11.27.2006

FreeDarko Profiles in Courage pt. 787776954

Since TNT, ABC, and ESPN have all but shut out the Minnesota Timberwolves this year--and with good reason as the team is one of the ugliest to watch--I feel it is my duty to spotlight a player who, although not quite falling under the radar, has yet to get any of the surprise breakout praise that Monta Ellis, Kevin Martin, and Paul Milsap are gleaning. His name is Craig Smith. That's a terrible basketball name, but the dude is soon to be Mr. Smith, or at least some derivative of Smitty. For those who don't know, Smith is a second round pick out of BC, with steamroller box-out moves, crunk dunks, and the hunger for minutes.



I have endured over the past 26 months, the agony of being a Timberwolves fan, something not necessarily new to any Minnesotan who was around for the pre-Garnett years. The thing about those early years, though, was that there were always at least a perennial fan favorite or two (the hallmark for terrible teams). Chris Carr, Doug West, or even the rookie Isaiah Rider were cheered for their dunking prowess. Pooh Richardson, Spud Webb, Luc Longley, for the sheer novelty of their name, stature, or place of birth. Randy Breuer or later Bobby Jackson for sentimental hometown ties. But for the past couple years, the best the Wolves could muster as a fan favorite was Mark Madsen (he dances funny and waves a towel on the bench). Without guys who you at least enjoy seeing on a basketball court, watching an untalented team is downright torturous.

Smith, however, has given us at least one reason to start watching again, fitting the perfect qualifications for a fan favorite: good at rebounding, good at dunking, underdog exceeding expectations, and most importantly, FAT. What's scarier to me personally, however, is that he has given us much more. Specifically, for the first time as a Wolves fan, I feel comfortable trading KG with Smith as a formidable power forward. Undersized at 6'7" and under-drafted, Smith has a Gilbert-sized chip on his shoulder and Barkley-type-tendencies . I guess I should qualify the Barkley comparison as we are probably all a bit weary of every fat guy with a little skill, from Melo to Sean May, being compared to Sir Charles. It's much simpler with C-Smith, however. He is Barkley with simply no outside game whatsoever. In a weird way, I feel like he's what I always wanted Al Jefferson to be. A guy who can get you 10 rebounds in 20 minutes, with at least two key offensive boards, and double-digit points of garbage putbacks and soft-touch post moves.


Our FreeDarko college expert has discussed with me how it is an inexact science predicting which stocky college-impressive big men will succeed in the pros, but when it happens, all you can do is sit back and enjoy it.

48 Comments:

At 11/28/2006 12:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad E. Griffin didn't play with the hunger Craig Smith has. He'd be an all star top 5 PF.

 
At 11/28/2006 1:22 AM, Blogger T. said...

LEON POWE! LEON POWE!

Ask the Celtic fans if you don't know.

 
At 11/28/2006 7:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll keep my eye on Smith. You might check out my new hoops blog: www.michaelreddyourboatashore.blogspot.com.
I just posted a response to a recent academic article about the erosion of player autonomy in the NBA. Give it a read if you have time. Thanks, TJ

 
At 11/28/2006 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

too often players are looked at as a composite of their skills without looking at their game as a whole.
I've never seen smith play but there are many nba players who just know how to play the game. NBA more than most sports can't adopt football's "combine mentality" so what if a guy is a little undersized if he can play he can play see barkley, boozer, chris paul.

 
At 11/28/2006 8:39 AM, Anonymous Mortimer said...

That's the (second) best thing about having NBA League Pass... you can see unheralded players who don't get the attention in the national media that they deserve.
I've tried to watch every team, and I noticed Smith pretty early on... but, I didn't even realize he was a rookie because of his play (and I ain't done heard of him at that time).

His generic name and indistinct build makes him seem familiar for some reason, but obviously easy to overlook. However, NBA.com has had him on the top ten rookies list pretty much all year. That's about as much love a guy like him on a team like the T-Wolves can expect to get.

Solid college players with a percieved lack of sexy "potential" get overlooked every draft, and there is always someone solid who "surprises" everyone each year(Josh Howard). The GMs keep swinging for the fences when a line drive double would maybe work better (or at least you'd whiff a lot less).

But, this doesn't excuse Atlanta for picking Sheldon Williams so high when they could have gotten a decent PG that they still need. Sheldon Williams is a solid base hit, but not moreso than other "can't miss solid player" they coulda' gotten (such as Brandon Roy).

