The NBA Draft and the Power of Empty Vessels

The NBA Draft is just about my favorite sports event of the year. I prepare for it like I have a stake in the outcome. I’ve got seriously considered opinions on dozens of basketball players, many who I’d not even heard of 12 months ago. When the Knicks make their pick, I will be elated or crushed based on the thinnest of evidence.

I will judge within seconds if teams did well or poorly which, considering we won’t know for years how things will turn out, is ridiculous. I will not be alone in this mania.

The Draft is intoxicating because it is hope manifest.

A not yet used draft pick is the purest vessel in sports for dreams. Even though all involved know a great deal about the players involved (excepting the Clippers) and their strengths and weaknesses, those things remain pleasantly abstract up to the moment of selection.

Yesterday there was a fantastic example of this phenomenon. The Minnesota Timberwolves traded two pretty decent players, one a borderline blue-chipper, for the 5th pick in a weak draft. Would they have traded that same package for the player they would have taken with the 5th pick, the day after the draft? I suspect not.

The hope a pick represents is far more valuable when it’s just hope. Once the pick becomes a very real player who, say, has a suspect jump shot or can’t go to his left, the possibilities for excitement are greatly reduced.

I’d argue that the most successful NBA franchises are the ones that take hope largely out of their draft analysis. That view their draft picks not as empty vessels, but as stand-ins for the flawed players they will become. And while that view might make for a better basketball team, it feels too hardhearted for me and antithetical to the reasons I love sports.

I love falling into the trap of hope during the NBA Draft.

Go Rubio.

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The NBA Draft and the Power of Empty Vessels