NBA: Less Than a Year to Prepare for Next Year's Draft!

Dan WadeSenior Analyst IJune 27, 2008

None of this year's picks have signed, none of the draft-day deals have become official, none of the free agents have begun to shop their services to willing teams. None of that, however, has stopped speculation on who NEXT year's No. 1 will be (incidentally, according to Chad Ford, its Oklahoma's Blake Griffin).

Between now and then, everything will change. Freshman who were not highly recruited will blossom, seniors will shine when used in a new way by a savy coach, and gradually a new picture will apear as to who the top pick will be.

One thing already seems sure, and that is that next year's draft is not as deep as this year's draft was. Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley led a top-flight class of freshmen that included four of the top five picks, and the consensus seems to be that next year's class isn't nearly that deep.

Next year's draft will feature a number of older prospects, like North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough and a bevy of other Tar Heels who chose to make one last run at the NCAA title.

Rival Duke also brings back most of its core players, as will programs like Gonzaga and UConn. Next year's draft will be stocked full of wizened players who have matured in the top programs in the nation, but a little light on young dazzling picks.

Will next year's weak freshman class signal a future change in NBA draft strategies?

Quite possibly. The Celtics proved this year that this league isn't long for the days of dynasty. The fluid process of trading spare pieces, signing the right role players, and breeding a team culture, hoping to find that perfect mixture in the short term is a far cry from the days of four to five teams always competing for the finals for a decade and then the core of the team retiring at once.

I suspect that teams at the top of next year's draft will look for players who can step in right away and help their team move to the next level, not a player who will help them years down the line. Team's aren't content to rebuild for many years, delaying their run at glory, not when a few daring moves can turn a downtrodden team into a contender. 

The first signs of this change showed up last night. Polished freshman, like Rose and Beasley, ruled the night, while other younger players suffered. DeAndre Jordan is certainly a talented player, and was in the high lottery in many mock drafts. Teams saw him as too much of a project and he fell to the Clippers at 35. Patrick Ewing Jr. and Bill Walker, both talented players, also fell into the mid-second round as teams searched for impact players.

If this trend continues, then David Stern's age limit has done what Stern hoped it would: swung the pendulum back in favor of polished college players.

Freshman like Rose will always turn heads in the draft, but hopefully this trend will mean good things for college players like Mario Chalmers, and fewer picks will be made like Will Avery and Ndudi Ebi.