Hobby Musings: Rookies at center of 2017-18 NBA season – Few NBA rookie classes in the recent trading card era have gotten collectors as excited as the 2017-18 crop. Led by Lakers’ newcomer Lonzo Ball, this year’s basketball rookies appear to have a chance to continue what has been a good year for trading cards.
For more on what this year has to offer in the basketball card world, I had the chance to catch up with Sports Collectors Daily editor Rich Mueller, Mojobreak’s Doug Caskey and longtime hobby writer Stephen Laroche.
KS: What do you think is the biggest trading card storyline heading into the basketball season?
RM: I think the success or failure of certain rookies and the stars that unexpectedly emerge is always a big deal, but I think there will be several young stars like Karl-Anthony Towns, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid who are going to take the next step. And that’s just the short list. The card market thrives on stars and some of those products that are a few years old are going to be in even bigger demand by January 1.
DC: The amazing rookie class. This class has the potential to be right up there with 03-04 rookie class.
SL: In my opinion, it is all about the rookie class. There has been so much hype surrounding them and while not all of them are likely to become hobby stars, some of them play in perfect markets that will give them plenty of media exposure.
Hobby Musings: Rookies at center of 2017-18 NBA season – Rookie Impact
RM: Not for a long time. I think you might have to go back to LeBron, but that’s obviously not a comparison of abilities. Ball has a lot of talent but there’s so much hoopla surrounding him that doesn’t really have anything to do with the game itself. If his performance rises above that, he’ll be an even bigger star but much of the hype, of course, has to do with playing for the Lakers.
DC: Not in the seven years we have been breaking has there been this much hype across all sports for any one athlete. It goes to show you social media and promotion can further an athletes career in the early stages. Love him or hate him, LaVar Ball has made a huge impact on the anticipation of the 17-18 trading card releases.
SL: I think excitement for rookies ebbs and flows over time. At the beginning of the boom years, everyone wanted David Robinson and the mania behind Shaquille O’Neal was insane back in 1992-93. It’s hard to believe it was 25 years ago! In more recent times, the market for Vince Carter in his early years was crazy. LeBron James and Yao Ming were insanely hot from the start. Moving forward with guys like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, Damian Lillard, and Karl-Anthony Towns, they were hot and have maintained a lofty place in the hobby. This year, the market for Lonzo will shine bright – especially if he shines on a rebuilding Lakers club.
KS: What kind of trading card activity have you seen on Ball’s early cards?
DC: Base college autos are going for 300 and the sky is the limit on numbered stuff, and I can’t think of anyone coming out that high since 03-04
SL: From what I have observed, there is a ton of activity for Lonzo’s first cards. The on-demand Panini Instant cards did very well. Autographs are obviously the most in demand – especially those from 2017-18 Panini Contenders Draft Picks. No matter if it is base, inserts, or parallels, people are going to be collecting him and as he performs on the court, expect bidding wars for some of the more limited pieces.
RM: Josh Jackson, Jason Tatum, De’Aaron Fox, Ben Simmons.
DC: Dennis Smith Jr., Malik Monk, Jayson Tatum, Markelle Fultz, De’Aaron Fox .
SL: This is a genuinely strong rookie class, but the top picks are always going to get the most attention before the season starts. Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, Jonathan Isaac, Dennis Smith, Jr., and De’Aaron Fox are getting plenty of hype – and deservedly so.
KS: Who’s an under-the-radar rookie you think could make a hobby impact this season?
RM: Malik Monk if you can call him under-the-radar, but a super sleeper is Miloš Teodosić. At 30 years old, he’s not a long-term play but he’ll have a limited number of cards and could make a real impact in the West which will have a lot of collectors hunting for his stuff.
DC: I think Jordan Bell could make an impact for the Warriors. As a collector it’s a perfect team for a rookie to be on. Big, tall athletic guy who can stretch the court.
SL: I will go out on a limb and say Harry Giles of the Sacramento Kings. Sure, he’s not in the biggest market, but he was highly rated (second overall) coming out of high school. At Duke last year, he missed some time due to injury. If he’s healthy, he could surprise some collectors and fans.
