What kind of talent is out there?

Full farm system improves quality of fringe players but doesn't create stars

Originally Published: October 5, 2012
By Neil Paine | Basketball-Reference.com
Jamine PetersonJoe Murphy/NBAE/Getty ImagesA full farm system won't create a lot of stars, but it could improve the quality of marginal players.
Editor's Note: This is the final installment of a five-part series this week examining the possibility and impact of a full NBA minor league system similar to the model used in Major League Baseball. Today we explore the quality of players such a system might produce.

When Branch Rickey, the St. Louis Cardinals' ever-forward-thinking general manager, developed Major League Baseball's first farm system in the late 1920s, it revolutionized the process by which young talent was funneled from the amateur ranks to the game's highest level. And after seeing St. Louis win five pennants and three World Series titles from 1926 to 1934, the rest of baseball soon borrowed Rickey's innovation for themselves, leading to a formalized network of minor league affiliate teams that persists more or less unchanged to this day.

Meanwhile, for all of its innovations and global reach, professional basketball hasn't really embraced the minor league concept and taken it to its full extent the way baseball did nearly a century ago. Many of the reasons for this disparity have to do with structural differences between baseball and basketball, and we've tried to outline those throughout this week's series, but one fundamental similarity between the two sports is the nature of talent distribution in an increasingly international pool of potential players.

Neil Paine writes for FiveThirtyEight, the data-supported sports, politics and culture site coming soon from ESPN.