Commentary: When grading NBA draft, give commissioner an A+

The 2014 NBA Draft was held last Thursday. Television coverage and analysis of the draft focused on and dissected the teams' selections of the best available players, those players who best fit with the teams' needs, and/or those players with the greatest potential.

The NBA’s pre-draft processes, particularly the league’s medical evaluations of its top prospects at its Chicago pre-draft combine, are incredibly and increasingly thorough; more-so than the most rigorous physical exam you could imagine. But, with player salaries ranging from six-to-eight figures annually, the stakes are high.


Doctors and medical staffs conduct thorough screenings and exams, review existing medical records, and perform specialized, sometimes invasive tests on the draft’s top prospects.

Just over a week ago, one of the Draft’s potential picks, Baylor’s Isaiah Austin, was diagnosed with Marfan’s syndrome; cutting short his basketball career (before it even began professionally); and, ending his NBA dreams. The disease was discovered as a result of one of the in-depth, specialized tests administered by the NBA during its Chicago combine.

Marfan’s syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by the misfolding of certain proteins. It is known as a connective tissue disorder. It tends to be more frequently found and diagnosed in people that are “unusually tall, with long limbs and long, thin fingers.” The most severe expressions of Marfan’s, and its most serious complications, are defects of the heart valves and the aorta.

Austin’s Marfan’s diagnosis ended his playing career. Cruelly. On the virtual eve of a night he’d dreamed of taking part in since his childhood. He’d dreamed of hearing his name called by the commissioner, pulling on his new team’s hat, walking on stage, and shaking the commissioner’s hand. The diagnosis took that all away.

But, NBA commissioner Adam Silver helped make Austin’s dream come true, if even only for a night, and though somewhat ceremonially so.

Arguably the highlight of draft night came between the evening’s 15th and 16th official picks. Silver stepped to the podium and ceremonially selected Austin. Though not by a team, Austin’s name was called. He was selected “by the NBA.” He received a standing ovation. He was handed a logoed hat. Walked on stage. Shook the Commissioner’s hand. Cried. And realized his dream, if even only for a night.

Silver’s gesture reinforced the stature of his class and strength of his character. On the job less than a year, Silver has passed every test with flying colors.

Though a footnote to Silver’s gesture and to Austin’s diagnosis and his night, it should, nonetheless, also be noted that Austin is not new to adversity. He’s been playing basketball with one eye; wearing a prosthetic right eye after multiple unsuccessful operations to repair a detached retina.

Pundits will grade teams’ selections; picking apart the strengths and weaknesses thereof, and the potential in and potential weaknesses of each pick.

But, Silver’s ceremonial selection gets an A+.