November 30, 2005

…And with the 7th pick in the NBA Draft…

Expansion teams. The “not so horrible” lottery teams. The middle of the worst.

These are the teams that are usually stuck with the 7th pick. They were bad enough to not make the playoffs, but not quite bad enough to take home the Draft Trophy. They have the most work to do.

With the first 3 or 4 picks, there are usually guys who are obvious picks. They ACC player of the year, the Prep player everyone’s been talking about since he was in the 5th grade, the 8-foot Chinaman. Each year there seems to be a few no-brainer picks and guys who have so much upside, there’s no way one could pass on the chance to take them. There’s a lot of pressure at the top of the draft, but it mostly falls on the shoulders of the players rather than the team. If that player fails the onus is put on them. “He didn’t live up to his potential,” “He got himself in with the wrong crowd.”

Towards the bottom of the draft, 10 thru 13, there isn’t much pressure. You’ve got a decent team, that maybe just ran out of gas at the end of the year, so your needs aren’t as great as at the top. You’d obviously like to get a good player, but you don’t necessarily need that player to make an impact right away, so you can draft more for need than for talent. You can take the second best high school kid and let him develop, or take the four-year starter at an acclaimed University that maybe didn’t have a great senior season but is a proven winner. You don’t want to look stupid, but the weight of that decision isn’t as heavy.

At the 7th spot there is a lot of pressure, but it doesn’t fall as heavily on the player as it does in the first few picks. The team deals with most of that pressure. They’ve got to try to weed out the ‘Next Great Thing’ from the ‘Next Great Bust.’ ‘The Steal Of the Draft’ from the ‘Slug Who Sniffs Glue In the Back Of His Range Rover.’ If the player they take is a failure, it’s not only the player who catches flak for being a dud, but the GM and scouts also take some heat, because “with that high of a draft pick, you gotta get something good.” The pick is too high to take a “sleeper” but too low to get a guarantee. You have to take a player that is going to make an impact, maybe not this year, but in the next two years. If he doesn’t, you’ve failed in the eyes of everyone, or in simpler terms: Your mustache hair has fallen out and now you’re combing your head hair over your face.

That brings us to the point of this rant: The results of the 7th pick in the history of the NBA Draft. In looking at the history of this pick, I noticed one thing. There seems to be a fair amount of consistency with the pick. The first two or three picks fluctuate quite a bit. One year you get a stud, the next a dud. The later picks are the same except they’re considered sleepers(stud) or mis-scouted(dud). The 7th pick, however, seems to provide teams with less dramatic fluctuation. Sure, there have been some great players at the 7th pick. Chris Mullin, Bernard King, Billy Cunningham, and most noticeably Bill Russell, were all taken with the 7th pick. For every one of those you’ve got the Cliff Meelys and Roy Tarpleys of the world too, but it doesn’t seem to be as dramatic. There aren’t many superstars, but there aren’t many lumps either. Here’s a list of 7th picks.

Ed Conlin ‘49
Bill Russell ‘56
Billy Cunningham ‘65
Pat Riley ‘67
Bernard King ‘77
Vinnie Johnson ‘79
Thurl Baily ‘83
Alvin Robertson ‘84
Chris Mullin ‘85
Roy Tarpley ‘86
Kevin Johnson ‘87
Luc Longley ‘91
Walt Williams ‘92
Bobby Hurley ‘93
Lamond Murray ‘94
Damon Stoudemire ‘95
Lorenzen Wright ‘96
Tim Thomas ‘97
Jason Williams ‘98
Richard Hamilton ‘99
Chris Mihm ‘00
Eddie Griffin ‘01
Nene Hilario ‘02
Kirk Hinrich ‘03
Luol Deng ‘04
Charlie Villanueva ‘05

You don’t see a lot of big time players on that list, but you don’t see a lot of guys who didn’t get to another contract after their rookie one expired. There are no KG’s, but there are no Will Avery’s either. Luc Longley and Walt Williams retired and Bobby Hurley was in a major auto accident, but other than that the rest of the guys on that list are still playing. The more recent picks are coming into their own, or are already starring for their respective teams, and the guys who are in the twilight of their careers are contributing as well.

No superstars, but no complete fuck ups either.

So I guess maybe the pressure isn’t as heavy at the 7th spot than I thought. Or maybe that pressure causes GMs and scouts to really concentrate and focus on the draft, instead of just letting it go by (like a certain GM I wish I didn't have to trust my team with). Presumably the players that are taken in the middle feel like they have something more to prove since, more likely than not, they feel they got shunned by not getting taken higher, so they're more motivated.

Either way, teams have had good luck, more often than not, with the 7th pick in the draft.

1 comment:

Drew Boatman said...

Agreed. That's actually a bit spooky how even those players are. I mean, who is even the best (modern) player on that list? Damon? I don't think so. Hinrich? Lots of potential, doing great, but still young. In a pinch, I'd have to say Rip, but that's just because of the championship and his clutch shooting. Yeah, that's weird. Everyone is like the same player, and Charlie's going to fit into that perfectly. Probably average 20 for a season or two, but mostly going to be between 10-15, maybe an all-star one year, good rebounding, solid player, but by no means a superstar.

I mean, KG went 5th, you would think eventually a 7 would come along and blow up. But not yet.