Hartman: Former Flyer in limbo a reminder NBA’s developmental system needs serious work


In case you forgot, the developmental system for basketball in the United States is confusing and weird. 

Kostas Antetokounmpo wouldn’t be in such limbo if it made more sense, and that is primarily a failure of the NBA and its union. 

The former Flyer is one of many prospects with great potential who could be drafted Thursday night. He’s also one of many prospects whose dearth of post-high school experience makes drafting him seem like a pretty silly idea. 

Isn’t that a pretty good indicator something is wrong with this process?

>>RELATED: Kostas Antetokounmpo awaits draft night

Of course, the young phenom would have more certainty in his immediate future if he had not decided to leave the University of Dayton basketball program with three years of eligibility remaining, but that is a choice he has the right to make. 

He exercised that right, and now he has to wait and see what is next for him. 

Allowing players who aren’t drafted to retain their eligibility if they aren’t drafted (or even if they are) also needs to happen, but this is not a column about college basketball -- and I don’t get the impression Kostas wanted to remain in college anyway. 

The majority of players still find college basketball to be the best place to develop physically and mentally while showcasing their game (if it exists), and for good reason. 

RELATED: 3 changes that would help the NCAA immensely

Given that he is not a typical American prospect who was born and raised on this side of the Atlantic, it is not hard to imagine Antetokounmpo feels more comfortable forging his own path — even if that means playing overseas, where his oldest brother, Thanasis, spent last season.  

Whatever the reason, he’s an adult who has every right to make that decision. 

But why is the draft so small, and why are there so few spots for prospects to develop if they don’t get on an NBA roster? 

Because the NBA and the players’ union want it that way, apparently. 

>>RELATED: The NCAA can’t ‘fix’ college basketball without the help of the NBA

If the draft were more than two rounds, drafting Antetokounmpo would be close to a no-brainer. He’s got the measurables, potential and pedigree to be worth having in your organization, at least if your organization had an unlimited number of slots for players you think can help you now or in the future.  

Alas, that is not the case for the NBA, so even if multiple NBA general managers want to take the former Flyer, they may not have anything to do with him. 

He’ll be playing basketball professionally somewhere this fall, be it overseas or in the G League (where small salaries have been an issue, but that might be fixed in the near future), but even if that is the case he likely won’t be attached to an NBA team. 

  

Why does that matter? 

Well it could all work out for him anyway, but wouldn’t it be better if he were part of an organization that could provide top-notch training and advice from the top down rather than rolling the dice and hoping he ends up in a good spot where he learns things an NBA team wants him to learn? 

This is a problem faced by many prospects every year. The ones who are pretty much locks to be drafted in the first round can rest easier, sure, but they also face an uphill climb if they aren’t already close to ready to play in the league right away (most are not). 

Those first-round picks get guaranteed contracts, but they don’t necessarily get an opportunity to develop optimally. 

Flaming out is all-too-frequent as a result. 

»RELATED: Kostas leaving Dayton, ‘starting new chapter’

»RELATED: A look at 2018-19 Dayton Flyers roster

Whether they are playing too much too soon or not enough to hone their games, the transition can often be tougher than it needs to be because of the need to make them sink or swim. 

Now, compare that to a player like Hunter Greene

The Cincinnati Reds drafted Greene No. 2 overall last season out of high school, gave him a nice signing bonus and then made a multi-year plan for developing him. 

There will be pressure on Greene to perform, but not any time soon. 

Of course there is a lot of interest every time he pitches for the Dayton Dragons, but no one is hitting the panic button when he has a bad start. 

The Reds have eight minor-league affiliates. Some NBA teams don’t even have one. 

How does this make sense? 

Hopefully it works out for Antetokounmpo and all of the other prospects in limbo this time of year.

He showed on more than one occasion last season why he was a four-star recruit. 

He’s very raw but showed the the instincts to block shots and the tools to be elite on the defensive end. 

He’s not only 6-foot-10 but long-armed and quick. 

» RELATED: Giannis Antetokounmpo says his brother can be really good

He told the Associated Press he patterns his game more after Kevin Garnett than his All-Star brother, Giannis, and that’s probably wise. 

In a sense, Garnett was a link between the old school power forwards and new-age do-it-all big men like Giannis. 

Da Kid was a force on defense, but he still stayed closer to the basket on offense than The Greek Freak. 

For now, though, the question is not just if Kostas Antetokounmpo can develop into that type of player but what sort of opportunity he will get to do so. 


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