Hobby Musings: NBA primed to welcome hot prospects on and off the court – The NBA may be at the start of the postseason, but in a few short months, the league will be welcoming in a new wave of prospects. With some big names like Luka Doncic and Trae Young among others, there will be plenty of new players for collectors to chase this season.
No matter what, they will have a heck of a time matching the cardboard performance of some of the impressive rookies from the 2017-18 season. To break down more of this year’s NBA rookie class and the potential upcoming rookie class, I had the chance to catch up with Panini NBA brand manager Keith Hower. The following interview was conducted via email.
KS: Looking at this current NBA season, which rookie do you think has had the biggest impact on the trading card market?
KH: Lonzo Ball. While he may not be the current rookie leader in terms of secondary market value, he was the catalyst that set off this rookie class going all the way back to his time at UCLA. Any time a player is recognized by non-collectors (and even non-sports fans), it means good things and a solid market to come.
KS: Who has been a rookie that was under the radar to start the season that has surprised you with his hobby performance?
KH: Zhou Qi. The influence on the market from the Far East is a game changer. That portion of collectors infuse a bunch of cash into the hobby, and they’re more than willing to pay for someone from their hemisphere.
KS: The NCAA tournament recently concluded with Villanova coming out on top. Which potential upcoming NBA rookie do you think elevated his card stock the most because of his tournament performance?
KH: Moritz Wagner. Especially if he enters the NBA as “Mo” Wagner–that’s a great NBA name. Wagner is a little more rugged down low, but plays that seven-foot position with a stroke from three. Players like Dirk Nowitzki, Kristaps Porzingis, and Lauri Markkanen have made it a sexy position.
KS: Overall, which potential NBA prospects should collectors be keeping an eye on for this upcoming season?
KH: Luka Doncic. He’ll no doubt come out of the gate hot in the hobby. However, he does not compete with NBA talent on a daily basis. Yet. My bet is that he’ll have a rookie season value slump as a work in progress, then in two years, he’ll have a big resurgence as his body and game become NBA-ready.
KS: Out of all those prospects, which one do you think will make the biggest hobby impact this season?
KH: Trae Young. Trae plays the game like Stephen Curry. If he can grow his basketball mind and limit the turnovers, he has the potential to be a top-tier hobby star.
KS: Who’s an under-the-radar prospect this year that should be on hobby radars?
KH: Whomever the Spurs draft with the 22nd pick. Love them, or hate them, the Spurs have a knack for identifying and stealing solid NBA talent late in the first round.
KS: Once the players are drafted, when we can expect to see their first Panini cards and autographs for both collegiate and professional releases?
KH: Debut autographs will be in Contenders Draft Picks in late August/early September. Debut NBA autographs will be in 2018-19 Hoops (late October), with on-card autographs to follow shortly after.
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