FreeDrafto, Pt. 1: MONGA
I think I said in passing a few weeks back that the draft-season comparisons are fundamentally retarded. You get everyone likened to all-stars, when clearly what makes special players special is that they're completely and totally singular. Hence, talking about finding the next T-Mac, next KG, next Marion is a waste of breath and questionable talent evaluation. "Poor man's so-and-so" is a little more responsible, but to even imagine you could have a greatly diminished version of KG, say, depends on current players having proven it's possible, that it's a template for revolution that could conceivably be followed by mere mortals.
That's more what scouts should do: reference more generic players, or empirical types, roles, definitions of a position. It's a more realistic outlook for what they're likely to land in the draft, more consistent with how people think about building a roster, and what goes on once an actual basketball court is involved. Not to say that all players aren't interesting and unique in their own little ways, but beyond the top one or two guys on a team, coaches are thinking in terms of form and function.
Things have gotten totally out of hand this year, though, with the Myth of the Next Gilbert Arenas, from hereon known as MONGA (no racist). Arenas's story has been done to death: undersized, out-of-position college two-guard wills his way from the second round to the verge of superstardom as a thrill-a-minute point guard. What's often left out of the legend is that Arenas's well-documented personality quirks had a lot to do with his preciptious draft-day fall. He also had the poor fortune to come out in the year of high schooler, the ignominious 2001 draft that also, in the form of Gasol, augured the next year's Euro-mania. He was evaluated horribly, but Arenas was also perceived to be damaged goods with zero mystique or fashion on his side.
Now, with Arenas an established force in the Association, his pre-career the stuff of parable, and this year's draft pool swimming with college guards, the stage is set for the Year of MONGA. The logic goes something like this: not only is Arenas a type of player, rather than an unlikely individual, he's also someone whose eventual greatness they could and should have seen coming because of the nature of his shortcomings. Scouts are looking not for a prospect who resembles Arenas now, but someone who, given the right circumstances, could experience the same astounding metamorphosis that Gilbert has as a pro.
In short, look for someone undervalued (even devalued) for some of the same reasons Arenas was (having the same strengths as Arenas, like blinding speed, an absolutely destructive first step, the strength of a much larger player, fearlessness in any situation, and a willingness to take over the game in a variety of ways, are optional), and you have a shot at him making the same developmental leap that has defined #0's whirlwind tenure in the Association. It's not just a "this high school kid could turn into a Tracy McGrady-type player when he's mature;" instead, you're looking at "this college vet, whose game is relatively fully-formed, has some of the same liabilities as a guy who, when he hit the Association, managed to reinvent himself, prove the doubters wrong, and end up on the All-Star team."
The Recluse is taking a proactive approach to the MONGA, claiming that Head could make an Arenas-like jump from the depths of second round because he has some of the same skills and strengths, not just because no one's sure if he's a point guard. What remains to be seen is, even when this far-fetched comparison might make a bit of sense, GM's believe it enough to actually draft Head in the first.
Stay tuned for my next FreeDrafto bulletin, which will deal with the bizarre significance the second round has taken on for the 2005 Draft, in part because of the MONGA.