At the 1974 NBA draft, the debate was about which player was going to be taken second overall. After two NCAA titles and three Final Four appearances in his three seasons on the varsity team at UCLA, Bill Walton was the unanimous No. 1 prospect. This year there is intrigue about which freshman center, Karl-Anthony Towns of Kentucky or Duke's Jahlil Okafor, will be the top overall pick.
For the team that ends up with the No. 2 pick, hopefully Towns or Okafor pan out much better than Marvin Barnes, the player selected after the Portland Trail Blazers took Walton.
Walton, the 1977 NBA Finals MVP and 1978 league MVP, has the résumé to judge center talent, but declines on making a call between Towns and Okafor.
"That should be answered by someone who spends their whole life just doing that," Walton says. "I'm a fan. I'm involved in the business of the sport and my business is not picking that one guy. What I know about them is they're both excellent."
In the 41 years since Walton was drafted, the two-time NBA champ points to the preparation for the draft as the biggest different in generations. Once upon a time, college scouting and general reputation was enough to make a draft decision. Now drafting involves extensive research. Walton admires the new system and explains why it makes him considerably less educated than team executives.
"You're going to have to delve into everything," Walton says. "You're going to have to delve into their health, the science of their genetic makeup. You're going to have to delve into their personalities and their background and their lives. The interviews that they're going to have -- it is a totally different world than when we played. I am not qualified to make that decision here today and if I were going to make that decision and I had between now and the draft, I would spend every waking moment on making that decision because they're both excellent and you have to make the right decision."
Although NBA fans may not have the Intel on potential draftees' genes and hobbies, they do have the ability to put their knowledge to the test. For the past month, the NBA and FanDuel have teamed up to give fans a chance to compete against one another in one-day fantasy contests. Since April 18, each day has consisted of one winner who receives a ticket to New York City for a two-day final round on May 22-23. May 18 is the final scheduled day for the promotion at nba.com/oneday. The 31 winners will compete in the two-day round for a prize of watching the NBA Finals with Walton.
"The whole nature of concept of e-sports is really the future and there are staggering numbers of revenue numbers, participation numbers, involvement numbers, all the things that businesses are looking for," Walton says. "This is the business of sports. All you have to do is look around and see all of the e-sports out there–all of the big boys. This is going to be the next generation of driving fan involvement."
The final round will be at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where Walton will find his NBA Finals companion.
In the meantime, Towns and Okafor may see their fate determined on Tuesday night. Before Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the NBA draft lottery will determine which team gets the first overall pick.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.