June 26, 2008

Is there a Draft in here?

Always fun to get a little NBA Draft talk going. One of my favorite events of the year. Looking forward to tonight's festivities.

While I love the draft, I find the Draft coverage to sometimes be less than satisfying. Right around this time of the year, we start getting bombarded with various mock drafts on websites and our local newspaper. Am I the only one who doesn't understand the love affair with mock drafts?? What is the point of doing a mock NBA Draft when there are probably going to be 4-5 trades within first 15 picks?? Isn't the NBA Draft more about the players than it is about the teams?? I'm more intrigued by players and and comparing them to former NBA guys and trying to figure out how they are going to fit into the league during their careers. I'd rather just read Chad Ford's unplugged takes on various draft prospects than whether he thinks the Sonics are going to take Brook Lopez or Russell Westbrook. Plus, I'm more of a college guy than an NBA guy, so I'd rather hear about the players than the teams.

So in the spirit of that idea, I figured that I would just throw out some thoughts on the 2008 draft class.

Derrick Rose - In my mind, the only picks tonight where the team is more intriguing than the players are the Bulls and the Knicks. More importantly, assuming that the Bulls draft Derrick Rose tonight, does that pick make the Bulls the team to beat for the next decade in the East?? Do they need to do anything else or can they just ride a core of Rose, Gordon, Deng, Nocioni, Noah, Ty Thomas to the Finals?? Are the Bulls going to trade Hinrich?? I love the Rose pick for the Bulls, but I'm not sure where this move ultimately takes them. It definitely makes them a contender, but do they need anything else?? Seems like they need to package some things together to get a low post scorer.

Michael Beasley - Here was Matt's take on Michael Beasley:

"He seems like the guy who is putting up 20 and 10 for a team that is going 24-58"

Doesn't that pretty much sum up everyone's feelings on Michael Beasley?? Isn't that exactly why Pat Riley wants no part of Michael Beasley?? Beasley would have been a perfect fit in the late 90s when all these "stats first" type guys were going in the top 5. I know Beasley has the physical skills (and admittedly Beasley is a rebounding machine and finishes well around the bucket) to put up numbers in the league, but I can't see making that guy the face of my franchise. Nothing about him screams out "winner" to me, and isn't that what it's all about??Beasley has been pointing out that the "bad character" label is unfair, but haven't we seen so many Michael Beasleys in the past that we kind of know what to expect out of this guy?? He's only 19 years old, and he was already showing visible signs of the typical "bad character" guy during the college season. Sullen demeanor, gets upset at his teammates, lazy approach to defense. He's one of those guys who will be spending the next ten years playing for contracts. That's not the kind of guy I would want on my team.

OJ Mayo - Probably the most controversial player in the draft, and the one player that everyone disagrees on. Some people love him and insist that he's a star in the making, and other people aren't high on him at all. I'm officially torn on OJ Mayo. My first instinct on OJ Mayo was that he's inherently a selfish player and not a natural point guard. I had him pegged for the Steve Francis/Stephon Marbury/Dejuan Wanger/Larry Hughes category of shoot first guys that put up stats but don't make their teammates better and ultimately don't play for winning teams.

Starting to come around on him a little bit though. The talk from people who know the game would be to put him in this "super two" position where he can be a playmaker from the wing and get to the bucket, shoot from the perimeter, and lock people up. That seems like a potentially great fit for his game.

