When I glanced at the front page of my Twitter the morning after the NBA draft and saw that the phrase “epic management failure” was trending, I immediately assumed that everyone was talking about the people who guided Chris Livingston’s decision to stay on the “early”. entry list.
Instead, it was some political leafleting, but that doesn’t mean my assumption was completely off the mark.
That Livingston emerged from his freshman season at Kentucky as a potential first-round talent, but so obviously not yet a first-round pick, should have been clear to everyone, especially those advising him on his future. Klutch Sports signed him after he made his draft permanent, and founder Rich Paul told reporters earlier this month at an event in suburban Cleveland, “I think, at the end of the day, the future is bright for Chris.”
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And then the draft happened. The immediate future is certainly not bright now and he will be fighting against history to make something happen in the league. However, he would still have had good promise if he had been convinced to return to college and try again in a year.
It is no longer the case to look at such a result and declare, “Well, at least he will make money.” Because Livingston and those who made similar decisions — UCLA’s Amari Bailey, Arkansas’ Jordan Walsh — already were. In the name/image/similar era of NCAA basketball, we should see far fewer first-round talents blowing their one chance to enter the league in style. However, they keep coming.
Last year, six one-and-done players were selected in the second round of the draft: Michigan’s Caleb Houston and Moussa Diabate, Michigan State’s Max Christie, Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler, Duke’s Trevor Keels and Baylor’s Kendall Brown.
Perhaps the fact that there were five this year—including GG Jackson of South Carolina and Julian Phillips of Tennessee—represents progress. However, not very much.
That’s not to say it’s impossible to have a great career as a second-round pick. However, it is somewhat rare. Look at the 2017 draft: 18 of the 30 first-round picks have played at least 5,000 NBA minutes to date, or 60 percent. In the second round, that’s two of the 30. UCLA’s Ike Anigbogu did it one-and-done that year and was selected 47th collected by the Indiana Pacers. He played 36 minutes in the NBA.
It was not an unusual year. For 2016, it’s exactly the same for first-rounders – 18 of 30 – and second-rounders get one more 5,000-minute player. In 2018, it’s 19 of 30 for the first round, up to eight for the second round.
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Here’s something that might be surprising, though: Of all the second-round college picks from the three drafts who got a fair amount of NBA playing time, only four were one-and-done players. The others – including Malcolm Brogdon, Georges Niang, Jalen Brunson and Dillon Brooks – averaged 3.4 years of NCAA experience.
If you look at the 2022 draft and lower the number to 1,000 minutes, there were 17 first-round picks that played that much, and only a single second-rounder (four-year collegian Andrew Nembhard).
Why do these standards matter?
Because if you don’t play, they don’t pay.
We have seen a dip in the number of university teachers who remained on the admissions list and were not selected. There were only 10 this year, and none were one-and-dones. Livingston almost changed that, holding onto the final pick of a draft that was shortened because several teams had to lose picks.
The history of the 58th pick in the NBA Draft is relatively short, but absolutely abysmal. The first player to be taken for that number was Don Reid, in 1995, from Georgetown. He played eight seasons and scored 1,454 career points. He is the only player at 58 to reach even 1,000 career points. Remember, that’s what Jayson Tatum is getting in less than half a season. Only one other player has reached five seasons. Thirteen taken in the same spot as Livingston have never played a single NBA game.
Those who follow the NFL Draft have a running joke that the last player selected is “Mr. Irrelevant.” But that’s the reality for the player in that place with the NBA.
Livingston arrived at Kentucky as the consensus No. 15 pick in the high school class of 2022. It hasn’t been unprecedented for coach John Calipari and his staff to immediately turn such a player into a coveted NBA Draft prospect; All-NBA first-teamer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander arrived at No. 33 in 2017 and went No. 11 in the draft a year later, and Eric Bledsoe famously jumped from No. 55 in 2009 to be selected with the 18th.th pick and twice make the all-defensive team.
However, their experience with the Wildcats was not like the Livingstons. Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 14.4 points and 5.1 assists and forced his way into the starting lineup at point guard over the more heralded Quade Green.
Bledsoe averaged 11.3 points and shot 46.2 percent from the field and 38.2 percent on 3-pointers for a team that went 35-3, won back-to-back SEC championships and spent the entire season ranked in the Associated Press top 5 .
Livingston made himself an instant starter with his high energy and hard work, but a struggle to build an offensive game saw him briefly slide out of the lineup. He ultimately proved the team was better with him as a defender and role player than it was without, and seven of the 18 threes he made came in the team’s last 10 games. He was on the mend.
But he finished averaging 6.2 points and 30.5 percent 3-point shooting. He showed a team orientation, a devotion to defense and a degree of dynamism that would ultimately make him a potential (or likely) first-round pick, but he wasn’t there in the spring of 2023.
It wasn’t hard to see. How many times does the NBA select a wing player in the NBA Draft who averaged single-digit scoring as a collegian? You are free to investigate. Pretty sure the answer to that is “zero”.
Chris Livingston wouldn’t change that. It could have been so much different a year from now.