Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Unraveling and uncertainty: The NBA draft

Last year, the NY Times published a story about high school basketball player Brandon Jennings, who went to play pro ball in Italy rather than going to the University of Arizona: At 19, Plotting New Path to N.B.A., via Europe. About the risks involved they wrote then:

"Instead he chose to play in Italy, where he will earn $1.2 million this season in salary and endorsements, including a shoe contract with Under Armour. Roma signed Jennings to a three-year deal but has little at risk because his contract must be bought out if he leaves for the National Basketball Association.
If Jennings has a strong season with Roma and is among the top 10 selected in next June’s N.B.A. draft, as expected, more players may follow his route. "

As the June 25 draft approaches, here's another story about Jennings, for whom not everything has worked out as hoped: After a Year in Europe, Brandon Jennings Wants to Be Drafted by the Knicks.

"Now, he has his eye on the Knicks.
“I really want to come here, I’m not going to lie,” Jennings said Monday after working out for the Knicks and expressing his appreciation for Coach Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offense. ...The Knicks have the eighth selection in next week’s draft but seem unlikely to pick Jennings if Davidson’s Stephen Curry is available. ...Ricky Rubio, an 18-year-old from Spain whom Jennings called “all hype” last week, is more likely to be the first point guard chosen."
"The biggest strikes against the 6-foot-2, 169-pound Jennings are his underwhelming numbers for his Italian club team, Lottomatica Virtus Roma. He averaged 5.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 17 minutes. But he is hoping N.B.A. general managers will see a player with more experience than nearly everyone else in the pool.
“I had to go out there and earn my spot,” he said of his experience in Italy. “It was a job. And I was playing against bigger and stronger guys every day.”
Jennings spoke maturely about his time in Europe, highlighting the character-building value of testing his mettle abroad. But he conceded that at times, it was frustrating. As a freshman at Arizona, the college he committed to before changing plans, he could have been at the center of a successful team that made a run in the N.C.A.A. tournament.
In Italy, Jennings spent most of his time on the bench, trying to make sense of his coaches’ decisions to use him primarily as a defensive player. He said he worried about his draft stock and remembered the critics who told him to go to college.
“It was a humbling experience for me,” Jennings said. “If I would have went to college, I would have played 30 minutes and I would have got whatever I wanted, but I had to go earn my spot.” "

Despite the risk, if Jennings does well in the draft tomorrow, others are likely to follow him to Europe, and soon.
Because of One-and-Done Rule, Others May Follow Jennings's Path:
Talented Recruit Chose European Payday Instead of Mandated College Season

"One year after Jennings's decision to play in Italy, there are signs that his success in the draft could trigger a small but significant movement. Jeremy Tyler, a talented forward from San Diego, already has decided to skip his senior year of high school to play overseas, and several others are now also considering following Jennings's unconventional route to the NBA.
Sonny Vaccaro, the former shoe company executive who helped orchestrate Jennings's move, said he has had in-depth discussions with the parents of seven elite players still in high school about playing overseas instead of going to college.
"Because players need to be 19 years old and a year out of high school before entering the NBA draft, they have had few options other than to attend college for at least a year. They view Jennings as a trailblazer because he chose a creative -- if not risky -- route, signing a professional contract instead of adhering to NCAA rules that forbid compensation. "

Update 6/25/09: Jennings chosen 10th, by Milwaukee Bucks. (But the uncertainty lasted right until he was chosen:
"Brandon Jennings' first decision was to not attend the NBA draft. When he was taken 10th by the Milwaukee Bucks, he suddenly showed up.
About a half hour before the draft got under way on Thursday night, Jennings' agent released a statement that his client, who decided to play in Europe last season rather than attend college, would be with his family rather than at the draft with many of the other future NBA players.
There had been media speculation that the 6-foot-1 Jennings, who averaged 5.5 points and 2.3 assists for Lottomatica Virtus Roma of the Italian League, would fall out of the lottery.
"Because we do not have strong grasp of Brandon's draft position, I've advised that he and his family enjoy this day in a more private setting with the people he loves the most,'' Bill Duffy, president and CEO of BDA Sports Management, said in the statement."


dWj said...

Supposing playing in Europe is better preparation and provides tougher competition than U.S. college ball, what might be a better signal under situations of better information might not be if it isn't the sort of signal others are used to processing. How his stats in Europe compare to a college player's resume may be unclear to potential employers, and, particularly early on in the draft, they may not be interested in an employee they aren't equipped to evaluate.

Don Coffin said...

“If I would have went to college..."

Perhaps evidence that he should have "went" to college, no?