I'm admittedly a little biased against OJ Mayo from knowing too much about his history in high school in Cincinnati and all the shady stuff he has pulled, so I'm not inclined to root for OJ Mayo in the league. I could see him being successful from a pure basketball standpoint, but it would be one of those Stackhouse/Spreewell type careers where he bounces around the league putting up numbers and then eventually falls into a key role on a good team. That would be a good career for Mayo, but would that be a good scenario for the T-wolves picking at #3?? He doesn't seem like he's going to be one of those "12 year career with the same team" kinda guys, which is one of the biggest reasons why I'd shy away from him. If you're the Wolves (or even Seattle/OKC), aren't you looking for a long term guy with your #3/#4 pick?? Simmons and Chad Ford love him for Seattle, but is OJ Mayo going to be able to deal with not being the man there?? Plus, with all his handlers and posse members, you just KNOW that OJ Mayo is going to break the record for most "NBA player wants a new contract" Sportscenter stories. I'd put the over/under on his career at 75,000 "OJ Mayo wants a new deal" or "OJ Mayo unhappy with his contract" lead headlines on ESPN.com. I'm already dreading the idea of seeing those stories, and it hasn't even happened yet!! I agree that Mayo might be the most talented player in the draft, but I just wouldn't want any part of drafting him.

Kevin Love - Here's another guy who is sparking a considerable amount of debate among basketball fans. I'll be the first to admit that white big men usually get a "guilty until proven innocent" reaction out of me. My first instinct with all white big men is that they are a bust unless they prove to me that they are for real. How many white big men get drafted in the lottery every year?? At least 1 or 2, right?? And how many of those guys have actually panned out?? Maybe a half dozen at the most?? Go through some of the names. Spencer Hawes, Luke Jackson, Robert Swift, Kris Humphries (I'm counting him as white), Nick Collison, Michael Bradley, Chris Mihm, Joel Przybilla, Jason Collier and on and on. The white big man has like a 90% bust rate. It's one of the safest bet in sports.

If that's what we're working with here, why do I like Kevin Love?? Not sure. He just seems like a different brand than your typical stiff white big man who comes out of college with like two basic skills (rebound, layups). Love has all kinds of abilities. He can shoot from the perimeter, he has moves in the low post, he crashes the boards like crazy, he's an elite passer for a big man, and he has a high basketball IQ. Matt started throwing out the "white Elton Brand" talk, which could be a good comparison.

I'm a little concerned that Love got neutralized by Joey Dorsey in the Final Four game, but I'd rather have him over a lot of guys in this draft. You know that you're a getting a productive player. There are a lot of busts out there this year, so give me a Brad Miller type player in the late part of the top 10.

Eric Gordon - Now would be a great time to bring in Ravi for a 5,000 word post on Eric Gordon followed by two walks around the block, but I'll just shoot from the hip here. If you look up his comparisons, the names "Mitch Richmond" and "rich man's Ben Gordon" are what you'll see. Interesting.

I agree with Ravi and others that Gordon is going to score points in the NBA. He doesn't look like a freak athlete, but you could make a case that he is. He just finds ways to bulldoze into the lane and draw contact (often finding a way to finish on the way to the free throw line).

My biggest concern about Gordon is that he doesn't have a natural position in the NBA. Can he play the point?? He had the ball in his hands a lot last year, but it wasn't like he was in charge of getting the team into the offense. He's probably not a 1, but can he be a 2?? Is Gordon going to be able to guard 2 guards at 6'3"? I'm a little concerned about that.

Can't get myself to pull the trigger either way on Gordon. I see him putting up numbers, but I don't see him as a franchise guy. This draft is nuts. I could go either way on just about every guy.

Brook Lopez - Keeping with the theme of the draft, some people love this guy (Jay Bilas), and other do not like him at all (Chad Ford apparently). I can't get excited about Brook Lopez. Maybe he'll turn out to be a nice player, but he's a Stanford guy! Cmon, you KNOW he's soft and that he's going to get abused defensively. Even if he turns out ok, Lopez isn't making your team any better. He's just a pick for the sake of taking a pick. Honestly, I actually like the other Lopez (Robin) a little more in some ways. He'll be an Anderson Varejao energy guy in the league. He's not as polished, but I could see him being one of those guys who comes off the bench for a good team to give them boards and putbacks.

The Kansas guys (Arthur, Chalmers, Rush) - Figured I would address all the Kansas guys collectively since they have always sort of been synonomous with one another. I personally like Brandon Rush the most out of the three, and I would love to see him fall to the Cavs in this draft. As long as he has his head on straight, he seems like a perfect fit for the new NBA - someone who can hit shots, run the floor, and lock people up. He seems like one of those Ron Harper type guys who will be a good fit on the wing.

