Commentary

D.R.A.F.T. Initiative: Hype anxiety

Expectations for the draft are overblown. It makes savvy picking even more critical

Originally Published: June 2, 2009
By Luke Cyphers | ESPN The Magazine

When the NBA draft started more than 50 years ago, it was like a bare-knuckles fight -- there was no limit on the number of rounds, allowing teams to draft players for as long as they could stand, including a record 21 rounds in 1960.

Times change. Since then, the draft has been shrunk (to 10 rounds by the mid-1970s) and downsized (to seven in 1985) and desiccated (to the current two rounds in 1989). Obviously, drafts can change the course of league history (see: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan), and every year on draft night, we like to point and stare at the big suits and the Big Suit.

But Insider's D.R.A.F.T. Initiative (Data-Related Analysis For Truth) crew has been poring over draft data for months, analyzing draft picks and their subsequent careers, and we've arrived at a surprising conclusion: The NBA draft isn't that big a deal. That's because, in any given year, there isn't enough talent to give many teams any hope of landing a star, let alone a reliable backup.

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Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.