Tuesday, March 28, 2006

NBA Draft Look-Over, Part 1

Now that my daily reading of the NBA beat writers includes several pages devoted to whether fringe-2nd rounders will declare, I know it’s time to start some draft prospect watches.  I’ll throw out what I see when I watch some of the guys possibly coming out.  Who I like as pros, who I question at the next level.  Won’t be all-inclusive, since that’ll just increase the number of times I’d talk out of ignorance.

First, my ground rules: 1 - no mock drafts.  Even from experts they’re silly and less reliable than March Madness Brackets.  Once you’re past pick 4, it’s almost always a game of craps.  
2 – I have my biases, and they will be in full effect.  The most notable of them: I devalue frosh and foreign guys because of the higher bust probability and the time it takes to develop them; combo guards are almost always 6-1 SGs or PGs with Iverson syndrome and rarely make teams better; if you didn’t know ahead of time that a 7-footer had star written all over him, he’s probably a thrown away pick; athleticism coupled with good height is everything.  
3 – no foreign player chatter.  Very clearly, I haven’t seen any of these guys play of late.  Even if I had, our post-Dirk and –Peja foreign gold rush has established these guys as big a risk as high schoolers.  It’s been ugly the last few years, with teams taking on Euro scrubs like there was a quota: Sasha Pavlovic, Zoran Planinic, Tskitishvili, Boki Nachbar, Marko Jaric, Jiri Welsch, Rafael “Hoffa” Araujo, Andris Biedrins, Korolev, etc.  It’s getting bad.  In short, the points have been wretched floor generals that are only useful as haphazard scorers and the bigs have been pansy perimeter players.  Yes, if you pit a NHL-like USA vs the World NBA all-star game, I might be tempted to place money on the Yao-Dirk-Peja-Ginobili-Parker (Gasol off the bench!) squad.  But the odds of finding a guy overseas that’s ready to contribute are low.  The big name this year is a skinny 7-foot sharpshooter out of Italy, of course hyped as the next Dirk.  Paint me doubtful.

With the rules out of the way and in no particular order:
JJ Redick – Always the first guy that people want to talk about.  He should have a career in the league, but as a Eric Piakowski/Eddie Johnson niche player.  The best thing about him is that he’s got a Reggie-like ability to run through staggered screens all game and doesn’t depend on his devoid playmaking skills to create opportunities.  He’s only 6-4, but that’s taller than Ben Gordon.  Needs to be on a playoff team with a post player.

Adam Morrison – I have doubts about his transition to the next level.  He seems to throw himself into traffic and launch nothing but contested shots, and there’s no way he can get away with that against NBA defenses.  Does everything well, nothing great, and that could make him another Devean George.  He’ll be out-quicked on both sides of the floor by any 3 he meets.  

Rudy Gay – Strikes me as a Caron Butler type.  Good shot but with limited range, classic SF size, surprisingly decent in the post, not much of a handle.  Would be a fantastic fit with the Bobcats but a disaster in Portland or Atlanta.

Lamarcus Aldridge – I really like him as a pro, though that could be the Texas bias talking.  The biggest reason is my aforementioned love of athletic guys with size.  He’s got a reputation for being soft, but can still get after boards and doesn’t simply depend on his size to get his shots.  When a guy like this has moves outside of “tip-in” and “alley-oop”, it’s a major plus.

Tyrus Thomas – This year’s biggest March stock leaper, aside from Noah.  Seems to have an NBA-ready body, but strikes me as an Antawn Jamison without the outside game.  I have to wonder if he’s simply out-talenting guys on the floor with no real discipline.  I can fully appreciate the hype and don’t think it’s off-base, but would love to see another year from him to justify the recent #1 pick talk.  This is why scouts and GMs prematurely gray.

Brandon Roy – A guy I would feel very safe picking in the draft.  Solid all-around SG with everything you’d want at the position, aside from one or two more inches.  Makes excellent snap judgements, quick reflexes, good shooter, playmaker, everything.  He might not be an All-Star, but he could start for someone today.

Josh McRoberts – A freshmen big with questionable footspeed?  I think this might qualify for one or two of my frowny-face stickers.  At no point in the tourney did I see him on the court looking like he could succeed at the next level.  Yet, there he is as a projected top-10 pick.  

Shelden Williams, Josh Boone, and Hilton Armstrong – I think there’s a place for these guys in the NBA.  None of them have much of an offensive repertoire, but all have the look of the mythical rugged power forward that every team in the league seems to be desperate for.  Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman proved that offense doesn’t matter if you can secure boards and play defense, and I think this trio would fit the bill as a complimentary frontcourt addition in the Udonis Haslem mold.  

Ronnie Brewer – The perfect opposite of JJ Redick.  Gifted playmaker and ballhandler at the 2, but with the ugliest shot since Anthony Mason.  Decent defense with good size.  In a league with too many one-dimensional scorers, he could really help as a distributer.  I wouldn’t recommend the inevitable attempt to convert him to  point guard, though.  

Marcus Williams – My pick for the top point guard in the draft, primarily because he can play the position, unlike his shot-oriented peers Foye and Rondo.  He’s no Jason Kidd or Steve Nash, in that he can make some horrifyingly bad judgements in high-pressure situations.  It’s possible that he won’t become much more than a bench guy.

Joakim Noah – From “who” to top-3 talk.  The wife thinks she’ll have a great WNBA career.  He has a chance to make it as another Camby, but don’t forget how bad Gumby was on the boards his first 4 years.  I just can’t picture him starting for anyone for a while, and keep in mind that Jenny Craig companion Hakim Warrick has been virtually AWOL as a Grizzly this year.

Rodney Carney – A senior swingman with serious explosiveness, but is a rather streaky shooter from the outside and could get exposed against ball-hawks when he goes into his helter-skelter offensive mindset: he doesn’t have the ballhandling or smart shot selection needed to get away with his Kobe impressions.  

Randy Foye – Amazing offense that covers up the fact that he’s one of a million SGs masquerading as points.  At 6-4, he could get away with a Bobby Jackson/David Wesley game, but he needs a coaching staff that will use him correctly.  


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