I agree with Simmons on Chalmers. I like Chalmers, but not in the lottery. Isn't he your classic tweener?? Those guys rarely go on to flourish in the NBA. If you're going to be an NBA point guard, you better be a great ballhandler. He doesn't fit in that category for me.

Don't like Arthur at all. Just go back and look at his scoring numbers in the NCAAs, and that's all you need to know. 17, 9, 7, 7, 6, 20. When he brings it, he can be a stud. But if a guy is inconsistent in college, what do you think he's going to be in the NBA when he's making big dollars?? I wouldn't touch him.

Roy Hibbert - As a Big East fan, I feel like I had a lot of opportunities to watch Roy Hibbert play through the years. I watched him dominate Notre Dame many times, and he did have a good career at Georgetown. But do I like him as an NBA prospect?? Ehh.

To be honest, I liked him more last year than I do this year. It seemed like he regressed or something this year. Hibbert has some qualities that you like (pretty good halfcourt defender, good low post moves, great size, intelligent), but he's a stiff!! He has practically zero athleticism. If he was white, he'd be a 2nd rounder. People are romanticizing Roy Hibbert a little bit because he's a Georgetown center, but this guy is not Mourning or Ewing. He's not even Mutombo. Hibbert doesn't have the athleticism to be a good NBA rebounder, and he's not a good fit in the new up-tempo NBA.

People are talking about Hibbert for the Cavs, which makes absolutely no sense to me. Isn't his best case scenario to be another Zydrunas Ilgauskas?? Why do the Cavs want another Big Z?? I could understand taking Hibbert if the Cavs' only need was a backup center, but it's clearly not their only need. The Cavs need a complete overhaul of their backcourt, and taking Hibbert doesn't help them at all.

I think Hibbert has value in this draft and you obviously can't teach size, but I really don't see him as anything other than a backup center. That's not a bad piece to have, but I'm not that excited about Hibbert.

Joe Alexander - Bob Huggins apologist alert! I don't know what to make of Alexander as a pro prospect, but I do like that he spent a year working with Huggins. Huggins was probably a good fit for Alexander because he toughened him up and probably made him a better overall defender. If Alexander wants to succeed in the league, he'll need both those elements.

I watched Alexander probably 5-6 times last year and still don't know what to make of him. The first time I watched him was against ND last season, and I didn't like the guy at all. We totally took him out of the game, he was forcing up bad shots, and he seemed like sort of a selfish player. I sort of wrote him off until watching him late in the year. By then, he was like a completely different player. Suddenly, he was unguardable and could get his shot off from anywhere. I don't know if Alexander is for real, but check out his stats in his last 10 games or so last year. Pretty impressive.

Alexander is another one of those guys who I could go either way on. I feel like he'll probably be a bust or at least an overvalued player, but he has enough talent and production in his history to make me intrigued by him. And like it or not, Huggins has a pretty good track record of developing people into decent NBA players. The fact that Jason Maxiell is currently in the Pistons' 8 man rotation is remarkable to me. I felt like Maxiell could make it in the NBA, but it's still hard to believe that a 6'5" guy with no ballhandling skills is doing as well as he is.

Kosta Koufos - On a scale of 1 to 10 for biggest shockers, the sentence "Kosta Koufos is moving into lottery consideration" ranks at around a 60. I watched this guy for 30+ games last year, and I can tell you point blank that Kosta Koufos is not even close to ready for the NBA. I think he's got bust written all over him, but I'll give a fair breakdown of his game. Koufos has an array of post moves that can make him look impressive at times, but he's so soft that he's hardly ever in position to score down low. As soon as you put him up against the big guys in the Big 10, he'd shy away from the paint and rely on his perimeter game. For a guy with his size, it's remarkable that Koufos almost never got to the free throw line. Koufos is highly skilled, a good shooter, and actually not as bad a passer as people think he is (it doesn't help when no one can catch your passes), but I can't shake the fact that he's too much of a European style player to make it in the NBA. You gotta be able to defend a position in the league, and there isn't one that he will be able to defend at any point in his career.

