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Promises, promises

I've long been fascinated with the concept of the draft 'promise'.  Whenever a team makes a seemingly strange pick, the story is invariably 'Well, they made a promise.'  Oh, OK then.  But the question remains:  why?

Maybe the first question is 'what'?  What is this promise thing?  What are they promising?  What are they getting in return?  According to Chad Ford in his Draft Notebook, teams 'promise' to draft a certain player in a certain position, and in exchange the player promises not to work out for any other teams.  There, that seems simple enough.

So now we get to the heart of the matter:  why?  And honestly, I have no answer here.  For instance, let's look at the supposed (refuted by Ford as bogus) promise from the Sonics to Jerryd Bayless.  How would that have made any sense?  For anybody?  The Sonics are picking fourth.  As of now, two players are considered significantly better than anyone else in this draft.  A 'promise' from the Sonics gets them what, exactly?  Bayless agrees not to work out for the Bulls or the Heat (who aren't going to draft him anyway)?  So that leaves the Wolves.  If the Wolves do work out Bayless, and decide to take him, so what?  The Sonics get Mayo.  Is it worth it to limit your options just to have one team missing out on the workout?  Because consider the other alternative - for some reason Rose or Beasley drops to four, and now the Sonics can't pounce on them because they made a 'promise' to Bayless. 

The further down the draft you go, the less sense it makes.  Take the Clippers and Yaroslav Korolev.  It's never been made public, but that situation had all the earmarks of a 'promise'.  Korolev was essentially unknown to other teams, and the Clippers were said to be planning to draft him with the 12th pick all along.  But when Danny Granger and Gerald Green each dropped out of the top 10, suddenly the Clippers were left to fulfill their 'promise' to a player that no other team was interested in (with good reason).  I suppose if he really was the next Dirk Nowitzki, the 'promise' would have been a good move.  But he wasn't.  And looking at it from the player's perspective, there seems to be even less incentive.  "Ooh, goody, the Clippers want me at 12."  Why wouldn't you go ahead and work out for any other teams that ask?  If you get picked earlier, then you make more money.  If you don't, isn't the team that wanted a 'promise' still likely to draft you?  I mean, it's the NBA, not junior high.  "That's the guy I really want, but he wouldn't promise to be mine, so now I don't want him!"  Come on.

Put it on the list of 'Things I don't get.'