RM: It looks like a good one but don’t forget this is the youngest class ever so it may take a couple of years to really determine just how good it really is. It doesn’t seem to really have any impact big men but potentially, there are a lot of new stars in it.
DC: Last year’s rookie class is still fermenting with a few guys who will come out on top over time. Year before, lots of hype on KAT, Porzingis, Booker. I think this class in early stages. It already has double the fire power. First 10 picks were one and done. Lots of talent.
SL: I think this rookie class has the potential to be outstanding, but until they get rolling, it’s hard to definitively compare them against others. However, I would not be surprised if it is the best since the dual rookie class of 2012-13 – if not better in the long run.
Hobby Musings: Rookies at center of 2017-18 NBA season – Sophomores & Veterans
KS: One interesting wild card this year is Ben Simmons, who missed all of what would have been his rookie season with injury. As he gets ready to play in the NBA, what is the market like for his cards?
RM: That’s a better question for dealers but I don’t think people have forgotten about him from what I see online. There’s some caution but he could be a huge seller if he starts out strong.
DC: I think they continue to go up . Obviously health-dependent. Sixers could be a power house, especially with the first overall pick in Fultz. Simmons is being played like a point guard and for his size, there really isn’t anyone in the league like him. He gets a few triple-doubles and I think NBA collectors scramble to get more of his cards.
SL: The Ben Simmons factor this year is very intriguing indeed. I believe that sales of 2015-16 products will get a boost once people see him in action and his cards are going to heat up. The caveat, of course, is the fact that Panini will not have his ink in its products due to his exclusive autograph deal with Upper Deck. I would not be surprised if Upper Deck gets heavily into promoting the items they have made thus far and creates some new ones.
RM: I think it’s still Michael Jordan’s world and everyone else is still just living in it but in terms of active players, LeBron is tops.
DC: Kobe Bryant (Retired) or Kevin Durant
SL: For active players, it’s sometimes hard to pick the top guy. LeBron James dominates to this day, of course, and people want his cards. It’s been that way from the start. However, if you look at how key rookie cards of Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant have performed over the last year or two, those guys are hobby legends as well. I think it might be smart to get in on guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Karl-Anthony Towns now before they explode, too.
KS: There are some big recently retired stars, including Tim Duncan and Charles Barkley, who are truly rare signers. How much of a hobby demand do you think there would be for the ink of those contemporary stars if they signed new cards?
RM: Some, no doubt, especially the higher-end products but to me, collectors seem to be more interested in active stars and rookies these days.
DC: Huge Demand. People ask for their autos every week! I think an MJ auto in a Bulls uniform could push the market into a frenzy .
SL: I agree that both of those guys are tough signers, but I would not ever underestimate Panini’s ability to get them to agree to a deal – even if it seems so unlikely. Reggie Miller started signing for Panini recently, which is great, so it is possible to get a reluctant signer to agree to a deal. If Duncan or Barkley started to sign for trading card releases from any company, the short-term demand would be huge and prices would be understandably high. With guys like that, you naturally want to use them sparingly in your products in order to ensure the long-term demand is strong as well.
Hobby Musings: Rookies at center of 2017-18 NBA season – Pining for M.J.
KS: I’ll get you out of here on this. If there was one change you could see made in the basketball card market, what would it be?
RM: It would be so much better for the hobby as a whole if Panini had access to at least a few autographs from guys who have exclusives with Upper Deck or if Upper Deck was granted a basketball license and both companies had access to the autographs of every major player. When you’re considering the purchase of an officially licensed basketball card product from Panini and there’s no chance to land autographs of some of the sport’s biggest marquee names, it has an impact.
DC: Perfect lead-in to your last question. LeBron and Jordan NBA- licensed autos.
SL: Honestly, I would like to see more people collect basketball cards in a traditional manner. The art of set building is dying and many seem to be focused on hits. I think that Panini does a good job in creating products at a variety of price ranges and it has entry-level offerings that appeal to new, youthful, or novice collectors. There is no wrong way to collect cards, but what happens when basic concepts like building a base set fade away?
Hobby Musings: Rookies at center of 2017-18 NBA season
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