NBA

NBA Daily: The Draft Is More Than One Thing

Eveluating an NBA Draft prospect is more than just one thing, and getting caught up on just a player’s college career is often a mistake.

4 min read
Alan Draper profile picture
Disclosure
We sometimes use affiliate links in our content, when clicking on those we might receive a commission – at no extra cost to you. By using this website you agree to our terms and conditions and privacy policy.

It’s Not Just One Thing

With the main part of the NCAA Tournament getting underway today, there will be a lot of focus on the top players in college and how they may translate to the NBA. The challenge NBA teams face in evaluating talent is not only to avoid the hype that comes with tournament success but also to peel back what a player does for his team versus what the player may be capable of in a different environment.

The NBA Draft’s history is littered with NBA misses on NCAA tournament darlings as well as overlooking talent based on a bad read of a player based on how he may have played in college.

No one is suggesting that how a player plays in college is not important, but there is no question that players can and do evolve once they advance in age and their career. Equally, the player with obvious defects in their game often improves once they get into 24/7 professional life and have the resource to train smarter and more intensely.

There are hundreds of examples both ways.

Indiana’s Victor Oladipo was labeled as a bad shooter. As Oladipo closes his fifth NBA season, he’s seen his shooting percentages increase every year to a very respectable 36.9 percent three-point average and 80.4 percent from the foul line.

Miami’s Edrice “Bam” Adebayo wasn’t highly thought of offensively coming into the NBA Draft and has demonstrated in the NBA a much wider skill set than anyone expected. Adebayo was on a stacked Kentucky team and wasn’t a primary focal point, so judging him solely on how he played at Kentucky would have been a mistake.

Adebayo’s Miami teammate Justise Winslow was often considered one of the top players in the 2015 NBA Draft; many expected him to go in the top five. He was a college darling and has yet to make a meaningful impact in Miami, mostly due to constant injuries but also that his college skill set hasn’t translated as many had expected.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was an elite college defender in his lone season in Arizona. So far, through four NBA seasons, Gordon has shown flashes of that defensive presence but has yet to crack the top 100 in defensive rating in any of his NBA seasons. Does being an elite player in college translate? Very rarely.

A glance at the Naismith Awards winners over the last 20 years shows how infrequently in the last decade the elite in college become elite in the NBA.

Naismith Award Winners

2017 Frank Mason III 2007 Kevin Durant
2016 Buddy Hield 2006 J. J. Redick
2015 Frank Kaminsky 2005 Andrew Bogut
2014 Doug McDermott 2004 Jameer Nelson
2013 Trey Burke 2003 T. J. Ford
2012 Anthony Davis 2002 Jason Williams
2011 Jimmer Fredette 2001 Shane Battier
2010 Evan Turner 2000 Kenyon Martin
2009 Blake Griffin 1999 Elton Brand
2008 Tyler Hansbrough 1998 Antawn Jamison

Again, no one is suggesting that college performance doesn’t matter, its simply no longer the best measure of a player’s potential or ability in the NBA for a number of factors.

The situation is often the biggest factor in success at any level. It is not uncommon in college basketball for a player to play out of position or in a role that isn’t always ideal for their skill set. Equally, in college, some players are asked to do more than they’d be asked to do in the NBA, which can also skew the results.

There is no doubt that some things translate more easily than others – rebounding, shot blocking and free throw shooting. However, historically, even some of the best college players have struggled in the NBA.

Judging a player based solely and exclusively on what you see in college has historically been a mistake on both sides. Draft history is littered with NBA All-Stars and MVP candidates falling in the draft process, while the number of top 10 picks that were elite in college that have washed out is extremely high.

There is no question the more you can see a player, the more you can learn, but there is a balance to the process and something to consider when you see a player erupt on the big stage this week.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

Trending Now