Every decade, the NBA seems to have a proverbial changing of the guard. Unlike the daily ceremony at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, the revolving door of NBA royalty doesn’t obey a specific schedule. That being said, NBA dynasties historically have fit a recurring time frame such that the team or player’s first title comes towards the beginning and final title comes towards the end of each decade. Supporting this claim, the range of titles for the game’s most dominant players from the last three full decades include: Magic Johnson [1980-1988]; Larry Bird [1981-1986]; Michael Jordan [1991-1998]; Shaquille O’Neal [2000-2006]; and Kobe Bryant [2000-2010]. Assuming LeBron James wins at least one more title this decade, the trend should continue. The one notable exception is Tim Duncan who won his first title in 1999 and most recent title in 2014. Then again, as someone who is often overlooked as one of the game’s most dominant players, “King Duncan” seems to the get the short end of the stick just like his fictional namesake from Macbeth.
Prior to the 2006 draft, the NBA and the NBPA (National Basketball Players Association) agreed to modify draft requirements such that eligible players now need to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school. Since most top players currently play college basketball for only one year before declaring for the draft, the requirement has become known as The One-and-Done Rule. This post explores the impetus for the rule change based on the underachievement of certain players who were drafted directly out of high school. While it’s certainly reasonable to declare these underachievers as busts, I fault the teams for their unreasonable expectations of these unproven players. As such, I have established an exemption for players who wouldn’t have met the new eligibility requirements. As the first “None-and-Done” player to fail in the league, Jonathan Bender gets the naming rights. At the same time, #1 overall pick Kwame Brown deserves an assist because he exposed the problem as being worthy of a rule change.
While the NBA generally has relied on the principle that “worst picks first” when determining draft order, the league has always altered this principle with assorted gimmicks. As described in my previous post, the NBA originally allowed teams to declare a territorial preference as a way to trump draft order. After eliminating this preference in the mid-1960s, the league began using a coin toss to award the #1 overall pick to the worst team in the East or the West. The draft order for the remaining teams was determined strictly based on the inverse order of how each team finished in the prior season regardless of division (or conference). The coin toss system was considered acceptable for almost 20 years, but NBA Commissioner David Stern decided to scrap it before his first anniversary on the job. This post will review the NBA Draft during the “Coin Toss” Era.