Jeremy Lin’s much-publicized rise to prominence has many fans asking why their team didn’t select the Harvard-alum.
NBA drafts in recent memory require Google on standby to decode who your team selected in the second round. Who in the world knows which league Targuy Ngombo played in or where Milan Macvan grew up?
These selections, seemingly conducted to validate a world-traveling expense account, have little to show in terms of contributions to each team. It’s time for NBA teams to reconsider the overseas project pick in favor of polished NCAA players ready to compete immediately.
In 2005, the NBA raised the draft entry minimum age to 19, reducing the number of players selected without college basketball experience. Teams have still shown a propensity towards taking a chance on international players.
A total of 46 non-college players were selected in the second round (out of 180) since 2006. 67 percent of those players have not played a single minute in the NBA. In comparison with college basketball players drafted in the second round, only 26 percent of players did not go on to play in the NBA.
Teams might claim that selecting international players is a game of risk and reward. You have the high risk of failure, but sometimes you are rewarded with a Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola or Marc Gasol.
Contrary to this belief, good players selected in the second round usually play college basketball.
Win Shares help show a clear differentiation between great second-round picks and those that never panned out. Since 2006, 12 players selected in the second round have a Win Share statistic higher than 10. Marc Gasol is the only non-college player found on this list.
Albeit low, the chances of a college basketball player becoming a viable NBA player (as validated by Win Shares) is eight percent, while non-college players are at two percent.
If NBA teams were more concerned with scouting talent in their own country, Lin might have been discovered in the second round of the draft.
Scouting isn’t an exact science. Teams shouldn’t kick themselves for missing Lin or other undrafted surprises like Udonis Haslem, Brad Miller, Bruce Bowen or Raja Bell. Teams should kick themselves, though, if they continually waste draft picks on a strategy that is proven to be ineffective.
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