The NBA Draft has changed over the years. Not that long ago, teams exclusively selected four-year college players. Now the draft includes graduates, freshman and sophomore college stars, and international players.
Still, despite the fact that the draft draws from many more streams of talent than it used to, there’s still one undeniable fact about it: In any given year, there are very few NBA-ready players who will make an immediate impact on the league.
The first round is when the best players go, and the most important ones will be drafted in the first five to ten picks. Pay special attention to the first five selections, as these tend to be the guys who will be ready to contribute immediately.
That does not mean that the rest of the round is not important. Other teams can certainly upgrade their benches as they go deeper into the draft. It is rare to find a true impact player in the middle to late part of the first round, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find quality.
Can One Guy Make a Difference?
To answer this, you just need to think back to some of the players who have been taken near the top of the draft board: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, LeBron James. Yes, one player can make all the difference in the world, especially if there’s a solid foundation and the guy is exactly what that team needs. But there are very few players who can come into the NBA and make an instant and huge impact.
The NBA Draft can be a real resource for teams looking to upgrade their bench with quality utility players. These guys will offer quality minutes that allow the starters some time to rest. They won’t always make the headlines, but they sure will help. Also, look for specialists that a team may be adding to their bench, such as three-point shooters, great ball handlers, or defensive players. They can be important to a team’s success.
Diamond in the Rough
Is there a player who is not ready for the NBA but who has the potential to be a massive force one day? A team may draft a player who has some great physical attributes but whose skill level is severely lacking. This guy probably won’t even make the team, but he will play in the NBA D-League where he’ll see plenty of playing time and can develop his skills.
Present and Future
The NBA Draft is partly about the present and partly about the future. There will be some players who will make an instant impact and others who have the potential to do so down the road.
One final note on the draft: Look for the dark horse who is flying under the radar but may end up being key to a team’s success. During Summer League, keep your eyes on all of the new players on a team. This is often where players show flashes of potential that can be developed over the coming season.