From my experience, common sense isn’t all that common when it comes to the NCAA, so when it changes rules to something this sensible, I pay attention.
The NCAA changed its position concerning underclassmen exploring their value in the NBA draft. For the past several years, underclassmen basically had to make an irreversible decision on whether to turn pro.
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Now, they can make themselves available for the NBA Combine and workouts with individual teams and still have a window of time (a May 25 deadline) to pull out of the process and retain college eligibility.
This is tremendous as far as allowing underclassmen to make more informed decisions. But it will inevitably complicate the NBA’s pre-draft processes.
The only thing good about the old system is it was tidy. NBA teams pretty much knew going into the Combine in Chicago (workouts begin Thursday at Quest Multisport) and well in advance of the draft lottery who would be available. (It was different for international players, who had up to 10 days before the draft to withdraw).
Now the league must process change. There will be more choices for whom to invite to the Combine (the league released a list of 62 players who accepted invitations, including anticipated lottery picks who likely won’t work out).
Remember, this is different from the NFL with so many rounds of the draft. The NBA draft is limited to two rounds for a total of 60 players selected. The number of players exploring their draft value figures to far exceed the available draft slots.
But at least now, if players forfeit college eligibility without being drafted it won’t be over a system gamed against them making informed decisions.
Four quick hits on the NBA Combine:
Carolinas connections at the Combine
Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, Duke’s Brandon Ingram, N.C. State’s Cat Barber and North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige are attending.
Ingram, as a projected top-five pick, doesn’t figure to do anything beyond weight, measures and medical tests. Among the others, Jackson probably has an interesting decision on whether to stay in the draft. He has two seasons of college eligibility remaining. He needs to demonstrate an outside shot to complement his interior skills at 6-foot-8 to raise his stock.
Who won’t be there
It used to be customary for even the top prospects to show up at the Combine at least for the measurements, weigh-ins and medicals. That’s changed in the past couple of years. LSU freshman Ben Simmons won’t be at the Combine, nor will International pro Dragan Bender (Maccabi Tel Aviv).
Among top prospects who have accepted invitations: Ingram, California’s Jaylen Brown and Providence’s Kris Dunn.
Now that the Combine is held before the lottery, agents for top prospects might think it’s just not worth their clients’ time to be in Chicago before the draft order is settled.
Any famous names?
The son of former NBA center Arvydas Sabonis has his name in this draft and might be a lottery pick if he remains there. Domantas Sabonis is a 6-11 power forward/center who played two seasons at Gonzaga.
Lithuanian Arvydas Sabonis was a Hall of Famer, but by the time he entered the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers he was past his prime. He turned pro in 1981, was a first-round pick by the Blazers, and didn’t get to Portland until 1995. Still, with passing and long-range shooting not common to big men at the time, Sabonis had a seven-season NBA career.
Domantas Sabonis turned down a three-year contract with a Spanish pro team to play college basketball.
What sort of a player will be available at No. 22?
The Hornets’ first-round pick is 22nd overall. General manager Rich Cho says there will be a good player available when they select. Maybe, maybe not. The 2016 draft isn’t considered as strong as the previous two. Maybe the Hornets should investigate how the 22nd pick could be used as a trade chip.