With each passing year, the NBA Draft makes it harder and harder to be a successful general manager. Sixty players will hear their names called at the Barclays Center this evening. Not one person will have a damn clue how they'll pan out at the next level.
Drafting has always been an educated guess, with teams studying anything from game film to measurables to player responses to absurd questions like 'Why are sewer holes round'? The process is the most arduous period in the NBA calendar for front offices, and there's good reason as to why they spend thousands of man hours concentrating on it: it's the scariest thing ever for them. The draft has now become a stab in the dark at talented players, but it didn't always seem that way.
Through the 20th century, getting drafted was a right of passage. You went to college, you put in your four years, you graduate, and after all that, then you would proceed to the professional ranks. Leaving school early typically was not a feasible option, and that typically benefited teams. After spending nearly half a decade watching competing against the best amateur athletes the nation could offer, you had a strong indication of what you were getting into with each player.
A top five pick landed you a superstar and an impact player, top 20 gave you an All-Star. There are always outliers to each trend (naturally, the Sixers had to draft Shawn Bradley with the second overall selection in the 1993 draft), but the production you saw from a player in college was typically what you got at the next level.
And then things changed. It's hard to pinpoint when, but I point to the 2001 Draft. Four of the top eight picks (Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, and DeSagana Diop) were all straight out of high school, starting what became a widespread trend of drafting raw and unproven players early. The NBA would ban players from entering the draft right out of high school, but the seed had been planted.
NBA hopefuls were now realizing they could catch the eyes of teams off of their raw, natural abilities and spurts of possible stardom, and the trend of "one and done" players began to skyrocket. Young, overseas players from European and Asian leagues with absurd wingspans and other wild physical features began throwing themselves in the draft pool as well. All of a sudden, words like "upside" and "potential" were being thrown around with more prominence. Top picks were turning from sure things to "projects".
Now in 2013, we've hit a point of mass hysteria towards potential, a hope that our team can harness an unfledged talent and mold him from a hunk of stone to a Michelangelo sculpture.
However, to achieve any sort of success, a certain level of patience must be put in place. When Steven Adams shoots 2-7 and pulls in three rebounds, the Sixers must remember the time he scored 13 points and brought down 11 rebounds in just 27 minutes of action in the NCAA Tournament. When Kentavious Caldwell Pope's jumper goes flat for a week, they need to remind themselves of that one Saturday in March he dropped 24 points and picked up 10 rebounds against Kentucky.
Whoever Philadelphia ends up drafting, there are key components to their game they've observed that they believe can make them a force. They'll hit the "rookie wall" just like any other first year player has. Handle them carefully, don't lose faith, and allow them to work through it.
It's pretty apparent the Sixers are in no shape to make a playoff run next season. Their first-round pick will not be the final part of the puzzle, but the corner of your 500 piece jigsaw. It's important to be patient with their first-round pick, because the goal is to begin to build a core with Jrue Holiday as the organization starts again from the ground up.
Handled carefully, young basketball players and grow and blossom into dominating players. Convey a sense of doubt in their abilities, and you'll never get the best out of them. Nikola Vucevic should be a constant reminder of what a player could become when faith is instilled in him by a coaching staff.
Basketball is a roller coaster; deciding to get off at the lows before reaching future highs would be foolish.
So when the Sixers select (insert name) from (insert school/country), one must remember patience is a virtue. It's the NBA Draft way.