The Sound of FreeDrafto Backfiring

Try as I may, I just can't get all that inflamed about the Draft. As luck would have it, today on McSweeney's I lay out a calm, even-handed portrayal of why this is the case, and why it's most likely a good thing. By all means, read this one—no less an authority than DLIC worried that it sounds like it was written for a sports magazine.

Along the way, you'll catch me referencing some of FreeDarko's most prized acronyms: MONGA, MONJO, MONDN, and the newly-unveiled MONDW (Myth of Next Dwyane Wade). This newest addition might be the most specious yet, as well as one tailor-made for this year's affectless bunch. It goes like you'd think it would: draft a respectable college combo guard who can do some of everything and has a proven track record of leadership and voila, watch him blossom into an unstoppable franchise player. This differs from the MONGA in that the guard can't be too unheralded or erratic; basically, this means someone who would've gone top ten might end up top five. If Roy, Foye, or by accident Ray suddenly find themselves several million dollars richer than they'd expected, they can thank THE GREATEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD for pumping up their stock.

If, as the Recluse put it, many of us are still confused by Wade's emergence, then MONDW turns this into a 2006-appropriate strategy. NBA Draft 2006: pray to have expectations exceeded.

UPDATE: I had no idea that Chad Ford had already written a column with the slightly-misleading title of "Looking for the Next Dwyane Wade." He's mostly just talking about finding a dominant guard, but I'm seventy-eight percent positive that what I've outlined above lurks in his unconscious, even if its not the obvious subtext of the piece.


At 6/22/2006 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A sad Chad Ford headline from espn.com:

Which draft dynamo is the next D-Wade?

At 6/22/2006 1:50 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Great piece on McSweeney's. Some additional thoughts I'd like to add about the search for the next so-and-so:

Obviously such comparisons may result in an added amount of pressure of living up to a standard you can't possibly reach. And curiously, this casting of players into the role of a former star doesn't even stop at the draft. All of a sudden poor Lamar Odom has to re-define himself yet again as the next Scottie Pippen (didn't they see him as the next Magic Johnson when he got into the league - PF size, PG handle?).

The second problem with the perception of a rookie as the next so-and-so is that putting forth certain players as a model for newcomers reduces the particular player serving as the model to only a few characteristics. The next Nowitzki is a big Euro who can shoot the 3. The next Kevin Garnett sometimes is a player with PF size who's especially versatile, but sometimes the more important aspect seems to be that he must be coming directly from high school (of course this category of the next great high school player is now officially over). By this method, not only are you oversimplifying what the original player can do on the court, you're also probably doing an injustice to the new guy coming in who has his own strenghts and weaknesses.

And this is also where the self-perception of players becomes important. The prime example is Dwight Howard, who heard his share of the 'next KG' label when he was coming in. And if I remember correctly, he himself said that he needed to work on his game facing the basket to come closer to this model (and in this case, also his personal favorite, if I'm not mistaken). And while an improved jumper will only help Howard, he clearly is one the few young players who can dominate a game from the low post. Similar thing with Darko, who probably is more familiar with Nowitzki's game than with, say, Patrick Ewing's (as one example of a C with a good shooting touch and low-post game who also was a decent on the ball defender and shot blocker). If these young players don't find a situation where some sort of authority tells them to give up their perceptions of having to play according to a model and rather maximize the NBA talents that they actually have, they may end up like the Skitishvili's and Dajuan Wagner's of the NBA.

And just as a final speculation, as it seems that some 'next...' are more popular than others for whatever reasons, might that be an important factor in the loss of the back-to-the-basket center and the rareness of the great mid-range shooters? That being the next Shaq or next Kareem might not be hip enough anymore so that young players only try to model themselves as the next KG. Or is this taking the idea of 'next...' to far and there are different focres at work here, like the game itself developing in a different direction?

At 6/22/2006 2:51 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

since the comments section sometimes serves as an nba message board, i'll just say this here. if the rumors of AI to ATL come to fruition, i think the hawks may just solve their attendence problems. can you imagine AI and vick in the same city???

