By Chris Sheridan
VILNIUS, Lithuania — After an overnight flight connecting through Helsinki, Finland, I bumped into a scout for the Denver Nuggets near the tourist information booth at the quaint little airport here where the second round of EuroBasket is taking place.
Whether he knows it or not, he may be here scouting future third-round draft picks.
That’s right: Third round.
SheridanHoops.com has learned that NBA owners have proposed adding a third round to the annual draft, a proposal that the players’ union has countered by offering an array of changes to the draft that would help address the owners’ desire for more competitive balance.
According to sources involved in the league’s collective bargaining discussions, the union has proposed various changes to the draft:
_ Under one proposal, the 15 teams with the worst records would continue to pick 1st through 15th, but then would also have the 16th through 30th picks. The teams with the top 15 records would have the first 15 picks of the second round, then would have the 44th through 60th picks, too. Under this proposal, the Chicago Bulls (whose 62-20 record was the league’s best last season) would have the 45th and 60th picks instead of the 30th and 30th picks. The Minnesota Timberwolves, who had the NBA’s worst record (17-65), would have their lottery pick and the 16th pick, but would no longer have the first pick of the second round — No. 31 overall.
_ Under another proposal, the teams with the eight worst records would get an additional first round pick, beginning with selection No. 22, and the teams with the eight best records would have no first-round picks but would select at the top of the second round (picks 31 through 38), then also would get the final eight picks of the second round.
There hasn’t been a third round in an NBA draft since 1988 (Anthony Mason, selected by Portland, was the most memorable pick of that third round), as the following season the draft was shortened to two rounds. The draft was seven rounds from 1985-87, and longer before that (Little-known fact: The Chicago Bulls drafted sprinter Carl Lewis in the 10th round in 1984, even though he had not played high school or college basketball. That was the same year Chicago drafted Michael Jordan No. 3 overall).
The draft negotiations have been one of the few side issues that have been discussed during the labor talks, which have centered mainly on the split of revenues between the owners and players. As reported here yesterday, the sides are closer on the money than they have been leading everyone to believe.
Labor talks will resume today in New York.