As the NBA Draft Approaches, I would like to dissect what it truly means to be a “Top 5 Draft Pick”and how this terminology can have fans brainwashed. Let’s start with the fact that The NBA lottery is literally equivalent to being in Las Vegas and gambling with a stack of your hard earned money. There is no guarantee that each hand you play will be financially beneficial to you. As a matter of fact, you are more than likely going to lose 85% of the time and I'm being generous. The reality is there is no Top 5 NBA draft pick on the night of the selections. That is a TV show. That is entertainment. That is "smoke and mirrors" because as I stated, drafts are a gamble. Let me also say NBA Draft projections are generally written and reported by dudes who never played organized basketball or haven't played since they were 12 years old. I wouldn't call them experts.
My philosophy is the only guys that have every been Top 5 in the NBA draft are guys that are rated Top 5 in their respected Draft Class 5 years after they have been drafted. This is what I call the true measuring stick. Yes, there are some obvious Top 5 picks such as Magic Johnson, SHAQ, Allen Iverson, Lebron James and Larry Bird. Throughout league history, safe picks like these guys are not as common as you think. There are numerous Top 5 picks that don't make it after their rookie contracts. There are numerous Top 5 draft picks that have never been on an All Star Team. There are numerous Top 5 draft that have never made an All NBA Team. There are numerous Top 5 draft picks who are constantly used as trade bait and carry the "journeymen" title. We are taking about in the history of the NBA. You see, being a Top 5 draft pick or a lottery pick means absolutely nothing without hard work, dedication, and perseverance.
As I previously mentioned, don't allow the so call draft experts to paint a picture for you. Avoid falling for the narratives of Mock Drafts and things of that nature. This is no knock on guys like Chad Ford but Mock Drafts are very misleading. In my opinion, you have to assess a player after their 5th full NBA season to determine if they are a Top 5 draft pick. For clarity, when I say Top 5 draft pick I'm not talking about when the NBA Commissioner call a players name on stage. I'm talking about how well the player has developed and produced over their first 5 seasons. To me, the only guys that have ever been Top 5 in the draft are guys that are rated top 5 in their draft class 5 years after they got drafted. A player could have been picked #48 in the draft and end up being a Top 5 draft pick for that particular class 5 years later according to my criteria. If you know young NBA prospects, talk to them honestly about this process. Advise these young men to not be discouraged if they aren't selected in the Top 5, Top 14 Lottery, First Round or if they end up being a late Second Round pick. This does not have to define who they are as a player. What will define these players will be their mental toughness, physical sacrifices and commitment to excellence.
We know it takes perseverance and psychological fortitude to be great in all aspects of life. In sharing these thoughts, lets also look at examples of why draft picks often hold very little weight in the overall grand scheme of things. Remember, my thought process is a players total professional assessment takes place after their 5th NBA season. I wanted to make sure I revisited this perspective. A young player can end up being Hasheem Thabeet at #2 pick or Anthony Bennett (Jesus...SMH) at #1 and never truly play in the league as a contributor, or you can be Danny Green in the 2nd round and break playoff shooting records, Draymond Green in 2nd round and become an All Star, or Malcolm Brogdon as the 36th pick last year and rookie of the year this year! Jimmy Butler was the last pick in the first round of his draft class at 30th. In 2017, Jimmy Butler is one of the Top 3 2-Way Players, All Star and possibly a Top 10 overall player in the league. About 13 players drafted before Butler aren't in the NBA anymore...FYI. Isaiah Thomas was the last pick in the entire 2011 draft at 60th. Thomas received MVP considerations this year! Speaking of the 2011 NBA Draft, Kawhi Leonard was the 15th pick and Klay Thompson was the 11th pick. Leonard was an NBA Finals MVP 3 years after being drafted! Thompson is one of the best shooters EVER and one of the best players in the league. Other notable players such as Manu Ginobili, Monta Ellis, Goran Dragic, Gilbert Arenas and Marc Gasol were 2nd round players. Wesley Matthews and Ishmail Smith weren't drafted at all and have each made great livings for years in the NBA. Don't get caught up in draft picks. They are deceiving!
I watch the NBA draft for entertainment but I also enjoy seeing the emotions of childhood dreams coming to fruition. There is a lot of pressure on these young men. They often have their entire families depending on them. Can you imagine the stress placed on an 18 year old? This is why the NBA draft process is a physical as well as a mental journey. You have to be confident enough along with tunnel vision to ignore how other people dissect your talent. I repeat... YOUR TALENT. The illusion of being a Top draft pick can determine how a player feel about their position a team and as a player. You can't fall for this trap. You still have work as if you're trying to make the Varsity Team at your High School or like you're trying to get a College Scholarship. As the 2017 NBA Draft approaches, I hope the loved ones of these young Men express some of the thoughts I randomly shared today. As a true basketball and NBA Fan, I will be watching these guys over the next 5 years to see who will emerge as a Top 5 pick!