At 6/22/2006 3:27 PM, Blogger billikenbluff said...

If Roy, Foye, or by accident Ray suddenly find themselves several million dollars richer

That's hilarious, thank you.

At 6/22/2006 3:34 PM, Blogger T. said...

BRE - I doubt it. ATLiens didn't come out to watch Nique. They don't come out to watch the 11-straight NL West/East winning Braves. Why would they come out to watch AI? I think they just might be the worst sports fans in America.

Here in Houston, I've resigned myself to the fact that we're going to end up with R. Kelly with a jumper.

At 6/22/2006 3:42 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

i didn't realize they didn't come out to watch the braves. i thought the braves got good crowds, maybe that's just because everyone in NC loves the braves (whom i can't stand). it's probably because driving in ATL is hell.

T. - do you have any inside info on whether the rockets are actually interested in redick? i just can't see anyone taking him that high.

wv: tyrajd (ms. banks is going to law school!!)

At 6/22/2006 5:46 PM, Anonymous mtp said...

Until recent events, I thought Redick pretty much had the MONDW stamp locked up. I'm thinking Van Gundy is not going to like his stumpy arms though. I just read that his was the only wingspan at the combine that was smaller than his height (http://nbadraft.net/draftbuzz062.asp).


Are we all aware that Toronto on purpose acquired Kris Humphries and Rasho? The heck? I was all about Colangelo building the Great Wall of Toronto along his front line (Villanueva, Bosh, MONDN in game simultaneously?), but this might be a bit excessive.

At 6/22/2006 9:34 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...


here, i talked about how weird it was that anyone thought there could/would be another garnett, much less that we could conceivably live in a post-KG era.

MONJO and MONDN fall somewhere between the KG movement and MONGA (or Rocco's MONAI); new archetypes that aren't quite vague or general enough to become a new type of player.

WV: cwvsxnt (country western vs. sex nut OR "can west virginia sex north texas?")

At 6/23/2006 1:26 AM, Anonymous static kid said...

I guess the biggest problem is that people tried to see KG as revolution for the game, rather than a singular talent. It's like people thinking that Magic would make 6'8" point guards the norm--it's just downright stupid. Despite euros et al. making the NBA talent pool bigger, it's still pretty much that if you were a freak in the past you'll continue to be a freak in the future. We get different types ("LEBRON IS A BASKETBALL REVOLUTION" etc.), but the league isn't going to rip up the blueprint completely for any of them.

In the interests of completely contradicting myself (and sort of in response to Kaifa), is Shaq basically to blame for the loss of the "center" position? My knowledge of the earlier part of his career isn't great, but it seems like he brought along with him a kind of myth of "the true center" that hadn't necessarily existed before. Anybody who couldn't body up to him one on one was only a power forward and teams did horrific things to their rosters to satisfy themselves that they could deal with Shaq. Duncan (despite the oceans of "right way" ink spilled in his name) is pathologically afraid of being called a center, and that lead to something as dumb as the Spurs wasting their cap space on Rasho. Maybe the Rasho trade is a sign that we're getting close enough to a post-Shaq era (assuming we were all watching the same finals) that we might be able to have centers again soon.

At 6/23/2006 5:47 AM, Anonymous jack said...

I think the reason centers are disappearing is more due to the evolution of the game than anything else. If anything, Shaq prolonged the center era, as he requires somebody equally bulky to defend him. In the modern league, centers are increasingly finding limited offensive opportunities. Example, Yao Ming, who may play center on defense, but doesn't post up enough to call himself a center of the old school.

To summarize, center is increasingly a defensive position, with a few exceptions, Eddy Curry, Shaq, etc. I can't explain this trend. It may be that O'neal started the idea of looking for defense from a center, but I think it's something more like teams have figured out good ways to defend the low post with zone defenses (or something), or perhaps the influx of good defensive centers has made it so only exceptionally talented offensive centers are able to hold their own in the NBA.

