Friday, June 30, 2006

Attacking Western United States With Three Dice
By Blogger

When Zach and I complain about NBA teams screwing up draft picks by selecting based on upside/potential, we don't mean that teams should never take risks. It was risky to take Chris Kaman when both TJ Ford and Kirk Hinrich were still on the board and Jeff McInnis had been the starting PG the year before. For that matter, it was risky drafting Kobe Bryant, and it was risky drafting Dirk Nowitzky (and, in a certain light, it's understandable why both were traded). Some risks pay off handsomely, but that doesn't mean that all risks are created equal.

I think we can all agree that this year's top tier was eight players deep, and all eight went in the first eight picks; there were no Darko-level missteps. After Rudy Gay went eighth, the Warriors made a respectable pick with Patrick O'Bryant. As a W's fan, I hate that they ended up with him, because even though I can't find anyone that was a clearly better choice in that spot, I'm completely unconvinced that he'll be all that great. In any event, I'm ecstatic they didn't go the route of the Sonics, picking in the tenth slot. Seattle chose Saer Sene, who, literally, learned how to shoot layups about a year ago. I mean, if all you're going to do is pick big people and try to teach them the game, why not try to lure this guy to basketball? Or choose this guy? Would anybody else put significant money on the proposition that neither of the UConn big men selected in the first round, Hilton Armstrong or Josh Boone, will be more effective defenders in the NBA than Sene? Even in the freakin' Belgian league, the guy has little to no offensive game to speak of. That's right. The Sonics chose a guy who's averaging 4 points in 12 minutes per game in Belgium. He doesn't get to the line, went 14-38 when he did, scores almost exclusively on tip-ins, has zero skill with his feet, apparently gets in foul trouble all the time, and while the silver lining is that, in his league, he appears to be a monster off the glass, I can't emphasize enough that the guy was playing 12 minutes per game for a team in BELGIUM. Not only that, but it appears he'll stay overseas to develop further, meaning the Sonics won't see him for another couple of seasons. Hell, if you're going to roll the dice on a freakish athlete who hasn't played against good competition, why not take a chance on someone who has, at least, destroyed what competition he's faced? While selecting a DIII player with the tenth choice would be widely ridiculed, picking some guy whose ceiling, generously, seems to be Olowokandi-esque, but is more likely to end up sub-Lampe-rific, has been greeted with a collective shrug.

Just as bad is when part-timers like Alexander Johnson or... wait for it... Renaldo Balkman get picked ahead of certifiable college stars like Leon Powe. Cal's big man is prototypical PF size and averaged 20 and 10 in the Pac Ten last year. Yes, he has injury issues, having had to sit out what would have been his sophomore year recovering from knee surgery, but he played all of last season and produced. Besides that, what in the world separates Daniel Gibson from Guillermo Diaz from Mike Gansey? I mean, Gibson went higher than Diaz, and Gansey was undrafted, despite Gibson's having the weakest surface numbers of the three. Somehow, I doubt I could ever get a satisfactory explanation.

I don't expect every first round pick to result in an All Star. I don't expect a Gilbert Arenas from every second round pick. However, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect my team to ALWAYS choose guys in the first round who can, at least, fight for a spot in the rotation. And for the second round, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect my team to ALWAYS choose guys who can compete in practice and be legitimate NBA players, even if they're long shots to ever be rotation-worthy.


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