Thursday night’s NBA Draft was the most watched NBA draft since the 1996 draft which featured Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen and Steve Nash, among others. The 2014 NBA Draft finished up at 3.45M viewers. This seems like a good number of viewers, until you realize that the 2014 NFL Draft came in at 45.7M viewers. Soak that in for a moment. Over 40M people would rather watch 3 days of 7 rounds of the NFL Draft, than watch a one night, 2 round NBA Draft. So why is this? Well, in my opinion it’s a handful of issues that keep the NBA Draft, year after year, with subpar ratings.
Problem: It’s no secret that the NBA Draft does not produce a lot of immediate impact starters, and with the ‘one and done’ nature of the NCAA’s top players, it’s obvious why. Top collegiate players are not being ‘seasoned’ enough in the college game, to come in and make a quick impact in the Pro game. Usually the top picks in the NBA are picked off athletic talent and what type of ceiling they have in their NBA career, not what they can provide to a team from day 1. This leads to a lackluster draft, and little reason for anyone to tune in and care about the draft.
Fix: I see a couple different ways to skin this cat. The most obvious would be to make the NCAA players stay in school till they complete their sophomore or junior year of college ball, much like the NFL requires. The NFL requires this due to the violent nature of their game, and the need for younger bodies to mature, while the NBA isn’t a violent sport, and really doesn’t have a need to make their athletes mature to be able to absorb the punishment. Delaying the eligible age of the draft is an extremely unpopular decision, but it makes perfect sense. You keep the athletes in the NCAA longer; they develop better playing skills, allow them to fully fill out their playing frame, and instantly improve the drafted talent level of the league. Imagine, instead of having a top 1-2 players in the draft every year, you would have a top 10-15 pool of solid lottery picks. Now, like I mentioned earlier, this is an extremely unpopular view, which would lead to my next fix of the talent level, D-League improvements. The D-League would be the perfect fix for the poor talent level in the NBA, but it is done terribly at the moment. If they wanted the D-League to work well, and truly take the NBA prospective talent to the next level, these are the steps they should take: 1) Allow High School, and NCAA players that want to leave college before my proposed soph-jun year into the D-League via the D-League draft. 2) Make all 30 teams have a D-League team. 3) Have teams D-League ‘Minor’ team utilize the Pro ‘Major’ team’s playbook and coaching philosophy These minor fixes would create a truly ‘developmental’ environment for the NBA’s prospective players, and it would also allow these players to practice and play under the same playbook they would use in with the ‘Major’ NBA team.
Problem: The most exciting part of the NFL offseason, outside of the actual draft, is the NFL combine. This is the time where we get to see all of the year’s top prospects show us how fast, strong and athletic they are. While the stats put up in a t-shirt and shorts don’t always translate to the field, it is exciting nonetheless. The NBA combine does not feature much of the same attributes that makes the NFL combine so interesting. This to me is strange, seeing as the NBA probably produces some of the worlds most talented, pure athletes.
Fix: So the logical fix, is to make the NBA Combine 2 part. The NBA would split all prospects into 2 groups, Group 1 does the athletic showcase in the morning, and Group 2 does the actual in-game showcase. Each prospect in the ‘Athletic Showcase’ would have to show their vertical jumps with both 1 and 3 steps, 31yrd(94ft) dash, 10x10x20 shuttle, long jump, etc. For the ‘In-Game Showcase’ each prospect would have to work in the post 1-1, show off jumper, FT, 3pt, dribbling ability, etc. Only the top 30-50 prospects would be invited, and the combine would air at prime time on NBA network with highlights shown on ESPN.
Problem: This may be the most obvious of the issues with the draft, but I’m throwing it out there anyways. If you don’t market the event, nobody is going to know about it, if nobody knows about it, nobody watches. Literally months prior to the NFL Draft, ESPN and NFL Network begin hyping their event. It gets so much air time, that you lie to yourself and say you refuse to watch it. Why doesn’t the NBA do the same? Before and after the Combine, the NBA needs to be hyping their top prospects, whether they deserve it or not. The more air time they get, the more likely they will have not only the avid NBA fans watching, but also the casual channel surfers.
Fix: I’ve already jumped into this one a little prematurely, but the fix is to obviously market more. Not only marketing to tell people to watch, but the NBA needs to find some decent prospects and hype them beyond belief. Not only hype them, but have a camera crew follow 4-5 of the top prospects and most intriguing prospects around. Make them human interest stories, and break down the barrier between the viewer and the athlete. If you can make the viewer’s fans of the individual players before the draft, they are more likely to tune in and follow that prospect.
Problem: The NBA Draft Lottery may be one the most ridiculous things in sports. Now, I get why they do it, to prevent teams from tanking for top prospects like LeBron or Wiggins, but it is laughable. Every year it seems like the League’s worst team gets shafted, and misses out on the top pick. How can you expect bottom feeder teams to improve if they can’t take the top pick, and rebuild their roster with top talent? You have teams like Charlotte and Philadelphia looking for the top pick after miserable seasons, and instead Cleveland with 1.something chance of winning, gets the top overall pick. What kind of horse sh@t is that?
Fix: Well, stop doing a draft lottery, duh. Instead impose tougher league sanctions to prevent teams from tanking.
This being my first ever post on the Pinstriped Post, I’m sure I missed some things, so I will leave it to all of you to fill in the gaps. What would you all change to make the NBA Draft a real primetime event?