I don't dispute that style and reputation do come into it. When Amare and Dwight and JO all consider themselves power forwards, it's probably because of style and reputation. I think Duncan considers himself a PF because he played with David Robinson, and so has a rigidly defined notion of what a center should be.

At 6/23/2006 8:18 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

man, i feel old. i very clearly remember when shaq entered the league (visualize many broken backboards). at that time, there were probably more elite true centers in the league than at any other time in history. dream, ewing, the admiral, brad daugherty (okay, calling him elite may be a stretch, but he was good for 20-10, 5-time all-star, so fuck you). plus, shaq came in with alonzo mourning, who despite his short stature, is a pretty true center.

so, there were true centers everywhere. but, you may be right that shaq scared the next generation of big men from playing down on the block. the exception, of course, are the immobile 7-foot stiffs who HAD to play center. shaq didn't invent the true center, but he may have killed it. until greg oden, conveniently at the end of shaq's career, ressurects it.

does this mean y'all don't remember fu-schnickens?

wv: nudym = nude young mamis!

At 6/23/2006 8:26 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

also, if anyone thinks redick fits at all with the MONDW, then they do not understand the MONDW. we're talking about 6-3 to 6-5, ultra-athletic combo guards who previously may have been considered too short or not good enough shooters to play off guard in the nba. except for his height, redick is the exact opposite of MONDW candidates. he's not athletic, and his big strength is his jumper.

to further explicate on the MONDW--although wade proved the doubters wrong, it's a myth to think he set any kind of trend because wade, like KG, AI, Dirk, Arenas, etc., is a truly unique talent, a mold-breaker rather than a mold-creator.

At 6/23/2006 8:29 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

furthermore, redick has no discernible point guard skills. to summarize:

under 6-6 YES
ultra-athletic NO
iffy shooter NO
point guard skills NO
black (why not?) NO

wv: wxyawe = former god

At 6/23/2006 9:42 AM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

Isn't the cause simply an attempt to market the draft and players to people who may not (or that columnists and networks think do not) know much about basketball play itself, but know big names? "Look, you've never heard of this player, but he's just like Player X, so come enjoy the draft!"

It's like watching Game 6 of the NBA Finals and hearing an announcer say, "Now, if you haven't seen Dallas play before..."

I think it's safe to say at that point that if you haven't seen Dallas play, you don't know a lot about professional basketball, and you know you don't know much about professional basketball, so you can pick it up as you go along.

Many of the problems in sports coverage today stem from attempts to market the games to people who don't understand the games.

At 6/23/2006 10:45 AM, Anonymous Sweet Louis XIV said...

The explanation of Myths of the Next as marketing makes sense to me. (Sometimes FD avoids taking hold of Occam’s Razor like the urge to commit hara-kiri would be irresistible.)

But I think the MON phenomenon also reflects the NBA’s shambles of a development structure. Without a minor league, and with sporadic scouting systems across the league, GMs are under-informed and limited in their options. The college game doesn’t tell anyone enough, and workouts are, well, workouts. Even professionals fall back on talking about MON, to market possible selections and because these players have to present a public image immediately, since they will be present at every game, involved or not. The baseball model, for once, would be a huge improvement. Free the NBDL! Bring back the seventh round!

At 6/23/2006 11:20 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Just hypothesysing here, but isn't it possible that the Heat winning the title has cost us the chance of GMs actually changing the way they approach the draft? Maybe a Suns' championship or to a lesser degree a Mavs' championship would have manifested the idea of unorthodox team-building even more and therefore would have altered the draft strategies of at least some of the teams in the league.

Granted, positional needs will probably always be the first consideration and taking 'the best athlete available' will also have it's advocates. But maybe, just maybe some broader ideas could have been introduces, like making the Nuggets a team of Carmelo plus only scrappy players like Boykins, Najera, Patterson and Evans at every position. Or making the Hawks the only team to field a team of guys between 6'5" and 6'10".

