How will injuries impact the NBA draft?

Nerlens Noel #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats dunks the ball during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Rupp Arena on January 15, 2013 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Today NBA teams draft the most promising basketball players to go pro. A player named Nerlens Noel is expected to be the top pick, even though he can’t play -- he’s sidelined with an injury.

The NBA draft is a rite of passage for pro basketball players.

“They’ve worked their entire lives to be an NBA draft pick, and you actually, at the draft, see them realizing their life dream,” says Scott Rosner, a sports business professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

But will they realize their athletic promise? That’s harder to answer when a player’s injured. And that is the case with several of the top draft picks. Team reps have to figure out how to value an injured player, whose problems could be temporary or something more lasting.

“You don’t know how they’re rehabbing from their injuries. How long is recovery going to take? Will they be the same player as before?," says Rosner.

Sometimes the body can heal perfectly, but the player is still never the same.

“There can sometimes be a lack of confidence or a psychological component to injury recovery that is also a very important part of a player’s ability to return to their high-level of function,” says David McAllister, professor of orthopedic surgery and chief of sports medicine at UCLA.

Then again, an injury can be over-valued, causing managers to pass on a good player. With every rejection, a player will earn less money. And sometimes that works in the favor of the team that eventually signs the player.

“It impacts the player’s value at that moment, but in the long term, the player turns out to be undervalued,” Rosner says.

In other words, if the player recovers and plays to his potential, the team that took a chance on the injured player ends up getting top talent at a discount.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...