Word on the Street: NBA Sets the Record Straight on Pre-Draft Rules

Word on the Street: NBA Sets the Record Straight on Pre-Draft Rules
Mar 21, 2007, 11:21 pm
Stu Jackson, the NBA’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, recently issued a memo to all NBA general managers clarifying the exact regulations that went into effect on October 13th in regards to the pre-draft process.

DraftExpress already published an article about the groundbreaking changes that have gone into effect, but now we know exactly what those are. Since there is still clearly plenty of confusion in the basketball industry—particularly amongst NCAA players and NBA player agents—we’ve decided to summarize some of the key points.

The Rules

-The NBA pre-draft camp will officially begin on Tuesday, May 29th at Disney’s Wild World of Sports Complex outside of Orlando, Florida. Games will be conducted until Friday, June 1st, and the players will be barred from conducting any agent or team-sponsored workouts until Tuesday, June 5th. Last year, the pre-draft camp was held from June 6th-13th, but players were allowed to work out for teams well before and also during the camp.

-NBA teams are prohibited from scheduling any private workouts until the official early-entry list is released on May 3rd. The NBA’s early-entry deadline is at 11:59 PM, April 29th, this year, but the list will not be circulated until May 3rd. That is done partially to ensure that players who had their letter postmarked by the deadline are on the list, and also allows the league time to review it and ensure that all the early-entry candidates are indeed serious basketball players and not just looking for their 15 minutes of fame.

-The League specifically retains the possibility of scheduling its own workouts for prospects during the pre-draft camp, which will be open for all NBA teams. This sounds similar to the workouts that were conducted between sessions in each of the past two years for players who opted not to participate in the camp. Examples from the last two years include Patrick O’Bryant, Cedric Simmons, Kyle Lowry, Aaron Gray, Rudy Fernandez, Ersan Ilyasova, Martynas Andriuskevicius, Jermareo Davidson, Toney Douglas and others. There is no indication at this point on what the criteria will be for who will be allowed to participate in this type of workout and who won’t.

-The NBA combine (on June 1st) will be conducted differently this year. For one, the league is adding in “light, non-contact skills testing,” such as ball-handling and shooting drills, and will open it up for all NBA teams to view. The participants will be not only those who are playing in the camp, but also the “physical-only” players, traditionally the 16 or so top prospects in the draft. This will certainly add a new dimension of intrigue to the combine, one that agents of top prospects in particular might not be too happy about.

-The memo states that NBA teams will still be able to conduct interviews with draft-eligible prospects in the same fashion that they were allowed to in the past. This is another interesting twist, since for some teams, getting to know the players they will potentially invest substantial amounts of resources on is even more important than conducting private workouts, particularly for their coaching staff.

Of course, the conspiracy theorists among us will wonder what is going to stop some sneaky team from conducting a workout with a player while he is in the privacy of their facility. The penalties could be so substantial, though, that you have to wonder if that would be worth it.

The Implications

We’ve discussed this at some length already, but after discussing this matter with additional NBA personnel, we’d like to share some follow-up thoughts.

-It will be truly fascinating to see if certain teams will be able to continue their policy of not drafting players that they did not have the chance to work out. With only 23 days available, there will only be time for players to do 12-13 workouts or so at the very most when considering the logistics involved, unless teams and agents decide to get creative. For underclassmen debating whether to keep their name in the draft or not, the number of days to work out is reduced to 13. At the end of the day, teams just won’t be able to fully evaluate as many players as they were able to in the past.

-Every year, a decent amount of teams send high level executives to scout the Reebok Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy, including a number of General Managers. The camp will be conducted this year from June 9th-12th. Taking 3, 4, or 5 days to travel to Europe and back for Treviso further limits the amount of workouts teams can effectively conduct.

-An interesting concept that was brought up by certain team personnel was the possibility of conducting joint workouts between two or more teams. The Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves experimented with this briefly last year, and we could see more teams try to cooperate with each other in order to get more looks in at players in different ranges of the draft that they otherwise might not have been able to. This would benefit both the teams, and the players, who would not have to travel as frantically around the country trying to squeeze in as many workouts as possible.

-We couldn’t help thinking of an article we saw yesterday in the Philadelphia Daily News. In it, Curtis Sumpter informs a reporter that he “will not play in the predraft camp in Portsmouth, Va., next month, but hopes to score an invite to the bigger camp in Orlando, Fla., in June.”

Portsmouth will be conducted exactly two weeks from now, while the early-entry list will only be released in 5 ½ weeks. What we’re curious about is, what happens if the floodgates truly open with underclassmen entering the draft in droves, and the NBA prefers to invite those players that they are less familiar with, rather than 5th year seniors such as Sumpter? In that case, not only will he not have a camp to be evaluated at, he will not be able to conduct the official NBA physical (which is so important for a player with an injury history like his), nor will he likely get a chance to be evaluated at all that many private NBA workouts. This is exactly what we discussed a few weeks ago when players will be deciding whether to “put all their eggs in one basket” so to speak.

We’re not trying to pick on Curtis Sumpter—he’s just a convenient example that came to mind while reading the article linked above—but there is certainly a new reality in the NBA draft world that not needs to be factored in, due to the fact that this is the first year that such rules are being implemented. It could take another year or two until this new mindset fully sinks in.

This is exactly what the NBA is trying to do, that is, get more players to attend the camps that are there specifically for them to be evaluated from.

-With that said, is it time to bring back the Phoenix Desert Classic? For those who aren’t familiar with it, there used to be a 3rd pre-draft camp, conducted the week after Portsmouth for 41 prospects. At some point, because of so many players skipping camps altogether, the need for it died down.

-So if the 2007 NBA draft doesn’t already look exciting enough, we now have another wrench thrown into the mix. We’re exactly 100 days away from June 29th.

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