UNC signee weighs in on Brandon Jennings

July 10, 2008

So, Brandon Jennings is going to Europe, and now the big question: is he gambling or making a smart move?

According to Rise Magazine, the idea that top prep ballers would suddenly start a mass exodus overseas may be premature. According to UNC signee John Henson (SF, 6’10”, 2009), the exposure in Europe might not be enough to get Brandon a lucrative contract back here in the US:

“If you go to Europe your game could change,” Henson said. “And being a top draft pick is also about hype. If [Jennings is] at Arizona killing on TV, he’s going to come in with a lot more hype and hype equals high draft pick.”

This is especially interesting because Henson is experiencing this hype right now, where a few months ago he was a top 10-12 player according to many recruiting sites, now he’s being talked about as a possible #1. Players who are ranked #1 rarely stay in college very long, so Henson is keenly aware of what is happening.

It also shows part of the issue with the NBA and the implementation of the one-year-rule. The NBA suffers from the perception that it has inferior play. Not inferior players. Inferior play. Right or wrong, the ratings back up the idea that people feel this way. Despite the proclamations that the NBA had returned to greatness with the Celtics-Lakers series, the ratings weren’t much higher than the year before, and still astronomically lower than the NBA glory days. The NBA is a business, pure and simple. The institution of the age limit wasn’t to encourage kids to go to college. It was to cool the jets on drafting on hype and improve people’s perceptions of their product. This is not a statement on whether this business strategy is sound; it is simply pointing out that arguments about the NBA’s rule being silly overlook what the NBA was really trying to accomplish: more profits.

John Henson is right when he says “hype equals high draft pick”, and that’s part of the problem. Nobody suspects the NFL of drafting on hype, but common perception is that if Brandon Jennings goes to play in Europe, nobody will see him play and he could drop in the draft. He could be great overseas. He could tear it up. And he could wind up dropping.

So, what happens to Brandon Jennings NEXT year will probably make more of a splash.

It’s not so far fetched that Jennings could drop. There have been several players who were borderline on attending college or going straight to the NBA, but once they played college ball, their draft status dropped. Even if they had GREAT college careers, their draft status dropped. This doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happens a lot. And if it can happen to a player here in the states, playing on TV all the time for a major university, then it can sure happen to a player going overseas.

Probably what Jennings agent and advisers need to do, provided that Brandon has a good season, is to do several things to keep the hype up on him. They could post YouTube videos of his highlights, hold interviews with ESPN and Sports Illustrated, get him to blog about his tour. Anything to keep NBA people hyped on Mr. Brandon Jennings. The NBA drafts European players all the time; only time will tell if Brandon Jennings is one of them.

The gamble could go wrong if Jennings gets hurt OR simply doesn’t get a lot of playing time. The risk is that one season in Europe turns into two, then three, then infinity. And even though Brandon may be able to get and keep the hype up for a year since he is the first player to do this, would a wave of players every year be able to do the same? If the top ten high school players from the US opt for Europe every year, how many would disappear into the leagues of the world, forgotten by the NBA?

What would REALLY shake things up here in the states would be if the NBA said players could go play a year in the NBDL before getting drafted. That would really stir up a Hornets nest.