Before every season, the league sends its GMs a survey with more or less the same questions. Then we get to look at it and mock it in a panoply of ways. There are always the requisite knee-slappers (somebody thinks Carmelo Anthony will be the MVP, somebody thinks Boston signing Darko Milicic was the most underrated player acquisition this offseason), but there are also things that are telling about the perplexing psyches of NBA general managers and how the decisions they make create the fabric of the league. Case in point: Jared Sullinger.
Before he forewent the 2011 NBA Draft, Sullinger was considered a top 5 prospect. A back-to-the-basket threat who scored efficiently and rebounded well, Sullinger sounds like he should have been a lock for the lottery based on his Draft Express scouting report from February of 2012. At least until the last line, which reads, “The one thing NBA teams will want to study intently is Sullinger’s medical report, as he’s been slowed this season by back spasms caused by an aggravated disc and plantar fasciitis, being forced to sit out two games in December.”
So intently did they study it, in fact, that Sullinger slipped in the draft—as was forecast—all the way down to the Celtics at #21. Even as he slipped, the consensus was that he was going to be a solid player who could contribute to a team right away. He might not have had the upside of an Anthony Davis or a Bradley Beal, but in the top half of the first round, what are teams really looking for but players who can contribute immediately?
With multiple picks for some teams, Sullinger’s slide meant that 16 GMs passed on Sullinger, or better than half the league. The Rockets took not one but TWO
This one almost got away from us. After some technical difficulties at the beginning, Beckley and Zach talked some Draft and then interviewed the great Dave Telep about many of the prospects whose names are about to be called.
We then welcomed David Thorpe to the show, but there were more technical difficulties and thus we have his segment in audio form underneath the video file. Enjoy:
I’ve resisted the urge to write about Kyrie Irving because I’ve resisted the urge to do a “He’s awesome, I told ya so, I am great by proxy” victory dance. But the jig is up, or on in this case. When Irving submits a performance like last night’s Boston besting, he becomes impossible to ignore. His overall game was magnificent, but the hairpin spin layup winner pegged that brilliance to a single, memorable moment.
A fiery upstart using Boston as a staging ground for thumbing his nose at an ossified imperial power? Why, a Tea Party would be the perfect metaphor for this, had the term not become so politically loaded. Or it would be were this a new occurrence, or even that shocking. Going 10-14 isn’t that surprising when you’re shooting over 50% on the year. He does this kind of thing on the regular, his PER is only behind that of Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, and the immortal Lou Williams among point guards.
Sometimes it seems as though the only shocking aspect of Kyrie’s success is how shocked people are by it. He was the number one pick, number one picks are supposed to be potential superstars. Yet there was no superstar buzz surrounding the Duke prospect. There was Puritanical clucking over how he should have returned for another year at Duke, worries over how few games he played before succumbing to a toe injury. The general assumption was that this draft was weak and that Irving’s selection highlighted an overall talent lowtide.
In the draft lead up, the tag on Irving’s game was, “a poor man’s Chris Paul,” or “Chris Paul lite.” Here is where I think NBA pundits got wrong-footed: There is no such damned thing as a poor man’s Chris Paul because Chris
Kentucky’s Anthony Davis will probably be the number one pick, but he is far from a national phenomenon. Think back to Kevin Durant’s NCAA hype, John Wall’s aura, even Jimmer warrants a mention here. Certain players capture the country with fluttering jumpers or swiveling drives. They usually handle the ball, a wonder orb that serves as the orange laser pointer for a fan’s attention.
The orange beamer is rarely on Davis. He does not run an offense, rarely creates his own shot. His usage rate is 14.6, meaning he’s as offensively involved for Kentucky as Jonas Jerebko is for Detroit. Davis makes good on his few opportunities though, well enough to shoot 66%, well enough to lead the NCAA in player efficiency.
The offensive efficiency is nice but it’s not why I care about Anthony Davis. I care because Davis plays a caliber of defense I have never seen before and am not entirely sure if I’ll ever see again. I mean what I say, there is no hyperbole in my intent. Any reluctance to tell you this would merely be me, protecting my own ego from looking laughably wrong in the future.
