Draft Hot Take: NBA vs MLB
Like I promised last week here is my take on the differences between drafting in the NBA and the MLB and which franchises do it best:
Drafting in professional sports is one of the most difficult things to do; or I should say one of the most difficult things to do successfully. Every year professional sports around the country host a draft consisting mainly of college athletes and in some leagues international athletes and possibly high school kids. Each league has their own draft intricacies and expectations of the players who are drafted. Today I am going to dive a little deeper into the NBA and MLB drafts.
One of the biggest differences in the MLB draft compared to other drafts is that it takes place during the season, while all other drafts take place after the Championship game or series. Another huge difference is the expectations of the players a franchise drafts. In the MLB most draft picks will spend years in the minors and sometimes, in the end, they might not even work out. There are obvious exceptions to these statements, for instance, Bryce Harper was drafted 1st overall and has completely changed the Nationals franchise. You also have guys like Albert Pujols who was drafted in the 13thround and will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Unlike most sports, the MLB draft can be a complete crap shoot from the beginning to the end. Some of this has to do with the fact that teams can draft high school kids in the draft. These kids dominate at their young age but may not end up progressing as expected. This is one of the reasons that drafting in the MLB is one of the most important aspects of a franchise. You have to invest money into a farm system and scouts.
When you look at MLB franchises, some of the best at drafting talent are the Braves, Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers. Now developing the talent is another factor all together. For example, this year the Yankees are right in the thick of the playoff race when they were supposed to be a few years away from competing. Their success is due to how they drafted and then developed those players. The White Sox are another franchise that is loaded with young developing prospects, but they acquired those players from trades and are setting up for the future that way. There is no “right” way to win a World Series but in my opinion the Royals (who drafted Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Danny Duffy in the first three rounds of the MLB draft) have a very good model to follow.
Switching gears to look at the NBA draft which takes place a few weeks after the NBA Finals. The expectations of NBA draft prospects are if you are a lottery pick, which means you are drafted in the first 14 picks, that you are expected to be the face of a franchise and possibly turn said franchise around. Players like LeBron James, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan were all taken within the top 3 picks of their respective drafts and they have completely turned around franchises and cities. The 2017 NBA draft was loaded with players who could alter a franchise and are expected to turn teams around. Most of them should be sophomore’s in college and that is absolutely insane but that’s how talented they are.
If you are drafted out of the lottery, but in the first round, you should be a solid starter or solid role player off the bench. Some players that come to mind who fit that script are Manu Ginobili, Sam Cassell, Kyle Korver, and Michael Finley. All of these guys were drafted late in the first round and even in the second round. They all had extremely valuable NBA careers and even helped their franchises win NBA Championships. Thinking about some of the best drafting franchises in the NBA the Spurs immediately come to mind. After taking Tim Duncan first overall in 1997 they have not had a pick in the top 20. Since ’97, the Spurs have made the playoffs every year, made the Western Conference Finals 10 times, and won the NBA Finals 5 times, all without having a pick in the top 20. That is astounding. Two of their best players in the last fifteen years are Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Ginobili was drafted in the 2nd round with the 57th pick and Parker was taken in the first round with the 28th pick. I believe the Spurs are one of the best franchises in all of sports when it comes to drafting players and developing them.
Every sport has different expectations for their draft and the players taken in that draft. One thing is universal, if you do a poor job of scouting and drafting your franchise could be in the cellar for a long time. If that happens, as a general manager you may be looking for a job sooner rather then later.