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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Daryl Morey: The Economist: The elephant on the court

In an article about Jeremy Lin, the Rockets’ GM writes that the NBA could benefit from a farm system like baseball’s.

Major League Baseball (MLB) drafts some 1,500 players a year. Once selected, they must work their way up four levels of minor-league teams before joining the parent club. This gives MLB organisations the incentives of salmon, which spawn scores of young far upriver in hopes that a handful make the treacherous journey all the way back to sea. Each team can invest in hundreds of prospects and see which pan out, needing only a few winners that “hit it big” to make up for all the failures.

In contrast, NBA teams cannot hold the rights to anyone beyond the 15 players on their active roster. That makes them more like elephant mothers, who give birth to very few babies and have to gestate them for almost two years. With limited investment opportunities, teams are forced to choose only the players with the greatest likelihood of success, and then give them a long-term contract and a potential path to significant playing time.

David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: April 21, 2012 at 05:58 AM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: general

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Dangerous Dean Posted: April 21, 2012 at 11:49 AM (#4112120)
So you just called LeBron "Dumbo"?
   2. Bhaakon Posted: April 21, 2012 at 05:26 PM (#4112398)
So you just called LeBron "Dumbo"?


If so, can we retroactively re-name "The Decision" as "Operation Dumbo Drop"?
   3. Ron J Posted: April 21, 2012 at 05:42 PM (#4112412)
#1, #2 Thank you both for having justified my decision to get out of bed today.
   4. ColonelTom Posted: April 21, 2012 at 07:09 PM (#4112562)
The NBA needs a minor-league system like a fish needs a bicycle.
   5. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 21, 2012 at 08:51 PM (#4112694)
Allow amateur HS players to leave from HS, but if they go to college, they have to stay three years. There is your minor leagues. Now pay me money.
   6. DKDC Posted: April 21, 2012 at 09:57 PM (#4112736)
I didn't RTFA, but isn't that what college basketball is for? With the added benefit that you don't have to pay them?
   7. BDC Posted: April 21, 2012 at 10:53 PM (#4112767)
I did read TFA, and it occurred to me that the European leagues function somewhat like minor leagues for the NBA, with the same benefit that you don't have to pay them. Why would NBA teams shackle themselves to a large-scale subsidy of domestic minor-league basketball teams that nobody wants to see? I doubt that MLB would run things quite that way either, if the current system hadn't had such deep roots and complicated history.
   8. ColonelTom Posted: April 21, 2012 at 11:10 PM (#4112773)
The NBA would only do it if teams had the benefit of several years of team control at poverty-level salaries in the minors, followed by multiple years of team control at below-market salaries at the NBA level. Otherwise bankrolling an extensive farm system makes no sense, and the current system of outsourcing to college and the European leagues is much more cost-effective.

The entire premise of the article is inane. Lin's story doesn't tell us that many players' talents are massively underrated by the NBA talent scouts; it tells us that Lin's talents were underrated. As an Asian-American from an Ivy League school, he's been fighting two strong stereotypes throughout his professional career, and those stereotypes undoubtedly hurt his chances of being taken seriously as an upper-tier talent. Lin is an outlier in the overall pool of scouting evaluations, not an example of a larger pattern of incompetent scouting. That's not to say that scouts don't make mistakes, or even that scouts don't make a lot of mistakes. But Lin, by himself, doesn't prove that point.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: April 22, 2012 at 03:47 AM (#4112847)
Is the development league no longer running?
   10. robinred Posted: April 22, 2012 at 05:09 AM (#4112860)
The DLeague is alive and well, and some teams are using the teams more like "farm teams" all the time.

I haven't read the article and won't, but based on the excerpt, I would disagree.

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