As I mentioned this morning, I love the NBA Draft Lottery. I think that goes back to my childhood fandom of the Bullets, who were perennial Lottery losers. It was my playoffs.
The consensus has shifted that the Lottery's big prize is Derrick Rose, rather than Michael Beasley, who is a strong -- and consensus -- No. 2. No. 3 and beyond is a toss-up, depending on which team is there and what their needs are.
Rose is like Oden in that he is a true franchise-changer. Consider Chris Paul and Deron Williams, because -- coming out of college at least -- Rose is a better NBA talent than either of them.
Beasley is like Durant in that he could be a franchise player, but there is really no guarantee. After all, Durant was simply a poor man's Rashard Lewis this season. Working in Beasley's favor is that he is better -- more suited to excel in the NBA -- than Durant.
You won't hear much about that, because all the Durant-backers from a year ago would be loathe to admit that their "game-changing" favorite isn't even the best forward prospect of the past two drafts -- that would be Beasley.
But as you watch the mock drafts come screaming out of the mainstream media and blogosphere in the wake of the Lottery's results, please note how many freshmen there are on the list -- it is the best signal that the NBA's age-limit remains totally idiotic.
The only thing worse than the current age limit would be to raise it unconditionally, similarly to the way that they installed this first age limit.
Here's a novel idea: Let the market work. From '95-06 that is exactly what it did, producing highly efficient results, particularly among prep-to-pro players.
The idea of an "age limit" is very simple: If you don't want to "ruin" your NBA career prematurely, don't enter the NBA earlier than you should.
"Should" is an amorphous notion -- was Monta Ellis wrong to enter the NBA when he did? Most experts would say he did just fine for himself, even though he went much later than he thought he would.
The bottom line is that NBA GMs are, for the most part, highly rational: You don't take prep Dwight Howard over college Player of the Year Emeka Okafor because you are an idiot, blinded by potential. You take him because you are fairly certain Howard's upside is vastly greater than Okafor's. Howard's "expected value" is far superior to Okafor's -- but not that much. Just enough to know you would take Howard over Okafor if given the choice of both. Okafor remained a superior choice to the players that went below him.
The point is that GMs who wildly pick young prospects and end up with a sketchy "hit" rate won't be GMs for long. There is a built-in incentive to do what is in the GM's own best interests, which align with that of the team.
Most GMs in the Lottery will be taking freshmen -- in their first year of draft eligibility -- over older players who could have entered the draft in previous years but didn't, because the weren't good enough to play in the NBA. (See Tyler Hansbrough: If he would have been a Lottery pick after his freshman year, he sure as hell wouldn't have stuck around for the past two seasons.)
This is because those freshmen are better prospects than the older players -- this isn't some fad. And if those players were available a year ago, they likely would have also been first-round picks (if not drafted quite as high as they will be taken next month).
All I'm saying is: Look at the signals the market is sending. Look at the history of efficiency within the market (before artificial constraints were clamped onto it). In this case, the rules should follow what you are seeing unfold in front of you.
Enjoy the Lottery! I love that Jay-Z will be there, representing the Nets (watch for coded signals to LeBron!), but I love even more that the Kings are sending a fan. That's what the Lottery should be all about.