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The NBA Draft Lottery is Only the Beginning

Our franchise's fate is still undetermined. The draft lottery, itself a wonder of superstitions run amok placed hard against cold odds, sets the initial tenor, but we'll know a lot more when teams start working out prospects, those prospects blow off a few teams, and the unnamed sources start whispering.

The crazy thing about scouting for the NBA draft -- the infuriating thing -- is that in retrospect, we can pick out all the reasons Player X was doomed, and all the reasons Player Y was underrated. But in the moment, it is impossible for anyone to accurately imagine how the future will unfold. Therefore, it's long been my contention that taking the best players at the time of the draft and letting the chips fall from there is the best strategy.

I don't have any charts or proper data to analyze this claim, because I'm not sure how to set the baseline, which is The Best Player At the Time of the Draft. Once we get far enough awy from the draft, we're not really in a position to discuss who the consensus best players were at the time, because guys get drafted "for potential" all the time.

Perhaps the best evidence supporting that notion is an eyeball check over NBA rosters and the varying levels of success each player's had. There are very few, if any, mid-level to upper-tier stars in the league who were truly bad early on. Jermaine O'Neal was supposedly a beast in practice. Gerald Wallace is the patron saint of raw athleticism incarnate realizing production. Dirk held his own as a rookie. Kobe didn't start, but everyone knew he could. And on down the list.

Even if you do find someone who truly struggled and looked like he'd wash out of the league sooner rather than later, he'll be far outnumbered by the guys who saw immediate success and then went on to greater success.

Of course, since the teams picking 1-11 won't all subscribe to this model (because front office types are sometimes, foolishly, invested in the notion that they have to predict the future and grab a diamond from the rough in order to be worth their salt), they'll shoot for the moon and pick players they imagine will one day be All Stars, while teams later down the line can simply scoop up the next Brandon Roy, the guy everyone acknowledges might be the best one "right now", but all those other guys will leapfrog him on the player food chain.