Scouting Nightmare: The Challenge to Spot an NBA Superstar

I fell in love with the game of basketball watching the 2008 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. I developed such a passion for the game that I knew from a young age that I would eventually pursue a career in the field. My college education is centered on sports, with the aspiration to be the first Puerto Rican to ever be an NBA front office executive. 

As the 2023-2024 NBA season reaches its final stages, There is a growing sentiment among basketball fans around the question of who is going to become the next “Face of the NBA”. 

The question comes now as the era of Lebron James, Stephen Curry, and other all-time greats reach their 15+, 20+ years of experience. 

In life there can be a reluctance to accept reality, because like many say the truth will always hurt more than the lie.

Global Surge: The rise of International Basketball Talent 

In this situation the reality is we are living unique and unprecedented times in sports, especially this one called basketball. The amount of talent being produced worldwide is astonishing but more than anything impressive. 

The sport has become so internationalized that what we never saw happen before is happening now, with the last international competitions showing how the USA is no longer the only country in this world that can have elite level talent of basketball players. 

A big reason as to why the game of basketball has grown so much through the years but has even more space for it which is a whole other topic of conversation.  

The casual fans are often drawn to the star power of the game. They enjoy watching highlights of big plays, dunks, and buzzer-beaters.

Purist fans are deeply interested in the tactical and strategic elements of the game.

They appreciate detailed breakdowns of offensive and defensive schemes, player efficiency ratings, and advanced statistics.

I definitely know what category I fall into.

The Art of Talent Evaluation in the NBA

Let me take you on the journey of my curiosity as a purist fan that starts with how as a talent evaluator for a NBA franchise, can you find or identify a prospect that can become the “Face of the NBA”.

It is much more than just actually putting to test or evaluating an individual player, as a franchise you must be in a position where you have draft picks and the assets that put you in a situation where it can benefit the organization. 

 OKC Thunder: A small Market’s Big Impact

The OKC Thunder in the 2024 season are the prime example. A small market NBA team that has developed multiple NBA MVPs, multiple All-star players.

Kevin Durant, 2nd overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft, 2014 NBA Most Valuable player, left after 9 seasons with the Thunder. Russell Westbrook, 4th overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft, 2017 NBA MVP, left after 11 seasons. James Harden, 3rd overall pick in 2009 NBA draft, 2018 NBA MVP, left after 3 seasons. 

The importance of outlining these facts is to make the argument that as a small market team, there was no concrete scenario where OKC could have kept the 3 MVP caliber talents, and for that Sam Presti, the Thunder longtime General Manager & President, had to put together a plan that has his franchise as of today the year 2024 in marvelous conditions. 

Those conditions include an abundance of draft capital. 

I started off describing how the game of basketball is reaching new heights internationally. There is countless talent of basketball prospects around the world.

Including women, but again I’m not trying to get off topic. 

There is innumerable bulk of talent in the game of basketball on this planet called Earth, this leading to the conclusion that the Draft system is ten times more valuable than it was 20, 30 years ago in the NBA.

And that is why the OKC Thunder can claim to be basketball heaven. 

OKC roster currently has the runner up to the 2024 NBA Most Valuable Player award, he goes by the name of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. 

He was acquired in a trade that has made a clear mark of a before and after for this Thunder franchise, who sit in one of the best positions I can remember since being a fan of the NBA. 

A roster constructed from the draft; the Thunder still had to endure losing seasons to rebuild. It’s just how it works in the sports industry. 

You can’t take steps back when you want to move forward. This means every decision must go aligned with a purpose especially in the lowest of times. 

They have drafted well and finished the 2023-2024 NBA season as the 1st seed in the Western Conference although with no championship. A team whose average age is 23 years old.

Will they get one from this young promising core is a question that only the future can answer.

Now with that said, like many times before in the history of this amazing league, it can always be a circumstance that sets you literally back to square zero, but that is not the hypothetical scenario in this article. 