Mortimer

 
At 11/28/2006 9:43 AM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

Doug West.

 
At 11/28/2006 9:51 AM, Blogger seezmeezy said...

you could tell dude was going to be a best during that crazy tourney game against pacific

heart + skill = fat greatness

 
At 11/28/2006 11:13 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

craig smith is one of those guys i've never wanted to believe was good. as a lifelong carolina (and acc, generally) fan, i did not take kindly to his carpetbagging BC eagles coming into the conference and wrecking shop.

i don't know if it's my lack of basketball knowledge or something else, but i find it impossible to tell how good these beastly 6'7, 6'8 college guys really are. there's some combination of positioning and footwork, pure strength, and heart that will overcome a lack of height and leaping ability. if you make it past that threshold, a 10-year nba career awaits. if you fall just short, you're playing pro in albania.

i do have a couple problems with the piece, though:

did anyone really compare sean may or melo to barkley?

also, "crunk dunks"?

 
At 11/28/2006 11:28 AM, Blogger Brian said...

So basically you are saying you wanted Al Jefferson to be Erick Dampier haha.

 
At 11/28/2006 11:45 AM, Anonymous SK said...

It also helps to play on a front line with players who are better than you. Millsap has Boozer, Smith has the incomparable KG to take the heat and allow them to fulfill their 12/8 complementariness.

wv: ahzrd = Walt Williams' first nickname

 
At 11/28/2006 12:11 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

"crunk dunks" is a linguistic error that shall stay unedited for the purpose of being the scar that i wear.

people STILL compare melo to barkley, and when sean may was being drafted, i guarantee nba analysts talked about him being "at best charles barkley, at worst corliss williamson."

 
At 11/28/2006 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would say that corliss is going to be the ceiling ofr May... IMO

 
At 11/28/2006 2:37 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Okay, then it must be asked where Big Baby is going to fit. I truly want him to succeed with the "fat but slippery" formula.

But my hunch is that the husky baller only succeeds when size is combined with some sort of freak athleticism, ala Bark, or Larry Johnson.

Hence: Big Baby is not equal to Granmama.

And yes, I did write the words "husky baller".

 
At 11/28/2006 2:56 PM, Blogger FrozenChozen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11/28/2006 3:00 PM, Blogger FrozenChozen said...

The presence of Craig Smith makes you comfortable with trading KG?!? You mussa loss yo mind. I love the Wolves and am thrilled about having found Smith, but let's not get carried away. He's a serviceable big who can rebound and (hopefully) defend - NOT the centerpiece of a team. Instead of talking about trading KG, we should be excited that Ticket finally may have a frontcourtmate that can take some of the defensive pressure off his shoulders, guarding the opponent's best big, so that KG will have some energy left to be a go-to scorer, especially in the fourth. As Ticket once said, "Messing with Zach [Randolph] for 37-plus minutes ain't an easy task. It becomes a little toll." That's real.

 
At 11/28/2006 3:25 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

unrelated, but does someone have a link to that j.r. smith putback from the other night?

 
At 11/28/2006 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

danny fortson. all world college, all ass pro, all buffet the whole time.
in college girth can equal height in that it sets you apart in ways not related to skill. so you sometimes can't even see what they're showing you. that's why it can be so tough to extrapolate. and also maybe why you get so many more swingmen coming out of nowhere than big men. whose on the list of power forwards that came out of nowhere?

 
At 11/28/2006 4:52 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

boozer kind of came out of nowhere. david west. udonis haslem.

the most interesting thing to come out of this discussion is me not having any idea what big baby will look like as a pro.

 
At 11/28/2006 5:00 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

T-wolves favorites: James "Hollywood" Robinson (especially if you can imagine the immortal Trent Tucker over-enunciating every syllable...)

That is all.

 
At 11/28/2006 5:19 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

yo, DLIC, sorry to keep picking on you, but david west didn't come out of nowhere--he was an all-american at xavier. boozer sort of did, in that he was the most underpublicized mcd's all-american and ncaa champ ever.

haslem is a guy who was a good college player, but i never thought he'd be a great pro. then, someone like mike sweetney, i thought would be really good, and he never plays. i guess, using those two as example, it's all about conditioning. haslem lost the weight, sweetney didn't.

as far as power forwards coming out of nowhere, i always think about guys like ben wallace, antonio davis, pj brown, all those rugged 6'9-ish guys who weren't college stars, but have carved out a good career in the pros.

