Each season has a particular fragrance. In spring, there is the blooming of flowers and their pleasant aromas. For some, winter conjures the wafting delights of hot cocoa after shoveling snow. Summer has the smell of cut grass and barbeques. In the sports world, the smells are not quite so good. There is the funk of body odor, but the draft season brings something worse: the stench of BS. I happened to turn on the NFL draft for a few minutes on Thursday evening, and was so overwhelmed by the noxious fumes of BS that I passed out. Please tell me: has Johnny Manziel been picked yet? The NBA, and its draft hype process, is not immune to BS. As a self-proclaimed BS detector, I’d like to point out one of the most odious offenders in the run up to the draft: the NBA draft combine.
Drafting is an inexact science. I prefer to use the eye test in addition to college productivity to guess which players are going to make it (and I always keep in mind that not every prospect is going to be a star). By the time of the draft combine (which will be May 15 and 16, and broadcast live on NBA.com!), I have generally made up my mind about players. Since they aren’t involved in active competition, I don’t see why my opinion of a player would change. Yet, every year the results of the combine – including official height, weight, vertical leaping ability, and other numbers – are reported as news. How do I put this succinctly? These numbers are not news. They should not matter in the slightest.
I suppose medical reports on players could be of interest, but for the most part it is a case of smoke and no fire. Players like DeJuan Blair and Brandon Roy have fallen in the draft after their medical reports put up some red flags. Roy did have to retire early because of knee problems, but was a productive player for the Trail Blazers and better than the three “healthy” players selected ahead of him (Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas, and Shelden Williams). Blair is one of a few players selected in the second round of the 2009 draft (along with Patrick Beverley, Patty Mills, Chase Budinger, and Danny Green) who is still in the league. The red flags weren’t enough to hurt Greg Oden’s draft stock. Even Andrew Bogut was supposed to have macular degeneration, but his eyes haven’t been a problem during his oft-injured NBA career.
The combine also offers official measurements including Jay Bilas’ favorite, wingspan along with bench pressing. Famously, Kevin Durant could not bench press 185 lbs prior to the 2007 NBA draft. That supposed lack of strength has not seemed to hurt the current MVP’s career. My favorite draft combine phantasm is Marcus Haislip, the Bucks’ lottery pick (13th overall) from 2002. Haislip was a 6-10 specimen of nearly unbelievable physical gifts. He could supposedly bench press 400 lbs and had a “standing reach of eight feet, 11 inches.” Sadly, despite his awesome strength and ability to leap over buildings in a single bound, Haislip couldn’t play basketball very well.
Despite instances of workout warriors and giants such as Hasheem Thabeet failing in the NBA, the draft combine results will be reported on by people such as Chad Ford as if they are meaningful. I guess when nothing else is going on (well, except for the actual playoffs), measurements are news. Were I an NBA general manager (and that was never a goal of mine), I would completely ignore the draft combine. A better use of my time would be praying to the lottery ping pong balls.