Deepest draft ever?
A strong second round in 2005 may pay big dividends
When the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to end the incursion of 18-year-olds and high school players into the NBA draft in July of 2005, their agreement was roundly applauded by most basketball people at the professional, college and high school levels.
The thinking was that slightly more prepared and mature players would enter the NBA draft, college programs would once again attract the best high school players, and high school phenoms would concentrate on making grades for college admission instead of focusing on the NBA.
While the early returns seem positive, the full impact of the agreement is best measured after a few years have passed. One thing most NBA scouts agree on already, however, is that there may never be a draft as deep as 2005.
Since the NBA went to the two-round system in 1989, only about half of the players chosen in any second round end up playing in the league -- and only a handful from each second round have substantial NBA careers. For every Gilbert Arenas, Cuttino Mobley or Carlos Boozer who ends up making it big, there are dozens of players who get cut right away or after a year in the league, and end up trying to carve out a career overseas or in a minor pro league.
But in 2005 -- the last draft that included high school players -- the presence of nine high school seniors skewed those averages. With an overabundance of prep talent, six of those high schoolers dropped to the second round.
From the players' perspective, it was a decision that might have cost them hundreds of thousands of guaranteed dollars on their first NBA contracts. Meanwhile, NBA teams benefited, since it allowed them to develop some players at second-round prices who surely would have been first-round picks after a year or two of college.
Now after getting a taste of the NBA (and in some cases, the NBDL) in their first season as professionals, several second-rounders from 2005 are positioned to make a real difference for their teams this season. Many others won't crack their team's playing rotations this year, but are regarded as blue-chip prospects who figure prominently in their team's futures.
Salim Stoudamire of Atlanta and Ryan Gomes of Boston were second-round picks who look to make a bigger impact after contributing to their teams last season. Monta Ellis of Golden State, Ersan Ilyasova of Milwaukee, Andray Blatche of Washington, Ronny Turiaf of the Lakers and Daniel Ewing of the Clippers are likely to be part of their team's playing rotations at some point this season. Others, such as Lawrence Roberts of Memphis, Travis Diener of Orlando and Orien Greene of Indiana, are challenging for playing time as well.
Prospects whom teams remain high on who might not play much this year include C.J. Miles of Utah, Mile Ilic of New Jersey, Mickael Gelabale of Seattle, Amir Johnson of Detroit and Uros Slokar of Toronto.
Then there's a third group of players drafted in the second round in 2005 still playing in Europe, who may one day become valuable members of NBA teams in the same way that Manu Ginobili and Mehmet Okur did, years after they were drafted.
These include Roko Leni Ukic of Winterthur F.C. Barcelona of Spain (draft rights held by Toronto), Erazem Lorbek of Unicaja Malaga of Spain (rights held by Indiana), Marcin Gortat of RheinEnergie Koln of Germany (rights held by Orlando) and Cenk Akyol of Efes Pilsen of Turkey (rights held by Atlanta).
When you add it up, the 2005 NBA draft might one day be remembered for having the best second round in the 18-year history of two-round NBA drafts.