The point here in my writing is trying to figure out how you set yourself as an NBA organization to identify superstar level talent in the game of basketball, while also building around that player every single year.

Players at the Helm: Superstars Drive the NBA

The NBA is a league run by its owners, but I would proclaim the statement the NBA is powered by its players. 

Players drive viewership and engagement, influence league policies, lead social movements, and significantly impact the NBA’s economic landscape. Their performance on the court and actions off it shape the league’s present and future, underscoring their pivotal role in powering the NBA. 

They hold the power if they perform and deliver at a high-level on and off the court. 

I note this because when you look at the Minnesota Timberwolves today, who fell short but sat 4 wins away from a 2024 NBA finals trip, led by who many believe is the next “Face of the NBA” in Anthony Edwards, can have everything go south if they encounter rigid circumstances where their star player doesn’t have long-term plans to stay playing in a market like Minnesota. 

These scenario examples highlight the difficulties and pressures of having to be a President or General Manager for these NBA teams, essentially having the challenge to win as soon as possible while also setting yourself in good positions for the long-term. 

Maximizing Assets: Trust in Developing NBA Talent 

The Atlanta Hawks have recently been awarded the 1st overall pick of the 2024 NBA draft. A franchise that was 2 wins from being a playoff team in the 2023-2024 NBA season. 

The Hawks have never earned the right to pick 1st in their history, and today they possess the most high-priced asset of this 2024 Draft. 

The plan moving forward for the Hawks in basic terms is to maximize their assets in the makeup of their team. Focus on what has been missed that has become a need, which I would most surely say is the inability to establish a consistent, prominent contender.

For a talented NBA rookie prospect, the most valuable aspect to the start of their careers is to be drafted into a situation where a coach and franchise trust and believe in their talent. This becomes fundamental for their development, mental and emotional well-being, career longevity, and integration into the team. 

We have seen in the history of this league how franchises miss on hall of fame talents, and it will keep happening.

Most memorable for me, Phoenix Suns in the 2018 NBA draft picking Deandre Ayton 1st overall, Sacramento Kings picking Marvin Bagley 2nd overall, and ironically the Atlanta Hawks, trading their 3rd pick to the Dallas Mavericks who picked Luka Doncic. 

Luka Doncic, a talent who can already be labeled as generational. 

Is part of any industry to have superiors and inferiors, it happens in any competitive environment. 

Rockets vs Mavericks Prediction, Pick, Preview & Betting Odds for 4/7/24
Mar 31, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after scoring a basket during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The shifting landscape of the NBA: Adapting to Change 

The uncommonness that surrounds the structure of the NBA nowadays is a constant change of scenery for the league and puts the executives on a unique set of challenges. 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver seems to have no intentions to erase the past, but to create a new version of the league itself. 

In my opinion by far the best commissioner in sports, Silver’s tenure as NBA commissioner is characterized by a remarkable balance between forward-thinking innovation and a deep respect for the league’s history. 

His ability to adapt to modern technological, social, and global challenges while honoring the traditions and figures that shaped the NBA cements his position as the best commissioner in sports today. 

There is so much talent in basketball today that media pundits and personalities pushing the narrative that the 2024 NBA draft is one of the worst in recent times stems from the fact there is no clear favorite for the number one pick. 

That’s how it works in sports, narratives will always be there until some just disappear. 

Victor Wembanyama, a player who probably would be first to the mind of many fans who are asked who the “Next face of the NBA” is. The ultimate prize for a San Antonio Spurs organization that many consider as superior in the talent evaluation category in the NBA. 

The San Antonio Spurs rebuild consisted of 5 straight losing seasons after 17 straight 50-win seasons. They still had a losing first year with their superstar player Wemby.

It takes a lot of intangibles within an NBA franchise to reach the goal.  Establishing a winning culture in an NBA franchise requires a combination of said intangibles. 

Strong leadership, team chemistry, work ethic, resilience, and a supportive organizational environment. Intangibles create the foundation for sustained success.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, same can be said for an NBA championship team.

To Top