Should NBA Players Dodge The Draft?

Travis Waldron thinks so. He explains why the draft – held tonight – is more problematic for basketball than it is for football or baseball:

The NBA Draft traces its origins to 1947, when the Basketball Association of America formed, and it followed the worst-team-picks-first model the NFL had established more than a decade before. Now, though, it’s effect on limiting the bargaining power of athletes is perhaps even more pernicious than the other drafts, since a top draft pick in the NBA has much more potential to change the fortunes of an entire team than a top pick in football or baseball. A baseball player is just one of hundreds in his organization. A football player is one of 53 on a roster. A basketball player, though, is one of just 13 on each team in a sport where an individual can single-handedly change the complexion of an entire team. … A top draft pick in the NBA may not win a title on his own, but he can certainly put a team on the brink of a title far faster. That means he’s worth more money to teams that desire his services — and it means he loses more money in a draft system that prevents multiple teams from competing for those services.

Yglesias is on the same page:

[The draft] is a convenient way for veterans and owners to conspire together to depress the wages of young players, but in the name of “competitive balance” it also creates a constant open-ended bailout of mismanaged teams and prevents best practices from spreading. Teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets, who manage to work their way into the playoffs year after year, are hobbled in their ability to retain fresh talent, while squads like the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers, who plainly don’t know what they’re doing, engage in a goofy boom-and-bust cycle of occasionally picking up superstar talent on the cheap only to see the star fly the coop because management can’t get it together.

This is all rationalized through a baffling argument about the needs of small-market teams that completely ignores the fact that the teams that are most disadvantaged by the draft system are well-managed small-market teams, who are being systematically denied the fruits of effective talent evaluation.