Away from the strata of elite teams, the NBA has been on hold when it comes to young, emerging talent.
Sure, the NBA has gotten some promising players over the last three drafts, but it just so happens that not a single guy from any of those classes has vaulted their team into having dramatically better success.
Even the future stars aren't helping their teams much. Kyrie Irving has been incredible in the games he's played, but between Cleveland's awful defense and Irving's various injuries, the Cavaliers are on pace for yet another poor season.
New Orleans was supposed to find new life with last year's No. 1 pick Anthony Davis. Just as Cleveland may well eventually benefit from Irving, so too should the Pelicans.
It's just not happening right now, in part because Davis has missed time with a mysterious ankle injury. Right now, New Orleans has the worst record in the West.
The No. 1 pick theme remains when you look at the 2010 NBA draft. John Wall's jumper has been receding since he came into the league, but the Wizards would still love to have his services. They currently have the league's worst record.
It's not just the No. 1 picks.
If the 2010 NBA draft were redone today, the first pick may well be Derrick Favors. He's a reserve, and he's currently missing time with plantar fasciitis.
Greg Monroe could vie for top pick of that draft, but he's so defensively lacking at a defense-first position. The Pistons have not exactly thrived in the past three years.
Paul George? His full talent is rarely harnessed. DeMarcus Cousins? The same statement applies.
It's possible that the biggest impact had by any 2010 guy is Eric Bledsoe on the playoff-bound Clippers. He plays 18.6 minutes per game. Avery Bradley could also fit that bill of "role player on a playoff team" whenever he comes back from injury.
Up until this season, No. 2 pick Evan Turner didn't make much of an impact. And No. 4 pick Wesley Johnson has been a huge bust.
While I am lamenting the lack of collective impact from even 2010's good players, I would posit that drafting Turner and Johnson held these relatively decent teams back. Imagine Philadelphia with Monroe or Favors? Imagine Minnesota with Monroe or Ekpe Udoh?
When we look at the 2011 draft, we see fewer contributors, most likely on account of the relative lack of experience.
Kawhi Leonard has been good for the Spurs. The jury is out on most of these players, but early returns haven't been good on Derrick Williams, Tristan Thompson and Jan Vesely, to name a few top picks.
The 2012 draft looks promising by comparison, but it's far too early to ask Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Damian Lillard to substantially augment their team's win total. Both rookies have impressed (as has Davis in the few games he appeared in), but few rookies can step in and be the team-improving force that Tim Duncan and Chris Paul were.
It's possible that this all results from a weak 2010 draft, combined with some bad injury luck, but it's a fluke that currently has put the league on hold.
Teams make the jump from awful to good via the draft.
The aforementioned CP3 did it for New Orleans, LeBron James for Cleveland, Dwyane Wade for Miami and Dwight Howard for Orlando. With no one emerging (yet) to carry bad teams forward, the bottom dwellers can't truly turn it around.
I expect this trend to reverse itself and for someone drafted in the last three years to make an impact. It's just worrisome that so many of the young players are already injured or suffering the talent squandering that results from incompetent management (poor medical staffs could be included in that category).
Perhaps it's fuel for the argument that the draft lottery shouldn't so overtly reward failing teams.
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