FreeDrafto, Pt. 5: Sit tightly, then SPURN
Only a handful of time remains before the names are called and the enthusiasm feigned, as we among the faithful get set for an NBA Draft telecast that should be an exercise in over-extension. One of the great laughs of this modern institution is watching the commentators get uncomfortable and confused as the thing itself languishes on; I forgot who it was that last year, when yet another high schooler had just been taken, lost it and decried the entire evening's proceedings. Look for the flipside of that this time, as the gang struggles to find NBA-friendly things to say about a bunch of players we already heard superlatives for throughout the college year (thank god I barely watched it). And grimace on the rare occasion that they might be telling the truth, for the same reason there is not a tremendous market for "loving relationship porn."
I have been wondering about a few issues that, while they will not be answered by the flurry of neither hot nor cold selections to follow in under twenty-two hours, probably should figure into the draft process.
-Why have Euros been so much easier to kill than high schoolers? Is it that, while there are a couple of international players that have landed on these shores and grown into men, the high schooler turned All-Star tale has become a central part of modern Association lore? That is, it's just harder to convince yourself out of the fantasy when you see a freakishly athletic 18 year-old American who very nearly looks and acts the part of the professional he's been waiting his whole life to become (or at least fits very clearly into the progression that's been laid out for NBA future stars). Does it have to do with the exotic gloss and unreasonably weird expectations put on Euros, which almost sets them up for a letdown (whereas with hs'ers, we just expect NBA players)?
You can guess what kind of player a high schooler would be and hold his hand to get him there; you know his game, and work to hone it. But with international teens who never get on the court and build a buzz by advertising themselves as nearly aberrant phantoms of basketball imagination, their style is supposed to be a self-taught revelation that America can only spoil by getting too close. The fact of the matter is, international players have skills that need to be molded into a cohesive, U.S.-ready package, but for some reason we assume that with technical proficiency comes a feel for the game. The truth is, high schoolers may be accused of all style, no content, but they're the ones who have an intuitive grasp of what it feels like to play NBA basketball. Here it comes: THIS IS A LEAGUE OF STYLE!!!
(regarding the Recluse's Smiths post, being able to dunk on everyone brings you pretty close to the heart of what makes this league run, formally and emotionally. Much moreso than being a seven-footer who can dribble fluidly and reliably hit a three in a workout. When you're talking NBA Draft, the most important intangibles come from being in touch with exactly the kind of frivolity that international players are so praised for lacking. That's what you can't teach; that's what can motivate a raw, physical speciman to develop a jump shoot and work in the post.)
Or is it that Euros can afford to stay overseas and improve their draft position, whereas for a high schooler who stays in (and the teams scouting him), it's pretty much now or ever. Terrifically unfair, actually, and something that the new CBA should alleviate—thought up until now, it's mostly gm's who have been put in the uncomfortable positions of not wanting someone to fall into oblivion.
-Someone should do a mock based on fit for team personality and coach's personality. There's some of that that goes on with "their uptempo style blah blah blah," but can you imagine a prospect stepping onto the court with your team and getting along with them, personality-wise and on-the-court-wise? It may seem trivial, but it will determine how much you can actually get out of any given player. For instance, anyone who doesn't think Hakim Warrick belongs on the Nets should not be reading FreeDarko. And this talk about Felton to the Jazz, or them taking Green. . . has anyone remembered Jerry Sloan lately? Assuredly, coaches can change , teams can adjust their philosophy to fit a massive talent; having accomplished both of these might be Manu's single most profound NBA achievement to date. But if there's one thing that can be said with certainty about NBA Draft 2005, it's that no one's anticipating a single player in this year's pool doing either.
-More kill Skip Bayless. Linking to him would require my looking at his column on the draft again, and I would sooner cut the skin from my ankles. He claims today that if Marvin were a man, he would have gone to Roy and demanded that starting job. Of course, if he had, Bayless and his ilk would be calling him a disrespectful punk with no character. Young black man entering the NBA to earn millions, you just can't win with Skip Bayless.