Although absolutely central to the way that professional sports are played in the USA, the draft system is largely unique to America – over the Atlantic in Europe players sign with a club as an apprentice during their schooldays and afterwards can only move when the club which covets them pays compensation to their current club. This makes the draft system all the more a part of American sport, and something which takes on as much importance as almost anything else to do with the sport.
Due to the extensive scouting system in place – many colleges will offer scholarships to particularly gifted high school athletes – it is usually easy to spot the players who will come out of college into the NBA with a chance of success, but this does not mean that every player picked early in a draft will turn out to be an NBA superstar. The step up between college and professional hoops is quite considerable and brings with it not only a more complicated, competitive game but a lot of additional pressure.
When a team drafts a player, they cannot just look at their game statistics and decide that they are good enough. They also need to consider how the player will fit into the team camaraderie and whether they will be a disruption to team morale, whether the player fills a need or whether they will create friction with another player in the same position. Not least, they will need to have some idea as to whether the player who put up such great numbers in college can do the same in the big leagues, and whether their attitude matches their ability.