The Evolution of the NBA Draft – New York Times

By MARC TRACYJune 18, 2017

Ten years ago, the big question before the 2007 N.B.A. draft was which of two players the Portland Trail Blazers would select with the top overall pick. One option was Greg Oden, the 7-footer out of Ohio State who was a traditional center playing near the basket. The other was Kevin Durant, a spindly, less-classifiable big man out of Texas.

It is easy to knock the Blazers for what happened. They drafted Oden, whom injuries limited to 105 games in the N.B.A. Meanwhile, Durant, who went No. 2, has become one of the best scorers in basketball history, and last week he was named the most valuable player in the N.B.A. finals as Golden State defeated Cleveland in five games.

But the most resonant lesson from that draft a decade ago is that were it held today, Portland would not need the benefit of hindsight to know to pick Durant over Oden. In fact, in today’s N.B.A., Oden, who at the time defined his game as “big-man hook shot,” might not even be one of the top picks at all.

“An Oden, people would look at him and want to go big, but how’s he going to defend the pick-and-roll?” Billy King, formerly the Nets’ general manager, said in an interview. “Those guys aren’t involved in the game as much.”

Understanding the evolution in the style of N.B.A. basketball since the 2007 draft helps explain how this Thursday’s draft is likely to unfold.

The increased reliance on the 3-point shot; the constant presence of the pick-and-roll, which can be easier defended with nimble big men who can defensively switch onto traditional ball-handlers; the increased use of spacing, which requires big men who can credibly draw their defender away from the basket on offense, all mean that some of the best contemporary big men

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