DURHAM, N.C. — There was a different look to this year’s NBA Draft, a green tinge growing more pervasive with each passing season. In fact, the effect has become so pronounced, momentum is finally growing to reverse the trend.
To be clear, when we say green we refer primarily to inexperienced first-rounders. Ten of the top 11 picks were college freshmen in 2017. The first upperclassman chosen was North Carolina’s Justin Jackson midway through the opening round. Last year’s draft had 10 freshmen among the top 30, and that had been a record.
The 16 one-and-done talents taken in this year’s first round were a major story, an overwhelming trend that did not elude the notice of researchers at ESPN. They kept feeding host Rece Davis periodic updates on minor historic markers as they whizzed past. “You’ve never seen this before — five freshmen to start an NBA Draft,” Davis intoned, only to announce a superseding breakthrough moments later.
Add eight sophomores, starting with Duke’s Luke Kennard at No.12 to Detroit, and an amazing 80 percent of the first-rounders were underclassmen.
“The NBA Draft was once about performance,” observes Chris Ekstrand, a Chapel Hill-based NBA consultant with 27 years of draft experience.

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