The immediate impact of an NBA lockout is obviously a negative one. It stymies the league and will only serve to anger fans for many years. It is especially destructive to the league after what was widely accepted as some of the best and most competitive playoffs the league has seen in some time. Now, as the owners are on the verge of locking out the players, all fans can do is hope for a speedy resolution.
Though the league, owners, and current players will all be adversely affected in financial terms and in loss of fan support for a time, there is a real danger that there could be longterm, lingering damage done to the league beyond the coming season. If there even is one.
Development of draft picks and undrafted free agents will be hampered greatly. With a lockout in place teams would not be able to workout or hold practice with prospects they would potentially like to add to their roster. For young players this is essentially a life’s work gone to waste as they watch their dreams put on hold because of issues that are out of their control. For teams looking to improve their roster with an influx of young talent it stops them dead in their tracks. Without the ability to see how these players can develop their hopes of improving for the next season are dim.
With the lockout looming earlier this year, the NBA canceled the summer league programs that are so valuable in scouting potential prospects who have not been drafted or played overseas. The NBA, of course, said the cancellation of the summer leagues this year had nothing to do with the prospect of a lockout. Players such as Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley made NBA rosters because of their play in the Las Vegas Summer League last year. Unfortunately, the Miami Heat cut Beverley just before the start of the regular season to add aging veterans to surround their trio.
Due to the cancellation of the summer leagues, the Atlanta Hawks are currently holding a mini-camp for three days in order to evaluate their draft pick, Keith Benson and 17 other free agents. The full list of participants can be found here. One of the more notable names on the list is that of Omar Samhan. Samhan was a standout at St. Mary’s before going undrafted in 2010. He was able to showcase his talents that summer, though, as a member of the Dallas Mavericks’ Summer League team. He did not make the final roster cut as the team was a deep veteran group. His talents spoke for themselves however and he left for Lithuania to play in the Euroleague.
If the lockout persists for any lengthy amount of time and free agents and young players are cannot demonstrate their skills to NBA teams there could be a trend of more and more players looking to play overseas. Currently, Brandon Jennings is the most recognizable American player that chose to play overseas before being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks. He will certainly not be the last though.
Ben Hansbrough, the brother of Tyler Hansbrough, who currently plays for the Indiana Pacers, went undrafted this year. Instead of waiting for the players and owners to come to some form of deal on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Hansbrough chose to forgo the NBA and signed a contract with German team FC Bayern München. It is not uncommon for undrafted players to go overseas to start their careers, however, it could become more and more common for higher profile players to do so as the labor talks continue to stall especially with American college players are seeing more and more Europeans being drafted.
One of the few hindrances to American born players playing in Europe, or elsewhere overseas, is that many leagues place a cap on the number of Americans that a team can have on its roster. Considering the number of options that a player could choose from in the European, Chinese, or ever Qatari (still unbelievable) markets, however, there will more than likely always be a spot and lucrative contract for them.
The NBA’s own Developmental League is also a possible target for players looking to break into the NBA. Despite the Summer League being canceled the D-League season will continue as scheduled. Yet, despite the D-League being directly affiliated with the NBA and its teams, it is not seen as that desirable of destination for some. The pay is minimal in comparison to what teams overseas might offer at less than $30,000 per year and the lifestyle is comparable to that of a minor league baseball players, traveling from small town to small town living out of a suitcase.
A lockout hurts the NBA. Much of what has been written and said about the CBA talks has centered around the financial state of the league and teams. Owners have been repeatedly beating the drum stating that their teams are losing money. That may very well be the case, but they are also circling their wagons to form a defense against the players. The only thing that is truly important is that each sides reach an agreement quickly. A prolonged dispute and work stoppage will hurt the level of young talent leaping for a chance to become a professional player in the NBA. Of course, the NBA will always be the end goal as long as it remains the best basketball league in the world. Other options are out there, however, and players have shown a willingness to see what other leagues have to offer. They will play overseas for a few years then try the NBA again. All they want is playing time and a chance to better themselves and their game. Yet, they cannot find that in the NBA if there is a lockout. The NBA must be a willing partner in the development of young talent if it hopes to keep its appeal as the destination for young basketball players in North America and around the world.