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Do 2nd-Generation Draft Prospects Get an Edge from NBA Scouts?

A. Sherrod BlakelyContributor IJuly 28, 2021

Not every descendent of an NBA player turns out to be Stephen Curry, pictured left, with his father Dell Curry, who also played in the NBA for 16 seasons. But some scouts polled by Bleacher Report say they do take a prospect's lineage into account when evaluating prospects.
Not every descendent of an NBA player turns out to be Stephen Curry, pictured left, with his father Dell Curry, who also played in the NBA for 16 seasons. But some scouts polled by Bleacher Report say they do take a prospect's lineage into account when evaluating prospects.Noah Graham/Getty Images

For most of this past college basketball season, USC's Evan Mobley has been near the top of most NBA draft boards.

His size, length, basketball IQ and across-the-board fundamentals have drawn favorable comparisons to Tim Duncan and have made him a near-lock to be among the first two or three names called by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Thursday.

And for all the work Mobley has put into improving his status as one of the most promising prospects in this year's draft, there are some advantages he will come into the league with that he had absolutely nothing to do with.

Players make choices on how their game evolves over time so that they can be in the position he is now.

But picking a parent with a professional basketball background?

That is indeed Mobley's basketball life, one that includes his father, Eric, an assistant coach with the Trojans who also played professionally in China, Indonesia, Mexico and Portugal.

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It's one thing to have a coach tell you what to work on as a player and why it's important.

The spiel strikes a different, more impactful chord when that voice is from your father who, like you, had dreams of someday playing professionally, and made it happen.

But the journey toward achieving any dream is often one with some setbacks and moments of adversity—the kind of moments most parents would want their children to avoid if possible.

It is that kind of wisdom in handling adversity that helps young players whose parents played professionally process techniques to get better and ways to improve quicker than many.

Well before it was apparent that Evan Mobley was going to be a center at the college or pro level, his father had the 7-footer working on his guard-like skills.

Evan Mobley bought in immediately.

"When I was young, me and my dad used to work out a lot on ball skills," Mobley told The Athletic. "We felt the big man moves were pretty easy to learn once you get the guard skills down. The guard skills are the tougher ones to learn. So we focused on the guard skills like ball-handling, shooting, dribbling, all that early. Then as I grew and got older, the big man moves came naturally."

The list of parents who played professional basketball with offspring in the NBA goes deeper than the Curry clan led by Dell, whose children include two-time league MVP Stephen Curry and his brother Seth.

Of the 495 players who began the 2020-2021 season on an NBA roster (that includes players with two-way contracts), at least 53 were confirmed by Bleacher Report to have had at least one parent who played professional or semipro basketball.

And while JaVale McGee and his mom, Pam, were the first mother-son tandem to play in the WNBA/NBA, they were not alone.

Orlando Magic guard Gary Harris' mom, Joy, appeared in 29 games with the WNBA's Detroit Shock before they relocated to Tulsa in 2010.

All the scouts interviewed by Bleacher Report agree that understanding a prospect's lineage is part of their information-gathering process.

"Now, have I ever made a decision or recommended we draft a player because his dad played in the league? No. But have I included it in our evaluation? Absolutely," said an Eastern Conference scout.

A second Eastern Conference scout pointed out how being the child of a former pro player can be beneficial if the two have a similar size and skill set.

"When that happens, you probably put a little more thought into the whole family thing," he said.

The second scout pointed to how that was taken into consideration when the team he works for scouted Cole Anthony, whose father, Greg Anthony, was an 11-year NBA veteran who, like his son, played point guard.

Cole Anthony, left, and father/NBA veteran Greg Anthony, right.
Cole Anthony, left, and father/NBA veteran Greg Anthony, right.Michael Reaves/Getty Images

"The thing about Greg when he played, and I'm talking when Greg was at UNLV and when he played with the Knicks [1988 to 2002], he really played with great poise and was a true leader on the floor," the second scout said. "Go back and look at the scouting report on Cole coming out of high school and coming into the NBA. Damn near every one of them talked about him as a leader and at this level, probably a better scorer than his dad was."

The second scout added, "Would we have talked up his leadership as much if he didn't have a dad who played in the league and who played the same position?"

An Eastern Conference official said the one thing that you find most common with players who had a parent who played professional basketball is that they have a high basketball IQ.

"Most of those guys have been around the game so long, things that a lot of kids have to learn and get used to, they don't because they have seen it a million times done by their dad," the executive said. "So it becomes something they just do without thinking about it, while a lot of other kids and young players have to learn it, think about it and hopefully get to a point where they don't have to think about it, either."

When it comes to the NBA's pool of international players, the role of professional basketball-playing parents was even more evident.

Of the 107 international players on opening-night rosters for the 2020-21 season (that includes two-way contract players), 24—that's 22.3 percent—had at least one parent who played basketball professionally.

The most notable current international NBA player on this list is Dallas' Luka Doncic, whose father, Sasa Doncic, played professionally in Slovenia, Serbia and France.

Of those 24 international players, four of them—Dallas' Josh Green (Australia), Phoenix's Dario Saric (Croatia), Chicago's Lauri Markkanen (Finland) and the Clippers' Serge Ibaka (Congo)—had both parents play professional basketball.

"Having two parents who have been there and done that, as a pro, can do nothing but help a young player trying to figure out how to get to the next level," said a Western Conference assistant coach. "Between the two of them, there's not much that they probably haven't seen, that they can't relay to their child."

It's the kind of information that could mean the difference between having a solid career that ends at the high school or college level or one that'll include Adam Silver calling your name to officially welcome you into the NBA and join the uber-select group of players whose journey to becoming a professional basketball player was paved by their pro-ballin' parent.

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