 
At 11/28/2006 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When discussing Fat ballers, I feel compelled to mention exhibit (A) Oliver Miller and (B) Tractor Traylor. Miller was successful because he played a highly? intelligent game based on finding positioning, and working to his strength; creating space to set up the pass and tossing up baby hookup. Tractor came into the L as nothing more than a hussle guy. A fat man can't hussle. A fat guy is suppose have techniques drippin outta their buttcheeks, not trying to pull Darvin Ham shit.
Morgan Spurlock thinks Big Baby will pull a Kendrick Brown.

vw: yomrjx-furthcoming BET original programming

 
At 11/28/2006 5:26 PM, Anonymous Steve said...

The Wolves Fan Favorite discussion starts and ends with Mike Brown. What makes the early returns from Craig Smith all the more incredible is that he was a second round pick, and as a Wolves fan, I didn't even know there was a second round in the draft (save for Doug West). A Foye-Shaddy-Hassel/Jaric (no one is going to take his contract)-KG-Smith rotation could be fun to watch next year.

 
At 11/28/2006 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

salt bagel- I don't know that Barkley or LJ had "freak athleticism" at all. I'd say they were more succesful because they could hit the 3-ball. If all these wide, undersized guys like Smith, Powe, and my man David Lee work on their outside game, it'll open things up quite a bit.

 
At 11/28/2006 6:16 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

salt bagel- I don't know that Barkley or LJ had "freak athleticism" at all.

Neither one could shoot the three until they lost much of that athleticism. Watch some Auburn/Philly tape of Chuckles or pre-back Hornet's LJ - they were explosive for guys their size - (especially Barkley - no fat man should run that fast, ever.)

 
At 11/28/2006 6:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fair enough. I didn't get to see much of either of those guys in their early days. Didn't LJ also have that sweet play that got waived off at the end of "Eddie"?

 
At 11/28/2006 6:35 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

I second Pooh, watch any Youtube highlight clip of Barkley and wait for that coast-to-coast drive ending in a two-handed dunk. He just left everybody standing and looking stupid.

 
At 11/28/2006 6:40 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

seth--as others have already said, barkley and LJ were most definitely freak athletes. there's just no question about it.

also, david lee--wide? compared to who, manute bol?

anon 5:23--i still can't believe that tractor traylor was traded for dirk nowitski STRAIGHT UP!

 
At 11/28/2006 6:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kaifa/Pooh/Salt bagel

I stand corrected and enlightened. Charles could get around, man.

 
At 11/28/2006 6:53 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Thoughts that just now arose:

College rebound champ = guaranteed big league run, but only as a serviceable journeymen. Popeye Jones, Malik Rose, Paul Millsap?

Oliver Miller's success was the as much the product of galactic arm length as anything else. I'm not sure if he leads, but he's high on the all-time SEC blocks list, even though he couldn't jump.

wv: sbkzrke = I am struck by lightning.

 
At 11/28/2006 6:57 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

aha...in the back of my mind, i KNEW the recluse (freedarko's resident carer about college hoops) was going to call me out for david west. the argument, however, for him coming out of nowhere is pretty easy:

3.8 and 6.2 ppg in his first two years, then 17 AND 7.5 LAST YEAR = coming out of nowhere.

i know he was good in college, but no one thought he would be all that great in the pros...then he kind of tanked, everyone was like, ok, yeah, maybe he was a bit of a punk in college, then last year. BAM.

...lots of wolves fans around. i hear you on mike brown. dude was getting garbage. time. i still remember at the end of one of those silent blowouts, some dude screaming, "THE BIG BROWN BEAR" when mb got in the game.

 
At 11/28/2006 7:08 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

How has this thread gone on this long without the immortal Ndudi Ebi?

("WIN-field GAR-nett!" KFAN listeners?)

 
At 11/28/2006 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee's 250 lbs. which isn't light for a 6'8'' (at most) guy. Either way, I think he's a fair comparison to Smith or Powe game-wise.

 
At 11/28/2006 8:22 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

lee definitely bulked up. i still think about when i first saw him in high school, and he was all skinny. still wouldn't call him wide. anyway, you can't compare him to smith or powe, because he's white, and they're black. you have to compare him to larry bird. or billy cunningham. or austin croshere.

 
At 11/28/2006 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, of course. I forgot. In that case, Lee is the next Zan Tabak.

 
At 11/28/2006 9:58 PM, Blogger T. said...

