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NBA Lottery: basketball or baby boom?

Finally the day is here. So you had to bear the burden of suspending those two forwards found with a pound of marijuana and the midget hooker in their Escalade, that insignificant 27-game losing streak and fans chanting “contract us!” at every home game. It’s all been worth it now that the team was blessed with that lottery pick in the NBA Draft. Who will you draft, Mr. NBA executive? I mean, everyone knows that you have to go with youth.

It is pretty hard to resist picturing the second coming of Kwame Brown or even DeSagana Diop roaming the paint for days, er, years to come.

Yes, the NBA’s lottery draft has officially become a trademark for the corroding of the very baby ballers it should be nurturing.

The NBA,its associated agents and any other parties involved (as the case may be) sway these kids toward jumping so they may garner some quick cash for their ridiculously raw talents. This not only hurts the league — which is perpetually battling to stay afloat, be it from the erosion of finances or popularity or quality — it also hurts college hoops and, of course, these unripe players.

And before anyone else spouts off those raggedly worn, look-at-LeBron arguments, something needs to be clarified.

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and Kevin Garnett are freaks.

In the near-20 years since the inception of the NBA Lottery, there have been four guys able to ball with the bigger, more educated boys. Before that quartet there were two in the rest of the league’s history — Moses Malone and Daryl Dawkins — able to post up with the pros. And, chances are, there’ll be four more stellar high school phenoms in the next 20 years of the lottery.

Then again, about one dozen of the non-high school players drafted every year in the first two rounds make an immediate impact. And about half of the first 10 players taken every year — save for a couple of weak draft years, no thanks to the NBA — go on to be top NBAers.

These folks come from a wondrous place full of books, learning, stimulating peers (intellectually and otherwise), dormitories and roundball coaches who pride themselves on edifying young players in the arts of not only basketball but also becoming a well-rounded people. Some call it college.

Yet, because of team executives’ high school shuffle, college is not the place to find ripened talent like it once was.

The halls of college basketball lore — filled with highlights of Magic’s and Bird’s battles, Grant’s pass to Laettner or Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins bringing glory back to the Tar Heels — are becoming more and more bare as the sport drags its feet through the new millennium. These kids making unsuccessful jumps to the NBA maybe could have filled the collegiate shoes of Jordan, Magic and the rest. However, before Shaq, the last player they posted up was some pimple-faced schoolboy playing for nothing more than the ice cream cones coach buys after the game.

The lack of top-notch ballers in the college ranks has resulted in the dulling down of the college game. March Madness has become noticeably more “sensible” these days; so bad, in fact, that it could pass for a regular season NBA game — low scoring, ugly shooting and sloppy play posing as defense for the opposition.

If these kids are good enough to be in the same sentence as the word NBA, they should take the talent that earned them acclaim to the land of college hoops, where they would learn things like (surprise) team play and passing. But they probably got plenty of that in while mopping up various Catholic school leagues full of 5-foot weaklings.

The NBA wonders where all the next Jordans and Magics are. If they don’t do something to stop this rush of undeveloped talent in their ranks, David Stern and friends might find the next roundball saviour practicing his crossover on the team water cooler while munching on pine for his prime years.