Each year the NBA Draft is filled with highly talented prospects who are looking to start their journey as professional athletes in the greatest professional basketball league in the world. In recent years, there has been a trend in terms of younger talent being drafted early on. Young prospects such as one and done players are the prospects who seem to be selected the earliest and are the prospects who are the most coveted. For some reason, upperclassmen who enter the draft are looked down upon as old. We are talking 21 and 22 year old men who are still very young and have plenty of great youthful years ahead of them. Executives and scouts for various teams view these “older” players as less valuable and too “old” to build a team around or with. In the real world, you often hear people say to others from this age group that they are still young and have time to figure things out. In the sports world, in more specifically the professional basketball world in the United States that is known as the NBA, people downplay the importance of older players and view them as less valuable of an asset to their team. People surprisingly consider these players old. My question is, When was 21 and 22 considered old?
The upperclassmen who enter the NBA Draft are very much just as valuable, if not more so than the underclassmen that enter. These “old” players provide experience and leadership that most “young” players wouldn’t provide. I understand the counter-argument that these players have already shown most of or all of what they are capable of, but I am confident that if you asked most championship caliber teams what they preferred, they would say an upperclassmen player with more experience and one who is more polished from day one. These championship contenders want a player that can fill a role right away and contribute without much of a learning curve. Rebuilding teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers are more willing to let a young player develop. They aren’t necessarily looking for an experienced or older rookie that can come in and fill a void. The only way they would do this is if they had a solid core of stars already in place and they are looking for that experienced and mature player who fills in, fits a role, and possibly helps them get over the hump. Most teams aren’t looking for that type of player, so they take a chance on a younger player with more upside who maybe hasn’t shown all that he can and one who may improve as the year’s go on.
Talented players who are upperclassmen do get drafted and these players shouldn’t be overlooked. I predicted last year before the draft and again after the draft that four year prospect Malcolm Brogdon would be one of the best players from the draft. I felt that he would be underrated and undervalued by teams looking for more youthful prospects. Brogdon was arguably the best rookie this season and could very well be this season’s Rookie of the Year. Brogdon also was a key piece on a young up and coming Milwaukee Bucks team that pushed the Toronto Raptors in the 1st round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs. I see Villanova’s Josh Hart being a similar type of player. Josh will be one of the more underrated prospects and one who people forget about, but his experience and maturity that he learned from his time at Nova will definitely prepare him for his rookie campaign. I see Josh Hart fitting in really well with a team like the San Antonio Spurs, another team that would more than likely be looking for an experienced and already polished player, especially based on where they will be selecting in the draft. Many people view four year players as players that had to play that long because they weren’t good enough to leave early and have an impact on the game at the professional level. I disagree with that idea. I think you are either ready or not. Some players might be ready earlier than others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a better player or better professional prospect because of that. The youth in today’s league and the fact that players are allowed to leave after one season has ruined the league to a certain extent. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great young players in this league, many of which only spent a season playing in college, but there are also many young players who struggle to find playing time and struggle to adjust to the ups and downs of NBA life. Players who stay all four years are more prepared to mentally and physically withstand the rigors of an 82 game NBA season consisting of back to backs and things of that nature. Their season may even be extended longer than 28 games if they make the postseason.
I hope that I encouraged those reading this to understand where I am coming from in regards to players not being “old.” Upperclassmen are just as valuable to a team, if not more so than the underclassmen that declare for the draft. I don’t think we should label ages on prospects when determining their potential. Prospects should be evaluated simply based on their talent, intangibles, and their personality/off court behavior. If you were to compare two players with similar skill sets, but one who is better than the other and one that happens to be only two or three years old than the other one, would you really be able to justify picking the younger player simply because he is younger? Having that type of thought process wouldn’t be wise in my opinion. If the best player available happens to be a 21 or 22 year old prospect, I don’t think you should pass on him simply because he is older. Its not like the prospect is 30 years old!
Author: Nick Eberhardt
Image Courtesy Of Real G.M.