This years NBA Pre-Draft camp will be unique for a number of reasons; all of which change the landscape of the NBA draft process dramatically.
For one, it is the first time the camp will be held outside of the familiar confines of Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago. The feeling amongst NBA people weve spoken with was that a change was needed to be made in order to restore the prestige the camp once had as a must-see event for all 4 days for NBA GMs and executives.
Whats happened instead is that traditionally the majority of the top 30-45 prospects in the draftor at least those who thought or told they were-- would pass on playing there and instead expect to be invited solely to the measurements and physicals. This was a gradual process throughout the years, and as less and less pre-draft camp participants ended up being drafted in the first round, the movement away from Chicago and more towards private and publicly held workouts each year slowly increased.
It got to a point where after the first day or two, NBA GMs and top level executives would instead spend most of their day driving around Chicago to attend private or public workouts conducted by the most powerful agents (those who usually control the top 20 picks of the draft) at the various training facilities in ChicagoTim Grovers ATTACK Athletics, the Multiplex down the street from Moody Bible, and the Lakeshore Athletic Club. Moving the camp away from the familiarity of Chicago to a new, fresh location (Orlando) could be one way to help keep GMs in their seats and not constantly looking for new stimuli.
There is a big difference between walking down the street from Moody Bible to the Multiplex or taking a 2-minute cab-ride to the Lakeshore Athletic Club and the situation well see in Orlando, (actually Kissimmee, Florida if were splitting hairs) where teams will need to battle the notorious Orlando traffic and constant tollbooths to get to the actual city, which is more than half an hour away.
In an attempt to combat this issue last
year, the NBA decided to conduct workouts for lottery or first round prospects during the 2-3 hour afternoon breaks at Moody Bible, between sessions. The goal of this new policy, discussed last June in an article on DraftExpress, was of course to keep GMs and Executives at Moody Bible, in order to convince them to not roam around the streets of Chicago looking for first round prospects to observe.
The workouts we took in last year (which you can read about here) included Lithuanian teenager Martynas Andriuskevicius
(who in our opinion then, bombed, and later fell to the middle of the 2nd round), Spanish ACB league veteran Rudy Fernández
(who pulled out due to buyout issues and not being able to get a promise where he needed in the 1st round), and Turkish teenager Ersan Ilyasova
(also fell to the 2nd round), who had the misfortune of conducting his workout at the same time of an absolutely phenomenal matchup at Lakeshore between Danny Granger
and Hakim Warrick
. Certain players who did not get into the NBA pre-draft camp (such as Jermareo Davidson
, Donnell Taylor and Jan Jagla
) were allowed to tag along to serve as extra bodies for the workouts at Moody Bible.
Whether or not these public workouts will be conducted again this year is still up for discussion according to NBA people we spoke with. More cooperation will be needed on the part of agents to make this successful and get some actual top-20 prospects in the gym. From what some of them told us this year and last, the NBA shouldnt count on that. Its not entirely clear to us why.
What also makes this years pre-draft camp different from years past are new rules on the part of both the NBA and NCAA that change key elements of the draft process.
On the NBAs end, we find the much discussed age-limit that restricts traditional 4-year high school and Under-19 International prospects from entering the draft. This has, according to some experts, opened up at least 5-6 spots in the 1st round that otherwise would have been taken up by members of this excellent class of high school seniors (not so much on the International end yet
). In the next few weeks well be talking more about how this rule changed the way this years 1st round might have ended up looking.
In addition to the spots in the first round which have been cleared up by the absence of high school and 1988-born International players, the newly negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement now only guarantees the contracts of 1st round players for their first two years in the NBA, as opposed to three in years past. Many in NBA circles feel that this rule has lessened the distinction between a player being drafted in the first round or second, since most 2nd rounders this year also got two or even three year guarantees, or at the very least, a lot of money up front.
Something that backs up their point on this matter is the fact that, for the first time ever, every player drafted in the 2nd round last year ended up not only making the roster of the team that drafted him, but also stuck for the entire season. NBA teams being able to send down players with two years of experience or less to the D-League for seasoning in our opinion had a considerable impact on this.
Beyond the 2nd round, 16 players who went undrafted last year finished the season on an NBA roster. Its obvious that it is no longer a death kiss for a players career to not get drafted in the first round.
Some of these same players (such as Ryan Gomes
or Monta Ellis
) will likely be landing themselves hefty extensions already next summer while their 1st round counterparts continue to wait.
These factors combined could very well serve as the little ammunition certain NCAA underclassmen will need to stay in the draft despite the advice they receive from their college coaches, their local beat writers, some NBA people, and scouting services like ours.
Making the process even more difficult for underclassmen to navigate is the new rules implemented by the NCAA in regards to testing the waters. The issue of the Randolph_Morris rule and whether its fair has been discussed ad nauseam here already.
What we havent talked about are the rules regarding attending workouts that both NBA teams and underclassmen are forced to deal with at the moment, which complicate matters even further.
As opposed to years past, NCAA underclassmen are not allowed to let NBA teams pay for the expenses involved in getting to private workouts, fully knowing that they will have to pay them back before the fall semester starts at school. Underclassmen must now not only set up their workouts either by themselves or with their college coach--quite a challenging task in itself. They must find a way to pay for them on their own as well--up front--or risk be ruled ineligible by the NCAA if/when they pull out of the draft.
Players who do hire agents have all their expenses paid (quite happily) by NBA teams, further widening the gap between the classes.
Considering the expenses involved in flying to 12-15 NBA cities around the country on short notice and having to pay for hotels, food, transportation as well as the airfare, players will need a small fortune to be able to explore their NBA options. If you dont come from a well-off family and resist the temptation to hire an agent and have all these problems sorted for you, its difficult to envision how a typical college student can shoulder these expenses on his own, without cutting corners along the way.
To minimize costs and still provide an avenue for players to be seen, many top colleges (such as Michigan State) are reportedly looking into the possibility of conducting a public workout for NBA executives on their own campus. Needless to say, NBA teams arent thrilled with the idea. They want to be able to run their own workouts with their own custom made drills they need to see prospects going through to evaluate how well they fit their system.
There is also some weariness regarding who will be conducting the workout, how qualified theyll be to do so, and whether it will just be one player by himself shooting jumpers unguarded. Its isnt very realistic to expect NBA GMs and Coaches (some of whom are still in the playoffs) to get excited about the possibility of leaving their own individual team issues (which includes other private workouts) for the sake of flying around America to college towns to watch workouts with borderline 1st round prospects (at best); especially when they dont even know informative theyll be. If its not in their own city, from what weve been told by more than one executive, players can probably forget about getting anything more than regional scouts in.
This is yet another reason why this years NBA pre-draft camp will be a very relevant event, particularly for those underclassmen who have not hired agents yet and will be using Orlando as the gauge for whether or not they return to school.
Further muddying the waters is the fact that the deadline to pull out of the NBA draft has been moved up by three days this year, from June 21st to June 18th. The 11 (now eight) days from when the pre-draft camp ends to the day of the pullout deadline is traditionally the biggest crunch-time as far as borderline 1st rounders go. Beyond the logistical nightmare for an agent-free underclassman and his family to manage this stressful period effectively, every workout they conduct is absolutely a factor in their decision. Cutting down the time they have to be evaluated by three days makes this process that much more difficult.
What will the fallout be from this incredibly complicated situation? Well probably find out on draft night.
Come back tomorrow for part two of this article, where well be breaking down our suggested rosters for this years NBA pre-draft camp, with an eye on last year's rosters and "physicals-only" invites.