By Hocine LOUKKAF on 11/19/2021
Over the last few years, the scouting environment has changed drastically. With now numerous options for the best prospects, let’s take a look at the pros an cons for each of these possibilities.
As the most traditional path for the NBA, albeit not always for the best financial interest of the players, the NCAA had to get out of its comfort zone. The change of rules concerning the right for the players to sell their image has made college ball once again attractive as some of the best prospects like Holmgren, Banchero or reclassified Duren and Bates have decided to join the madness while it was not the case a year ago with Kuminga or Green. The history, structure, level of competition and college life in general still put the NCAA as the best option for the players.
Yet, some players don’t want to be bothered by studies (even though the classes for some players are far from being that “academic”) and using its image is not the same as having a contract signed with a salary fixed, without forgetting the suspension that a program can endure from the NCAA due to its complicated and baffling rulings. Those who want to focus 100% on basketball could be more interested in turning pro immediately to avoid all these hurdles.
Recent star draftees : Cade Cunningham, Anthony Edwards, , James Wiseman, Zion Williamson, Ja Morant
2022 NBA Draft prospects : Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Jalen Duren
For a very long time, overseas almost automatically meant Europe. The most structured leagues are there with a variety of championships from Euroleague, Eurocup, Adriatic League and then domestic competitions like Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, France or Germany among others. The situations can be completely different depending on the teams and coaches, two of the main criterias to take into account for a prospect. The other main criteria is the level of competition as good stats in a poor championship often are less significant than getting 15min in a stacked team. Yet, it also can prevent a young player from making mistakes and from having a major role.
Brandon Jennings might be the only US player picked in the top 10 after leaving for Europe straight out of high school nut it has not rarely been a success as he had to adapt to a new life and, playing in the Italian best league, to far tougher competition than what he had experienced in California.
Here comes the NBL and its innovative “Next Stars” program. Once a very isolated league with its best players leaving for the NBA or Europe, the NBL has managed in a very short period to attract, by signing young players to lucrative deals and putting coaches and physicians at their disposal to improve individually, some first-round-projected players, starting with US Terrance Ferguson, then RJ Hampton and the hyper-hyped Lamelo Ball and now, due to the refreshed-NCAA and G League Ignite team, more international prospects including Frenchmen Ousmane Dieng, Hugo Besson, Tom Digbeu or German Ariel Hukporti. This program has also allowed the NBL to keep its best Australian prospects like 2021 6th pick Josh Giddey, who may have left for college or Europe.
The NBL path has two other main advantages which don’t have nothing to do with basketball. First, the fact that the language is the same and thus facilitates the adapation, above all for young players. Then, Australia has to be one ot the most beautiful countries in the world and gives another dimension above basketball for youngsters whose life has always been centered around basketball.
Recent star draftees : Lamelo Ball, Josh Giddey, Alperen Sengun, Deni Avdija, Killian Hayes
2022 NBA Draft prospects : Yannick Nzosa, Ousmane Dieng
After trying to seduce high schoolers in 2019 with the “Select Contracts” program allowing $125,000 salaries (which didn’t attract any prospect), the NBA through the G League decided to raise salaries and create a team, Ignite, dedicated to these top HS prospects with a top-notch coaching staff (Brian Shaw as the first coach) to create a clear path instead of putting them individually in risters filled with vets. The first recruitment was a success with then top 10 ranked Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga who ended up drafted in the 2021 NBA Draft top 7. The changing of rules from the NCAA has been a hit for G-League as the second-year roster is solid but not as hyped with top 3 ranked Jaden Hardy but then more top 10-15 ranked players like Michael Foster Jr, class of 2022 Scoot Henderson, Australian Dyson Daniels or 20-year-old Marjon Beauchamp (an unusual kind of prospect as he tried the Juco path and is already 20), Ignite losing to the NCAA big prizes Holmgren, Banchero or reclassified Duren and Bates.
Recent star draftees : Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga
2022 NBA Draft prospects : Jaden Hardy, Michael Foster Jr, Dyson Daniels, Marjon Beauchamp
Final analysis :
Each player depending on his potential and his priorities will define the best project for him. With now the opportunity for US players to gain money in college and for the best of them, to join team Ignite, staying home can seem the best option. For overseas players, the NBL looks like a good mix to play a decent level without having to worry about their playing time contrary to some major Euroleague teams. Yet, it will never be enough to convince all European prospects who have a chance to get a good salary and exposition by playing pro while others may find more interesting to experience the college life. To sum it all up, and that’s the beauty of the game, all roads lead to Rome, which could be adapted to all wooden foors lead to the NBA as far as we are concerned.
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