Monday, June 26, 2006

Just Say No
By Ben Valentine

Lately Sportszilla has gone Cup crazy. Mucho props for T-Bone and his excellent coverage, providing Soccernet quality (if not better) analysis of every game of the tournament so far. I don’t even check that site anymore for those recaps, I just wait for my fellow writer to post his thoughts.

Okay, shameless self blog promotion aside, it’s time for a little change of pace. Let’s talk NBA draft, which is this week. While this draft looks to be the weakest in sometime, it promises to be an entertaining event nonetheless. When is a NBA or NFL draft ever not?

Today’s subject; former Duke standout guard JJ Redick.

So the big question lately has been whether Redick’s DWI is going to damage his draft stock. Honestly, I don’t care all that much about that. The reason? Because the truth is anyone who had Redick as a top ten pick before this incident, and I’m talking NBA GMs, not sportswriters, needs to have their head examined. Why do I say that? Well here are two statlines for you. (Arranged by FG%/3pt %/FT %/ Shots per game)

Player A- .550/.429/.686/11.2

Player B- .470/.421/.863/17.9

Both of these players are 6-4 college shooting guards, meaning they will be undersized in the NBA. Both of these players played on major teams in major conferences. Both players made their names on their 3PT shooting, which as you can see, is close to identical. The knock on player A compared to B would be FT percentage and that he took less shots. But honestly, looking at those numbers could you justify taking either as a lottery pick? And would one player deserve to go 30 picks above the other?

Now, one of these players is JJ Redick. The other is Mike Gansey of West Virginia. More on him later. For the record, Gansey is player A, though one look at the shot totals would have told you that.

But in the end, that and maybe the FT percentage are the only things that would have given it away. So I ask again, what makes Redick worthy of being a first round pick? Most mock drafts I’ve seen have him going 14th to Utah, which I think is far too high, as you probably can tell. But really, if he didn’t play at Duke, would he be on anyone’s radar as a lottery pick?

Sure, he averaged 26.8 PPG last year. But he did it taking an inordinate amount of threes, averaging over nine per game. He’s not going to get that many chances in the NBA because the rest of his game doesn’t translate. Redick is a poor ball handler (as the LSU game in the NCAAs showed), he doesn’t defend well and doesn’t create his own shot. At 6-4 he will be under sized and real liability on the defensive end. In other words, he’s likely to be Trajan Langdon all over again. He can do one thing well. But unless you’re 6-6, like Kyle Korver, that just isn’t going to fly.

Here’s my question; why would a team spend a lottery pick on Redick and then only a second rounder Gansey. Gansey is the same height and posted a slightly better 3pt shooting percentage last year, at .429 to Redick’s .421. His FG percentage was much better, shooting .550 overall compared to Redick’s .470. Now Gansey took far less shots than Redick, 11.2 shots per game versus 17.9, but again neither guy is likely to get nearly that many shots in the NBA. Gansey also averaged 5.7 rebounds a game last season with the Mountaineers, where as Redick only grabbed 2.0 boards. Overall, the Mountaineers’ guard put up 16.8 points per game last year, ten points less than Redick, but taking six shots less per game and four less threes. In addition, his scouting report on ESPN suggests he was a very good defender in college. So, will someone tell me what makes Redick thirty or so picks better?

Again, do I expect Gansey to come anywhere near that in the pros? Of course not. That defense and rebounding prowess will be tough to translate, since he will be under sized as a two. But the point is at least Gansey hints that he might be able to do a little more than shoot. Redick has never shown that.

A counter argument would be while Redick’s gaudy shot attempt numbers will not follow him to the NBA, they give a better sample size of his shooting capabilities. In other words, Redick’s .421 percentage is a more accurate indicator than Gansey’s because he took double the three attempts, thus we have a larger sample size to look at. That’s a fair statement, but is it enough to warrant a twenty or thirty pick difference in the two players?

I don’t think so, for two reasons. The first reason; Gansey attempted over five threes per game. That isn’t a small amount, especially since most players don’t take near the three attempts Redick does. Secondly, since the NBA three point line is further back than college, the ultimate problem of not knowing how many of those attempts would actually have been threes in the pros remains. When I watched Reddick play this year, I saw him take running shots or pull up shot from the college three point line; this shot will not fly in the NBA because it is a terrible one to take. The distance makes it low percentage and because it’s a two pointer it makes it the worst value shot in the NBA. What will his percentage be like when he has a longer three point line? Who knows? I sure don’t. And if you’re not sure if the one thing a guy does well will translate into the pros, how can you take him with a lottery pick?

So, to recap JJ Redick deserves to be a lottery pick because: A. he went to Duke and B. put up a lot of points on a lot of shots. Those two facts clearly make up for the fact that he’s a three point specialist who is statistically no better than a bunch of guys who will be lucky to be second rounders.

Yeah right. I wouldn’t think that even Isiah Thomas would fall for that logic. But then again, it appears he even won’t get that chance, since someone figures to make Redick theirs long before the Knicks pick.

But if I were the Jazz, or any team in the lottery, I would look at that track record, the school and the high praise from Dick Vitale and say one thing:

“No way, JJ.”

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