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If You Want "Dudes," You Gotta Get Them in the Draft

As a quick follow-up to yesterday's post, the HQ looks at the importance of the NBA Draft in terms of finding star players.

Yesterday's post on the subject of "dudes," or franchise-type players spurred a ton of great discussion.

A lot revolved around not only the importance of "Tier 1 and Tier 2 players," but also how an NBA franchise went about acquiring them.

This all related specifically to the Toronto Raptors of course, a "dude-less team" currently looking for help this off-season in terms of bolstering its talent level.

Last night, as I was pouring over the various comments, I got thinking that it would be interesting to look at the origins of star players, or "dudes."  Did most top teams snatch these types of via free-agency?  Or were we talking home-grown talent in the sense that said talents were drafted and cultivated internally, not taken from another team, pre-built so to speak.

Considering that most franchise and Tier 2 talent is recognized each year via the NBA's All-Star game, I decided to compile a list of recent All-Stars to see what I could learn about their origins.

I've linked to said list here; the last near-50 recent All-Star players including which teams they played for during their All-Star selections, their number of All-Star appearances, and which year they participated in the NBA's annual mid-season extravaganza.

More importantly, I've highlighted in yellow those players who played in the All-Star game for the first time, with a club that was DIFFERENT from the one that drafted them.

As you can see, only 10 of the 47 names fall into this category and simply put, most NBA players hit All-Star status with the club that originally drafted them.

Even the exceptions, those highlighted in yellow, are mostly strange cases, not big free-agency gets.  Guys like Chauncey Billups, Antawn Jamison and Gerald Wallace had to bounce around a bit before they found the team that was best able to maximize their talents.

From the list, only Gilbert Arenas (think Hibache version), Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer are true examples of players who blew up into All-Stars after signing big free-agent deals.

Sure, there are a few other guys who continue to play at an All-Star level after switching homes via free-agency (Amare, Magic version of Rashard Lewis, Nash etc), but the vast majority of players hit that All-Star jack-pot at some point with the club that originally discovered them.

Anecdotally then, free-agency looks to be better served for filling roster gaps than acquiring franchise talent.

We've seen this first-hand with the Raps as the bigger free-agency moves like Jermaine O'Neal and Hedo Turkoglu have blown up in management's faces, while the team's found success in more subtle transactions.

Really though, for Toronto, the above underlines the importance of a consistent, successful drafting in terms of building a winning club.  Sure there's a luck element as we've previously discussed, but you need to do the best you can with what you've got to work with each time you're in that lottery.

Look no further than the two clubs now battling for a shot at the Western Conference Finals.

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies both used the draft for years to build up a talent base (how bad does that Hasheem Thabeet pick look now though?), then made some key trades (Perkins, Battier) and minor signings (Nick Collison, Tony Allen) to really position themselves well for the future.

The Raps would do well to follow these models closely over the next couple of seasons, hopefully able to either draft Tier 1 talent at some point, or acquire enough Tier 2 and 3 personnel to trade for it.

That of course starts with the NBA Draft Lottery, now just a few weeks away...