I’m just struggling to find an NCAA player who had so many blocks and steals while fouling so rarely. Check his latest stat line. The 27 points on 12 shots is impressive, as is 14 boards. To me, the most staggering aspect is, “seven blocks, no fouls.”
Who does that? What college freshman averages 4.6 blocks, 1.5 steals, while fouling only 2.1 times per game? I looked back at some formerly hyped defensive prospects to see if anyone had similar stats. I am using the quick and dirty measure of blocks + steals (“stocks”) – fouls. Our result is the “Stock Spread,” which is a
Even though his most strident supporters don’t see him ever making an All Star team, Jimmer Fredette is the most talked about prospect in this year’s draft. The reasons, if oversimplified here, are obvious.
He scored an unbelievable amount of points with relatively high efficiency. Here’s an impressive list of people who have scored 28.9 points per game on 45 percent shooting since 1999. He scored a lot of those points by splashing home comically long pull ups. His range is NBA ready, and because the college line is so close, pulling up for a 28 footer looks insane…until it goes in. That’s fun to watch. He’s good looking, charismatic, of high character, and white. The Jimmer brand is second to none, and he didn’t do anything other than play and smile to create it. He’s Mormon and was BYU’s first real golden boy since Steve Young. It’d be like if Stephon Marbury had gone to St. John’s, stayed four years and broken every school scoring record.
Working against Fredette’s draft stock are the usual concerns associated with an average (by NBA standards) athlete who comes from a non-BCS conference. However the Mountain West was a strong conference, and Fredette played well against top competition all year. Many rated the Mountain West higher than the Pac-10, the big name conference from which consensus #2 pick Derrick Williams hails.
But the real issue will grading or judging Fredette goes beyond his skin color or even the eye-popping numbers he put up in college (please, no “if he wasn’t white you wouldn’t say that” comments). The truth is that Fredette comes from a system and a situation that differs wildly from any he could conceivably enter in the NBA.
It’s hard to recall a player with a longer leash to do
Is it that we never have enough talent coming into the NBA in any given summer? Strictly by the numbers, some guys are just going to fall by the wayside when it comes to trying to play professional basketball. There are a maximum of 450 jobs in the NBA and if you theoretically have 60 players trying to join the Association every summer, there is either going to be quite the turnstile effect going on in locker rooms or some guys are just going to fail to realize their dreams.
At a certain point, we end up judging certain players as aborted ventures in the draft selection process. In the last three years alone, we’ve had roughly 19 players taken in the hallowed lottery that are already considered bust picks or are out of the league altogether. Guys like Hasheem Thabeet, Joe Alexander, Jonny Flynn, Earl Clark, Michael Beasley (to a degree), Anthony Randolph (sorry, Ethan), and even Evan Turner have been kicked to the curb and labeled as guys that will just never conquer their expectations.
Why is this?
Why is it their fault they’ve been failures because men in suits and team-branded polo shirts have decided they were better than other players? The problem with the NBA draft process is we get distracted by shiny things. We look at an abstraction of what is both sexy and intimidating in order to find our own version of the NBA 2K create-a-player.
LaMarcus Aldridge is lanky and sort of awkward looking. Chicago will use him as a trade piece to acquire Tyrus Thomas because look at how high he jumps! Kevin Durant can’t bench press a small child and Greg Oden
When I asked whether Kentucky was as good a team as any in the past ten years, Kentucky seemed ready to build a legacy of supreme talent and phenomenal athleticism. Instead they built a house of bricks, missing their first 20 three point attempts in their Elite 8 loss to West Virginia.
On Saturday night, the wave of expectations that rose from the Kentucky’s easy tournament victories crashed hard on the rugged shoulders of the Mountaineers.
In my second HoopSpeak podcast–now tentatively titled “HoopScoop” or “Hangin’ with Mr. Hooper”–I sat down with die hard Kentucky Wildcat fan Kiran Bhatraju, to sift through the foamy remains of Kentucky’s season.
Kiran, who grew up in Pikeville, Kentucky, explained the lore, passion, and expectations that a Kentucky basketball fan carries. Our topics wandered from why we can’t stand Bill Raftery to how we can capitalize on the new 3D TV market.
But don’t worry, there’s plenty of Kentucky basketball, NCAA Tournament, and NBA Draft talk in between.