian Lillard) and a bunch of guys who’ll be solid contributors with lengthy careers.
If two NBA scouts who travel the country each college basketball season are right, the 2013 draft won’t come close to that.
The Observer consulted with two long-time scouts (neither connected to the Charlotte Bobcats) as conference seasons commence in the college game. Each works for a team likely to have a top-10 pick. Each spoke on condition of anonymity because neither is authorized by his employer to speak publicly on draft prospects.
While the two conversations were separate, each conveyed the same conclusion: This isn’t the year a franchise-changer will emerge from the draft process
“I don’t think this is a good draft,” said one scout. “This is the year you should consider trading your draft pick – no matter where it is.”
That could be important in Charlotte, where the Bobcats at 9-24 look like they’ll miss the playoffs for the eighth time in nine seasons.
At their current place in the standings, the Bobcats would avoid turning their 2013 pick over to the Chicago Bulls to complete the Tyrus Thomas trade. Also, the Bobcats could end up with an extra first-round pick if the Portland Trail Blazers selection is outside the top 12, completing the Gerald Wallace trade.
It sounds unlikely the Bobcats or any other lottery-bound team would find a difference-maker in 2013.
“The draft lottery was always supposed to be about exceptional players going to the worst teams,” said one of the scouts. “We’ve eroded the concept of ‘exceptional’ – exceptional doesn’t really exist anymore.”
Both scouts say that erosion can be traced to the so-called “one-and-done” rule that governs draft eligibility. Under the collective-bargaining agreement, U.S. players can’t be in the draft until they’re at least one season removed from their high school graduating class.
The unintended consequence of that, these scouts say, is players with pro aspirations now consider one season of college ball the maximum they should stay.
“Now they think one season is the ceiling, not just the floor,” one scout said. “That creates a problem.”
The problem, both said, is while this is better than kids turning pro out of high school, you’re still using high picks on players a long way from finished products. The days when a Tim Duncan, Grant Hill or Chris Mullin entered the NBA, with a clear understanding of how those players would fit, are long over.
To describe this dynamic’s effect, one scout mentioned UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad and projected him hypothetically with the Bobcats. He mentioned that while Muhammad will be a high pick, he is flawed and inexperienced and would be redundant to much of what Michael Kidd-Gilchrist already provides the Bobcats.
“That’s what we all do,” the scout concluded. “We draft guys who are a lot like the ones we already have, only the guys we already have are better at least right now.
“But these guys are younger, so we get excited in the moment. And then you come to realize you haven’t changed much with your high pick.”
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