If television is to be believed, there is no more terrifying situation for an adult than to be asked by a child, “where do babies come from?” Presumably funny at one time, the trope does little more than obscure a modestly profound philosophical bent: everything’s got to come from somewhere.

If you wish to know the answer to that question, click here. If you wish to know where I’m going with this rambling nonsense, read on for more rambling nonsense and also maybe a wonderfully buried point about something or other.

Earlier this week, Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck wrote a very smart column about whether or not the Knicks should look to trade their first round pick this summer for veteran talent. The piece was filled with sensible points, such as Carmelo Anthony’s age (30) and what would constitute a reasonable trade package (an established All Star and a role player).

While there’s nothing to outright reject, Beck did creep up to, and then later aggressively approach via Twitter, a fine line about the draft that ought not to be crossed.

It’s the slightest suggestion that the draft is inherently and fundamentally flawed as risky. Such a sentiment doubles as a flimsy argument that obscures a modestly profound philosophical question: Where do NBA players come from?

The draft.

They nearly all come from, or at least go through, the draft process. Occasionally a 27-year old role player might pop up undrafted from off the radar near Lichtenstein, but it’s so very rare. The draft isn’t the NBA’s version of Powerball – a get-rich-quick dream in the face of cosmically ridiculous odds.   This is the system implemented by the NBA to replenish the league’s talent base each year. They’ve been doing it for decades.

There are three ways a lottery pick typically busts:

-Injury.
-The player did not have talent commensurate with his draft position relative to his class.
-The drafting team fails to properly develop and integrate the drafted player.

There’s not much anyone can do about the first problem. We are not yet at the point where we can predict whether or not a player is injury prone. The last two causes, however, sit with the teams themselves. It is not difficult to marshal an argument that certain teams would benefit from improved scouting, and if you are a coach who is not interested in player development, might I posit that you are, in fact, in the wrong profession.

Curiously enough, those are also the three ways veterans acquired via trade and free agency tend to flame out with their new teams. As it turns out, those transactions are also risky. Ask Mitch Kupchak how he feels about the Steve Nash trade. Ask Rich Cho how he feels about signing Lance Stephenson. Do not, however, ask Billy King how he feels about anything he’s done in Brooklyn. You’ll only end up with fifty new questions about the fairness of life, none of which can grappled with without relinquishing what’s left of your sanity.

It’s true the draft has a miss rate higher than free agency and trades. But teams stand to gain at least twice as much if they manage not to bungle their selections. Rookie deals remain among the most valuable contracts in the league, and the players themselves, having not yet formed their professional personalities, can more easily be molded in a team’s image. In an increasingly competitive league, draft picks are not an instrument of chance. They are the trump card.

Like Beck’s argument with the Knicks, not all teams can afford to wait three years for a player to develop. Circumstances can render patience imprudent.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of the league should start wishing for storks.

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