Tom Izzo Fearful for Current State of Basketball

Tom Izzo made an appearance Thursday, on the ESPNU College Basketball podcast hosted by Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg. He covered a whole range of topics on the current state of college basketball and some flaws with the NBA draft.

Izzo wastes no time, and almost immediately in the podcast goes out and says “the system’s broke.” Everything from the recruiting process to the way the NBA draft is now focusing on drafting for potential and not performance.

He felt there were an array of factors that lead to a lot of greenroom-type players to be drafted much later than they anticipated, including his own “one and done,” Deyonta Davis. Izzo believes first and foremost this stems from false information these 18 and 19 year old kids are receiving.

Of course there is a ton of intel these players are receiving that even the biggest insiders may never hear, but as a reporter, shame on you if you’re making a mock draft or writing a column based on your own beliefs and analysis without really hammering your sources for info on where these kids will land. Even if Davis was seen as one of the biggest shocks of the draft, it seems improbable no scout or executive would be willing to go off the record to say they have no interest in him. Reporting seems to be a dying art in today’s world of blogs, but there is an effect on these teenage kids to constantly see your name brought up in the first 14 picks that leads them to believe they’re a no doubter to be selected early.

Izzo also admits that Davis came into Michigan State with zero intentions of being a one and done. He then continues to say around February when the media first started introducing the idea of Davis being a one and done, things changed.

But Izzo brings up another great point as to what made the 2016 NBA draft so wild, was because nine teams did not have first round picks. He also points that agents tell him all the time you only need one team to like you to get drafted. But with a draft with so many teams without first round picks, and all the trading that went on throughout the night, that one team might not even be around to select the guy.

Izzo also felt stashing the European players, meaning they can still play in their home country while the NBA team has rights to them, caused a lot of American players to fall in the draft. The Europeans have an advantage because you can essentially “send them back to college” or “redshirt” them, Greenberg points out, that’s more attractive to teams. This is a luxury Americans do not have, but is a big debate right now. Should college players be allowed to go back to college if they sign with an agent and don’t like where they got drafted or went undrafted?

Even Izzo doesn’t have an answer to that. And really there are two parts to this issue. Allowing players to leave if they don’t like where they were drafted, like Davis’ case, would hurt the NBA teams, because you run the risk of wasting a draft pick on someone. And if you allow undrafted guys to return, you hurt the college team because they have no idea whether or not they need to find another player. Izzo half-jokingly mentions he hasn’t taken a vacation yet because he’s still recruiting. And he says he has never recruited this late into the year for an incoming class. In fact he has two official visits in the next four days. And then before you know it, he has to start recruiting the class for the year after.

Now supporters of allowing players to choose to go back to school if they don’t like their pick or if they weren’t selected period say it would force NBA teams to select Americans earlier in the draft, therefore prompting them to stay with the NBA team as well as have less European players selected in the first round. This is why there really isn’t a correct answer yet.

Izzo feels NBA teams want to draft on performance but are forced to draft on potential because the way the game is shifting. He exclaims the D-League is an uncharted avenue and in fact his very own Draymond Green is misleading players into thinking you can be a star as a second round pick. So now it’s ok to leave early and be a second rounder. Izzo wants more research done on how many guys don’t make it in this league to enlighten the players, because too many become career D-leaguers.

Greenberg brings something to the table that scouts can’t measure, it’s how enabled Americans are compared to the Europeans, and how that might have made them more attractive to draft.

Izzo is blunt about this topic and says by no means is the talent better in Europe but the maturity level is. This goes back to recruiting, but players are constantly transferring high schools to be on the best teams, and pampered through the AAU and college system. It can lead to some stability and maturity issues. There hasn’t been a ton of developing the players craft but more so showcasing their abilities. This transfers into the D-League because it comes to be like the AAU system again where if you lose the game “nobody cares,” it’s about development.

Izzo says the big games in college translate way better into the NBA, but college has become more insignificant with the one and done generation. Izzo states the best way to fix the growing D-League and one and dones is by completely changing all college rules to be the same as the NBA. He goes as far to say reluctantly, that college teams would almost be like farm teams. You can develop players while emphasizing the importance of winning, and ease the transition into the NBA.

The most important thing to take away from the whole basketball system, from high school to the pros, is that these are still people.

“I don’t feel sorry for Tom Izzo or Michigan State, we’ll be fine,” said Izzo. “I don’t feel sorry for the Knicks, the Celtics, or the Hawks, because those programs aren’t folding. I feel sorriest for the kid. There’s pressure on these kids and that’s the underline. I hear so many people say don’t stop them from working, but you know what, how many of them are making it big? That’s the question I have… I worry about the pressure, I worry about what these kids are being told, I worry about family pressure people are putting on these kids. And it’s sad. If these kids are (in the NBA) for one or two years, do they really get to enjoy it?”