Influenced by impressive combine results, the St. Louis Rams took Baylor OT Jason Smith with the #2 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Despite high expectations, Smith ended his four-year career as the least productive offensive lineman ever taken with a top 5 overall pick. While he seemingly deserves to be labeled a Top 10 Bust, his lack of production can be attributed to a history of serious head injuries. In particular, he suffered two season-ending concussions during his first three years in the league. Smith recovered from the first one, but never started again after the second. It’s uncertain how good he might have been without the injuries, but it’s unfair to label him as an all-time bust because of them.
With the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers selected Ben Simmons. After years of tanking, the Sixers “earned” the right to select one of the highest profile phenoms since LeBron James. Despite conventional wisdom, Brandon Ingram made a legitimate case to be the first pick instead. During his “one-and-done” season at Duke, Ingram averaged 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. It’s hard to question Phildelphia’s decision. However, the organization has been a complete embarrassment for over a decade. Would you be surprised if 2016 becomes a repeat of 2007 when the Trail Blazers passed on Kevin Durant? Based on Ingram’s upside, you shouldn’t be.
Do you root for players in the NBA but teams in the other Big 4 sports? Does your favorite basketball player not play for the NBA team geographically closest to you? Prior to 1980, your answers likely would have been different. However, something “magical” happened since then. In this post, I discuss the early days of the NBA Modern Era when television stations aired playoff games on tape-delay. Starting with superstars like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the league made a conscious decision to promote its stars more than its teams. Fortunately, players like Jordan, Kobe, and LeBron have been able to take the game to the next level. In fact, they helped drive the game’s tremendous international popularity. The NFL is set, but perhaps MLB and the NHL could learn something from their younger (and smarter) brother.