Detroit 2003—I was sitting at home and watching the draft and waiting to see who my home town team would pick up with the No. 2 selection. Everyone and their mother in the Motor City wanted Carmelo Anthony, but the Pistons went European and selected the great Darko Milicic.
To turn down the anger level of fans a few notches, Joe Dumars told the city that Milicic would be great; give him time. Dumars was the man and he had turned the Pistons from descender to contender to winners, so everyone gave Darko the benefit of the doubt. Darko had just turned 18 years old and was the youngest player ever drafted at that time (Andrew Bynum is the youngest now 17 years old).
Let's fast forward if you will, to the 2009 draft. Things have changed a lot since then. American born players must be at least 19 years old or have that one useful year of college under their belt before they can even think about hearing David Stern blurting their name out.
Well, I guess that's not a lot of changes, after all—just one, and a very unfair one in my opinion. I say this because, well, you can come from any other country but the United States and be drafted prior to 19 years of age.
Stern, and others who where on their high horses, said that in order to keep NBA quality at it's highest that American born players need to pose as college students for a year. Too many preps to pros were not ready to contribute immediately to the teams that selected them
I don't agree, but he's the boss, but I do have a question: what's the Euro standard?
Sure, for the most part, these Euro guys come in at the age of 20, but based on the overall quality of play, should they have to wait another year? For every Pau Gasol and Tony Parker, there is a Dalibor Bagarić, Iakovos "Jake" Tsakalidis, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, and a Jiří Welsch.
I know what you're thinking: who are those four guys?! They are all first round draft picks and there are many more littered throughout NBA first round draft history.
With exception from the teams that drafted them, the Euro players are only mentioned when they are contributors or are top 10 picks and no one makes a big stink out of them when they fail. They are allowed time to develop in the NBA and people think it's a-okay. When they stink up the place or get about the same amount of minutes as you and I; then, it was just considered an experiment.
The Euro player then goes back to where they come from and everyone goes on as though it never even happened.
Why is this allowed? Is it because these Euro players have potential to be good and, if so, they bring in a new audience from another country to the NBA? Is it because they are playing in their pro-leagues (which the Clippers would dominate) prior to entering the NBA draft and that's all the scouts need to see? Should they have to play at an American university first before being drafted?
From 2000 until 2005, there were a total of 23 first round drafted preps to pros, of which only three have become all-stars. From 2000 to 2005, there where a total of 31 first round drafted overseas players and only two have been all-stars (not counting injuries, nearly all of the first round preps to pros are still in the league; in fact, Ebi Ndudi is the only one who is no longer in the NBA).
You may be thinking that five year window is awfully small, but stop thinking that. Prior to the 2000 draft, there where a total of six first round preps to pros (1995-1999) and four of the six are all-stars and two where named MVP. Trust me, the overseas players look super ugly in comparison when it comes to this argument.
I did not mention second round players from preps nor overseas because no matter who you are, when you're drafted in the second round, you're just hoping to make it on the team.
The NBA needs to be fair about this situation. If Ricky (Steve Francis 2009) Rubio or any other overseas player can join the league at 18, then an American born player should have that same option.