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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Draft Outlook in a Lockout Year

by Connor Witt

The memorable. The outrageous. The surprising. The boneheaded. The NBA Draft has had it all.

In 2011, there’s no promise in that we’ll get to witness a prospect relegated to the green room as long as Rashard Lewis or a draft day suit to rival Jalen Rose’s red pinstriped number. But it is certain to be particularly interesting because of the NBA’s outlook for next year.

“Labor Uncertainty.” It’s every NBA pundit’s favorite phrase when looking ahead to the 2011 offseason. But let’s not beat around the bush, everyone and their sister knows that a lockout is on the horizon. We don’t know if it will swallow a whole season, but it is universally accepted that the 2011-12 season will not be the full 82 games. One effect of the lockout has already become apparent from the field of early entrants. Freshman standouts and lottery prospects Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, and Perry Jones have all spurned the league to return for their sophomore campaigns. For those elite players, the choice to stay in school merely means deferring the millions they stand to make. But as a result of their decisions, a wave of second-tier players have entered an already weak draft. To this second group – unproven talents like Tristan Thompson, Tyler Honeycutt, and Tobias Harris – this year’s draft provides a unique opportunity to receive the coveted guaranteed contract that comes with being a first rounder, even if they have to wait a year to see a paycheck.

Another result: with the threat of a lost season, NBA teams will be even more inclined to spend a pick on a foreign project that can continue to improve overseas. As my fellow draftaholics know, this is a recipe for the awkward mispronunciations that David Stern has made into an art form. Just imagine: Donatas Motiejunas, Jan Vesely, Jonas Valanciunas, Nikola Mirotic, and my personal favorite, Bismack Biyombo all in the first round. Magical. Whether or not this draft class possesses the potential to succeed in the league, there is no doubt it has the potential to produce a record number of Stern fumbles and stumbles.

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