But now, tying into what has been discussed here regarding old vs. new NBA, the Heat title might totally negate such ideas. Rationally, the pre-Riley roster (with Eddie Jones, Damon Jones etc.) made way more sense as far as complementing Shaq and Wade than this year's. But ultimately it was the collection of more pure talent - even if it never made for a cohesive unit - that put them over the top (granted, most of the talent resided in one guy, but still). So we could be back to square one, traditional teams approaching the draft in much the same way they have for years.

WV: qgayzke - questionably gay Zeke

At 6/23/2006 11:33 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

obviously myths and narratives make basketball more fun, even if adopted in a goofily self-conscious manner. and yeah, to some degree this is pandering to stupid-ass fans who can't actually read a scouting report. but as i said in my mcsweeney's, they make it more fun for the press and gm's, too. i've yet to see any of them actively discourage this kind of thinking, which means they must reap some kind of perverse, or idealistic, enjoyment out of the whole thing.

the simmons theory on the heat destroying things is kind of nuts. shaq is a once-every-century player, and wade is looking like a once-a-generation guy. good luck trying to find that combination on one team any time soon. also, in case you forgot he's technically a part of the nba's youth movement who actually get it. trying to cast him as a green light for another decade of marauding off-guards is just plain stupid. if anything, he's a slightly disappointing sign of the golden age to come.

somehow the new nba became "team ball," which doesn't quite make sense to me.


and this was going to be a post, but i don't have time: "next jordan" when there's no one else around doesn't make sense, since jordan was the headliner of a whole grip of stars. that there would be a "next jordan" when there's lots of competition makes much more sense than , say, four years ago. i'm perfectly content giving it to wade, if that means that everyone else gets their own seat at the table.

At 6/23/2006 12:34 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

also, why is it that sometimes i capitalized playoffs, sometimes not? thoughts? did anyone notice and judge me?

At 6/23/2006 12:35 PM, Blogger T. said...

BRE - All I know is that he had his workout pre-DUI, and did fairly well. But even my sources down in the basketball ops dungeon are low level guys - so all they can do is see how the guys did. They don't have access to the briantrust of Morey/Lindsey/Dawson/Van Gundy. Or even if they did, Van Gundy would skullfuck them if they revealed anything about what they're really thinking. Of course I know that Ronnie Brewer came in with his "makes Marion look like Jimmy Chitwood jump shot" and hit 20+ of 25 3's in a drill.

But then again, the all time record holder for threes made in Rockets drills and practices . .. Boki Nachbar.

At 6/23/2006 4:17 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

Kaifa, my question is why, in trying to assess the impact of a championship victory on the future of the NBA, we assume that GMs only pattern themselves on the championship winner. It's not like the Mavs' paradigm or the Suns' paradigm or even the Pistons' paradigm has been proven fatally flawed by their losses. Those teams did make the final 4. They're doing SOMETHING right.

The most significant offseason move thus far (besides the Isiah crap) has been Bryan Colangelo to Toronto. And if you don't think that's an attempt to channel the Suns' magic, I don't know what is.

My theory is that if Colangelo wants to pattern his Raptors after the Suns, having several skilled big men who can shoot already, what he needs is his Nash. I know there's no CP3 in this draft, but I can't quite buy him taking Bargnani.

At 6/23/2006 6:49 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Aaron, you're certainly right, following the Mavs' or Suns' paradigm can make as much sense as following the Heat's, and as Shoals pointed out above, getting two exceptional talents like Shaq and Wade on the same team at a point when they both are (still or already) effective is not a concept to copy that easily. Plus, as we've seen this year, once you make it that far into the playoffs, a few breaks or calls into one direction or the other can very well make the difference.

I guess I wanted to take it more into the direction of the Heat representing a more traditional model and the Mavs or Suns standing for something unique and innovative. The Mavs might be a good example, because they tried the 'two main guys and as much veteran talent around them' approach two seasons (?) ago with Nash and Nowitzki supported by Walker and Jamison. The foundation seemed solid, maybe in this case it was just the wrong coach, who knows?

Thinking about it again, maybe my point should have been to say how much fun it would be if more teams tried to develop a unique style of play - hence the Atlanta Hawks example. How great would it be if we could regularly discuss not only how certain players match up and what mismatches they create, but also how teams and their own distinctive style of play influence how matches are played and being analyzed.

