Fans of any sport love looking toward the future. Even those who are in a competing window are looking for ways for their favorite teams to improve. One of the best ways is by drafting well because of the fixed salary caps in most sports.
March becomes a particularly fun time with the National Basketball Association playoff chases as well as the top prospects playing in their postseasons. It allows basketball fans to make march madness picks and root for their favorite teams and the upcoming players. It’s truly a great time.
But the early season is just as important for those draft prospects as the postseason is. The competition level is getting far better during the early-season tournaments and events. It is great for the sport of college basketball from a viewership perspective. It also allows those players to get great exposure to marquee players and teams early.
Here are a few reasons why the draft is so important and what fans can learn as their teams prepare throughout the season.
The NBA has a fixed salary cap that fluctuates every year. The real issue for competitive teams is finding ways to keep players on the cheap, so drafting becomes even more important than for some of the other leagues, like baseball, which has no salary cap but a tax system. While the NBA has a salary cap, teams can go over and go into the luxury tax.
The rookie pay scale is such that each draft slot has its own value. There is no negotiating between the teams and the prospects who are selected. The most expensive pick is No. 1, and it is descending from there. The more successful teams will pick later in the draft, but the second-round picks become a valuable draft slot because those contracts aren’t guaranteed. Teams will depart with millions of dollars to secure those early second-round selections.
Teams who struggle will also gain money off the jersey and ticket sales as that player adapts to the franchise. Fans will be excited and hope that the player selected becomes the team’s next budding star for years to come.
Types of Rookies
There are obviously varying degrees of prospects. Those who go earlier in the draft will either have the highest floor – meaning the readiest to contribute when they enter the league – or the highest potential, which means they offer that franchise plenty of hope that they will develop into a star.
Those picked in later in the round teams often hope will develop as low-risk, high-reward picks or somebody who can help fill an eighth or ninth rotation spot and maybe develop into a starter by the end of their contracts.
But scouting isn’t an exact science. Some of the league’s best stars today – Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Jokic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo – weren’t selected by teams in the draft lottery. There is no exact way to determine who is going to fulfill a strong work ethic, how bodies will fill out, the best passers, and other unique traits.
Select players go through workouts and interviews aimed at getting to know someone, but front offices never truly know how a player will develop.
That is part of what makes the draft so fun. There is so much scouting, and people can look back and see who was right and who was wrong, see the different surprises, and more.
The Level Before the NBA
Part of what makes the amateur levels so great is how those players are thought of. There may be an intriguing matchup – like when Jalen Duren of Memphis played against Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga – and how those play out may sway a scouts bias toward or against prospects. It is recency bias, sure, but it is also as close to an apples-to-apples comparison as one will get.
Those games will play out at the beginning of the year when major teams are competing in the semifinals or championships of the early season tournaments or at the end of the year during March Madness as teams push for conference championships and, ultimately, the NCAA championship.
There are different levels of watching basketball for NBA fans, but all can be fun and filled with hope.