The NBA draft is always an event with far-reaching impact, but the ramifications are typically confined to the Association. However, the 2013 NBA draft has a chance to spread its tendrils beyond the realm of professional basketball.
Usually, the impact of the draft surfaces when the new professional basketball players make a name for themselves. They affect their new teams and start shaping their legacies.
That won't change when 60 new players are added to the league on June 27, but there's a new layer of impact that could potentially take shape. This draft has the unique potential to alter how recruiting works in college basketball.
For a long time, the top high school players have tried to join the elite basketball factories around the country: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State, etc. If I just left your favorite college team out of the list, I apologize. That's not the point, though.
These premier recruits, McDonalds All-Americans or not, go to the top schools so that they can be in the national spotlight, play for the top coaches, compete for championships and, perhaps most importantly, improve their draft stock.
With the rise of one-and-done players who use college as nothing more than a stepping stone to the ranks of professional basketball, the other reasons are declining in importance. Championships, the spotlight and top coaches are nice, but they don't matter as much as improving the money-making potential that goes along with being a top pick in the draft.
Typically, you go to the big schools for all of these reasons.
The smaller colleges don't have the ability to let you play on national television as many times. They don't boast the legendary coaches, although the men in charge are most certainly still great ones. And, more often than not, they don't get very far in March Madness.
Historically, it's been harder to earn a lottery spot without the aid of a big-name school on your resume. That's what may be changing.
The Rise of Small-School Prospects
Let's say that C.J. McCollum is drafted in the lottery and immediately thrives as a scorer, just like many people, myself included, expect to happen.
McCollum went to Lehigh, a school that many of you probably can't place on a map. To fill you in, it's located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and is a private institution with just under 5,000 undergraduate students.
Want to take a guess as to how many NBA players were Mountain Hawks during their college careers? Twenty? Ten? Five? Just one?
None of those are the answer, since McCollum will be the first Lehigh product to ever make it to the Association. He didn't need the benefit of history to advance to the sport's highest level.
A year ago, Damian Lillard was a lottery pick out of Weber State, and he went on to win Rookie of the Year in unanimous fashion. The point guard was the ninth player from his school to advance to the NBA, but he's already the most successful. He's already played the third-most games of that group of nine as well.
In 2010, it was Paul George becoming the 20th player to come out of Fresno State, and in 2009, Stephen Curry became the sixth NBA player from Davidson.
If McCollum can experience the same level of success that the other three players I've named have reached, then he'll make this a trend. It'll be a trend that the top high-school recruits start to notice. All of a sudden, you don't have to go to a big school to be drafted and find success at the next level.
This won't make an immediate impact, but what if, at some point down the road, one top recruit suddenly decides to go to a small school and become the unquestioned go-to player? Powerhouses like Kentucky are great, but you have to share the ball there.
What if a guy like Andrew Wiggins spurns Kansas and Kentucky for Florida State? All of a sudden, the floodgates open.
All it takes is one marquee recruit making that novel and controversial decision, and we could be looking back at McCollum's career as the tipping point.
Unconventional Routes to the Draft
College has been, by far, the most common springboard to the NBA over the years. The vast majority of professional players, especially after the rule banning prep-to-pro moves was established, went through school en route to the NBA.
Lately, we've been seeing some prospects choose to go overseas, playing professional ball in Europe for a year before joining the NBA. Brandon Jennings is the most successful of that bunch, but Jeremy Tyler and Aquille Carr have done/are doing it as well.
During the 2013 draft, we're getting a new option.
Here's a quote from DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony concerning Glen Rice Jr.:
Glen Rice Jr officially hit rock bottom somewhere around the middle of January. 22 games into the D-League season, he'd only played a total of 147 minutes (6.6 per game), not even suiting up for many of Rio Grande Valley's contests, instead being asked to sit in the stands. The D-League Showcase had come and gone, and Rice had hardly made a whimper, as most NBA scouts that attended were barely aware that he was even on a roster, let alone a candidate for the 2013 NBA Draft.
Rice had been kicked off the Georgia Tech team, but he didn't stay at rock bottom for long. He led Rio Grande Valley to a D-League title after he got some playing time, and now he's viewed as a potential first-round pick.
The D-League is usually a second-tier league. It's the place where players go when they can't make it in the NBA. Or into it, for that matter.
Precious few teams actually use the D-League like the MLB minor-league system. The Houston Rockets jump to mind, but even they don't do things quite the same way.
If Rice manages to make a name for himself in the NBA, this could change as well. What if the D-League becomes an alternative to college?
It doesn't seem that unlikely, seeing as it's a professional league that would offer young players a chance to play basketball at a higher level while getting paid. It's just an option that hasn't yet been fully explored.
Will the D-League ever become a true alternative to college basketball?
Rice, much like McCollum, could prove to be a major difference-maker in the way college recruiting works. Depending on how successful he becomes with his as-of-yet-unnamed new team, Rice could very well prove the validity of using the D-League as a springboard to the NBA.
The 2013 NBA draft will change the landscape of professional basketball, even though it's a fairly weak draft class. That's inevitable.
However, it's a selection process that could also have a major impact on how prospects make their way to future drafts.
No pressure, Rice and McCollum.