He has upside, but I just don't see him as a "safe" lottery pick at all. His ceiling as an NBA player is probably as a Toni Kukoc type guy, but he also has major bust potential if he's too soft to hang in the league. I also wonder about his competitiveness in general. He has kind of a blank demeanor, and gives off a "need to get mine first" vibe on the court. Even though he was often the most skilled player on the court last year, he very rarely had much interest in dominating a game.

With that said, I think I'm a little harsh on him because I'm a Thad Matta fan and was a little stung that Koufos left early. I don't blame him for leaving one bit (what person is going to turn down millions of dollars??), but I would have loved to have seen him in a Buckeye uniform for another year.

In Koufos' defense, he really came on towards the end of the year and was arguably dominant in the NIT Tournament. If you look at some of his stats down the stretch, there is reason to think that he was starting to "get it" and use his size to score in bunches. Every time OSU needed a big bucket, he was knocking down a shot.

Chris Douglas-Roberts - You know who I like and I don't understand why he's so low: CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS!! I love CDR. I think he's the biggest steal in the draft. I don't care what his shooting stats are or his "measurables". He's one of those guys who just knows how to score and do things to help his team win and has a great basketball IQ. Rose was great, but CDR was always the guy who was quietly scoring points and getting boards for Memphis. Is there any doubt that he'll be a top 8 guy on agood team in 5 years?? I think he's going to have a Tayshaun Prince/Rip Hamilton type career. Maybe not quite that good, but a good player. I'd take him in the top 20 and feel great about it.

Sleepers - Donte Greene, Josh Duncan, DJ White - Just a quick comment on these guys. Greene got out of Syracuse at the right time as far as I'm concerned for one reason: no more Jim Boeheim. Jim Boeheim has quietly jumped the shark as a college coach, and it's becoming obvious that he really doesn't have the best system for making players better any more. The media hasn't caught onto the fact that teams routinely shred the "vaunted' Syracuse zone. The Syracuse style of basketball breeds laziness, and I think it actually would have hurt Greene to stick around at Syracuse. He definitely has some ability, and could be a big time sleeper in the Thaddeus Young mold. Get to the league and start learning how to play man to man defense. The NBA has become much more of a professional league in recent years in terms of guys playing hard and playing defense, and it wouldn't have benefited Greene to stick around in a program that doesn't teach those concepts any more.

I figure this blog has to throw in a plug for Cincinnati Moeller High School graduate and Xavier University graduate Josh Duncan. Xavier is a big man pipeline!! Brian Grant, David West, James Posey, Aaron Williams, Tyrone Hill. Pretty much every good forward to come out of Xavier has had a good NBA career. I think Duncan can make it in the NBA.

And call me a Big Ten homer (I swear, Steve Lavin and Brent Musberger are not ghost writing this post), but I also like DJ White as a second round sleeper. White is a competitor, and there's always a few underrated second round guys that stick around in the league. He's probably a little undersized, but half the battle in the NBA is just playing hard. If you give a darn, you'll probably turn out ok in the NBA. White plays hard and he's a good rebounder/interior scorer. He can have a decent career in the league if you ask me.

Ok, that's all I got. Enjoy the draft. Those mustard colored suits are always great.


Sean said...

And we have the first of hopefully many more two page scroll posts by Doug.

Sean said...

I take that back. It was more of a 3 1/2 page scroll. Good work Doug

Matt said...

Doug - great analysis. I know I was on board the OJ Mayo bandwagon but I kind of like that trade for the T-Wolves. They get Love and Mike Miller (criminally underrated, look at his stats) plus get rid of a few horrible contracts. Thoroughly enjoyable draft all around.