Thursday, June 26, 2008

Asteroid Power

The NBA draft is losing its appeal, I think in large part because once you get past the top few picks, nobody knows who these guys are. The relentless marketing machine of NCAA basketball has narrowed the spotlight to a very few players, which means that the vast majority are unknown to rooters outside their teams' conferences. Throw in the mandatory Obscure European Player Picks(TM) that spangle the first round - guys we won't be seeing in the league for years while they hone their games in Spain or Croatia or France - and the interest, apart from macabre "how far will he fall" stuff, fades after the big names are gone early.

Or to put it another way, I have no idea who Marreese Speights is. My wife attends NC State, and J.J. Hickson barely registered on my radar. The first I heard of Kosta Kofous was watching OSU dismantle their opponent in the NIT semifinals. And Sergei Ibaka? Nicolas Batum? These are not names that people eagerly speculate about. They don't quicken the pulse of the casual fan, or even the semi-serious one. And so it's a question of where do the big stars go, followed by "how far will this guy I actually heard of" fall. Making it worse is the disconnect between the college and pro games, the near certainty that guys who excelled on the college level are no-hopers in the pros (Paging J.J. Redick, J.J. Redick pick up the white courtesy phone) and there's no reason to watch. The guys who are going somewhere are guys you never heard of; the guys you heard of are mostly staying home. And after the fifth or sixth pick the star power is gone.
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