Maybe I'm giving the NBA as it is not enough credit. After all you have the Suns, Mavs and Pistons, the Alley-Oop Nets, The Kobe-centric Lakers... Basically, all I was thinking was that by GMs thinking outside of the box a bit more often and also applying that thinking to the draft, maybe we could have some interesting storylines worth discussing, but now on a level other than the match-ups of the NBA superstars.

At 6/23/2006 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off topic but wtf does a statue having blimp penis envy have to do with the draft?

At 6/24/2006 2:06 PM, Blogger T. said...

Aaron - an intersting bit of news for T-Dot. Colanglo is expected to make the GM of Bennetton Trevisio his assistant GM right before the draft. Bennetton is, of course, the team that Bargnani plays for in Italia.

At 6/25/2006 9:25 AM, Anonymous dejan bodiroga said...

yall lost me a long time ago with the acronym alphabet soup stuff but i do know what MON means, and i know who GA refers to .. and all's i gots to say is if you love GA then quincy douby might be your man in this draft. he needs to get stronger like gilbert did but his offensive game is eerily similar. and he's only been playing organized since his junior year of high school. shit is raw, mane!

At 6/25/2006 9:38 AM, Anonymous db said...

yeah if TO wants bargnani then they really, really need to trade down. otherwise it's too big of an unhedged bet. it's colangelo's first go round on the job, the raps got an unlikely bit of good luck w/ that first overall selection, and since the foundation is already in place for them to take it to the next level, he can't afford to fuck this one up. he can't pull a joe dumars and get in over his head with a young euro and blow his wad on him. if i'm not mistaken the pistons did a similar move w/ darko - bringing in a personnel guy or coach who was familiar with him pre-draft ... but i'm not 100% on that one.

the difference here is that toronto knows bargnani much better than anyone knew darko, especially w/ the new hire of gherardini, so if they're still sold on him then they must feel pretty good about the pick. but as a PR move they just can't possibly go #1 with it and risk having him not pan out ... not in light of the fact that they're about 1 or 2 pieces and a little more chris bosh/villanueva maturation away from being right in the playoff mix. if colangelo is dead set on getting bargnani - which he may very well be - i think his best move would be to get someone to pay up for the #1 pick (say, portland giving the #4 and bosh's buddy jarrett jack along w/ a future pick or a 2nd rounder for #1 and a scrub).

oh yeah ... and since yall are talking about the "next dwyane wade" ..... well everyone knows that it was a little bit of a surprise that he went fifth overall. some people had him as low as 13 or so going into the draft. it was the obvious "tweener" shit that everyone was scared of. but apparently scott layden LOVED him and was dead set on taking him #9 if he was there. so at least he got that one right .... but so did riles, so good for him ... and yeah i'm willing to bet that foye gets a longer look from a few teams now (foolishly though) .

At 6/25/2006 2:34 PM, Blogger T. said...

BRE - do I remember the Fu-Snickens? You bet I do.

At 6/26/2006 12:22 PM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

Young Shaq was distracted and multivalent (thus the Fu-Schnickens) but indeed a backboard-destroying phenom of unconscionable quickness and power. I would have signed up for that Dream-Shaq pay-per-view one-on-one game.

And re: MON, I watched Game 5 of the Wiz-Cavs series over the weekend (thanks, Tivo). I came away convinced that anyone hyping D-Wade as the Next * or the best player in the league is suffering from chronic short memory. LBJ does everything that Wade does, plus things that Wade can't even imagine. (They both need to improve on defense.) I may be alone in this, but having watched that game after the finals, I'm beginning to wonder if part of what makes Wade "secretly boring" is that he displays just enough imagination to be tantalizing and successful but not enough to put him in the pantheon.

And the Wade hype mostly conveniently forgets that Krazy 24 still plays in this league.

At 7/07/2006 9:20 PM, Anonymous static kid said...

oh man, i'd never seen that video. that is some awesome skinny shaq footage


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