Production versus Promise at the NBA Draft

Kentucky's Nerlens Noel and Maryland's Alex Len

Production versus Promise at the NBA Draft

Each year, the prospects for the NBA draft can be thrown into two neatly differentiated barrels: the ones who produced and the ones who have potential.

This seems oversimplified but go ahead and try to find a single draft hopeful who doesn’t fall into one of the two categories. Anyone being drafted either put up numbers in college or has people feeling like they could put up numbers in the pros. The top guys this year are no different.


Anthony Bennett – has promise

Trey Burke – produced

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - produced

Michael Carter-Williams – has promise

Alex Len – has promise

CJ McCollum – produced

Ben McLemore – has promise

Nerlens Noel – has promise

Victor Oladipo – produced

Otto Porter – produced


And that is just a quick alphabetical of the guys atop people’s draft boards. I could keep going. So which is the better category to be in? Historically, the guys with potential always go a lot higher than guys with production. NBA teams are afraid that guys who produced may have shown their ceilings; they are safer picks for sure, but offer little chance of producing an all-star. This year may be different though. This year may be the first in ages where the producers (in general) get taken ahead of the unknowns. According to some high-profile mockers, we may see as many as five of the top ten guys be ones who produced in college: Porter, Oladipo, McCollum, Caldwell-Pope and Burke. This could be waffled over depending on your feelings on Caldwell-Pope’s and McLemore’s respective upsides but it’s not a perfect scale by any means.

Nevertheless, what this mini-trend says about NBA execs is hard to pinpoint. Are they shying away from project picks who may not pan out? No, probably not. Teams will always reach for the all-star potential rather than the reliable role player. What this really is hinting at is that the 2013 draft is low on potential. Said another way, these guys aren’t very good, in the eyes of the pro scouts.

This may be a down year. Next year certainly seems to be trending back up as far as draft prospects go. But this is also a sign that college basketball talent is down in general. This is because of the age restrictions and good college guys are all leaving after their freshman season and blah blah blah. Certainly NCAA basketball has turned into a young man’s game. While upperclassmen still own the All-American rosters, freshmen dominate the headlines. This is a fact that will not go away. The question is when will NBA execs start following the same blueprint by allowing the young guys to get all the fanfare but taking the experienced veteran to most help their team? The answer may be 2013. Whether that becomes an aberration or a trend remains to be seen.