I would never have called David Lee wide - he was best known as a DUNKER - and he and James White were supposed to make the Gators the best dunking college team since Darrall Griffith with Louisville or Phi Slamma Jamma.

seth - you need to check out LJ of the gold tooth too. Serious athletic ability. LJ was different from Chuck - Chuck was fat, LJ was like a football linebacker - just solid and wide.

 
At 11/28/2006 10:17 PM, Anonymous surefunk said...

thank you T. been reading all these and feeling ready to cry for folks calling LJ fat. he was just thick, even in college. but, playing next to stacey augman, i guess he could come off lookin chunk.

 
At 11/28/2006 11:33 PM, Blogger T. said...

Inexplicably set to Poison . . .I give you the 1990 UNLV Runnin' Rebels:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=_VnTqrg_lfI&mode=related&search=

Man, I loved that team. My 10th grade old brain thought Anderson Hunt was the best player on the team though.

 
At 11/29/2006 7:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boozer did not come out of nowhere. Look at his college stats. They were pretty sick. 70% shooting? I have no idea how anyone could watch Duke and think that Dunleavy or Jay Williams were the best player on that team, but EVERYONE did it. I just about lost my mind when my Bucks drafted Marcus f'n Haislip (total workout wonder) over King Carlos. I can also remember swearing to a couple of Cavs fans I know that their second round pick would be better than their first round pick (Dajuan Wagner). T, I also thought Anderson Hunt would make a really good pro. BRE, I also thought Sweets would be good, and he was a good bench guy for the Knicks. He has now found out that Scott Skiles' doghouse only has an entrance. Et tu, Big Ben?

 
At 11/29/2006 9:09 AM, Blogger Trey said...

Anderson Hunt was the best player on UNLV. Just not a pro-type guy.

LJ was a monster. Solid as a rock.

David West dominates in NBA 2K7.

One more good fat baller: Brian Williams/Bison Dele. Dude was crafty.

 
At 11/29/2006 9:35 AM, Blogger c-los said...

Ahh..Anderson Hunt...i miss thee...him & Rodney Monroe were my favorite players when I was younger...Fire & Ice ....12 & 21

 
At 11/29/2006 10:16 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

came out of nowhere=not expected to excel at pro level. none of these guys are, or else they would be drafted on day one

 
At 11/29/2006 12:20 PM, Blogger c-los said...

"Im not a blazer, I'm a gangsta" is easily the best fat baller in the league right now

 
At 11/29/2006 12:38 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

randolph is like the absolute, complete and total ceiling for the archetype we're kicking around here.

 
At 11/29/2006 2:33 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

Anderson Hunt was the best player on UNLV. Just not a pro-type guy.

There's something Charlie Wardish (QB version) about Hunt - I think he'd get more of a look now, as the undersized chucker combo guard off the bench has been a much more acceptable rotation guy.

As for Boozer, he shot 70% in college because all he shot were dunks, which he got because he was stronger than your average college bear. It was difficult to see that continuing in the pros (see Roe, Lou, etc...)

 
At 11/29/2006 4:47 PM, Anonymous Steve said...

Holy smokes indianchief, we either attended the same game all those years ago, or the Cutty Sark-soaked fan attended multiple games and shouted "BRING IN THE BEAR! THE BIG BROWN BEAR!" each time he was in his upper deck seat. I'm not sure which possibile answer is more fascinating.

 
At 11/29/2006 7:59 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Fire was Chris Corciani, and Ice was Rodney Monroe. They played for NC State, not UNLV. Corciani was the all-time college assists leader, until Bobby Hurley passed him, then Hurley wrecked his car, and only I felt despair.

 
At 11/30/2006 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Powe and Smith are two guys that should have been late first round picks. The leagues scouts are stuck with this notion that only 6'10" and over guys can survive at the power forward position, which is a complete falacy. I would take guys like Powe or Smith over a guy like Josh Boone any day. Especially when you consider that both of those guys might have been the best players in their respective conferences last year. Both of them dominated their conference tournaments and single handedly carried their teams the entire year. In Powe's case, the Cal Bears would have gotten much farther if they would have just thrown him the damn ball. Scouts don't look enough at intangibles that allow players like Powe and Smith to be good players and guys like Josh Boone to end up being stiffs. No offense to Boone, of course.

 
At 12/01/2006 7:59 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

To be fair, their were (and are) lingering worries about Powe's knee issues.

 

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