Fair Time for Bossing

First, this revolution business: With regard to style, politics, and psychology in the NBA, it's an idealistic reach and a cushion against disappointment. The dream that populism could take on florid meaning, and the joke that sports are the best vehicle for these ideas. It's both the failure of the Russian Revolution and our inability to resist the aesthetics of the Panthers. It's elitist, but it's also subject to the whim of the utilitarian present. Thus, asking the Suns "what happened to our love?" is as likely to humiliate us as it is defile them.

Now, important stuff: It's hardly original at this point to call Andrew Bynum quality, or project bright things for the Lakers. What I'm suddenly struck by, though, is why exactly taking a high school player was perceived as a GM-tarring gamble. It's not as if all college picks, even those seasoned and well-exposed, have a particular high success rate. I suppose picking a teenagers smacks of irresponsibility, fence-swinging, and idle revelry. But is that really any less tawdry than falling victim to the same old rut?

In theory, it's easier to predict college prospects than preps ones. You heard this less and less as super-early exits became commonplace, and the balance of talent shifted grotesquely toward the NBA. But really, Ike Digou, taken one spot before Bynum, was that much more of a sure thing? There's a reason why Howard went over Okafor, and it's not just a matter of starry-eyed GMs slobbering at the idol of infinite ceiling. College players, while may not have the room for growth, have no less of a capacity to disappoint. The 2003 Draft saw Josh Howard passed over until the end of the first round. However, the distinguished names taken before him include Reece Gaines, Michael Sweetney, Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones.

The point isn't that scouts should be right all the time. Just that, in retrospect, everyone's falling in love with the likes of Darko or Kwame isn't that much worse than taking Andrew Bogut first overall when Chris Paul is on the board. College players were only marginally "safer" as picks, and drafting conservatively, while it satiates fans at the time, isn't only less ambitious—it's less constructive, too. The high school era may have made easy targets out of clueless country kids being promised the world. At the end of the day, though, the teams that "gambled" hit it big, and the ones that didn't, well, they were gambling, too.

If you hate this, better ideas in my new Heaven and Here effort. Plus, Dr. LIC Deadspin joint coming later today.


At 12/26/2007 11:49 AM, Blogger goathair said...

I miss Reece Gaines, even if I do confuse him with Marcus Banks.

At 12/26/2007 12:38 PM, Blogger EL MIZ said...

as big of a bassy fan as i am, i was still shocked in '04 when he went 7 spots before jameer nelson, who was hands-down the best player in college the year before.

drafting, the inexact science.

At 12/26/2007 12:46 PM, Blogger AO said...

In terms of building a team, there is an argument to be made for "draft expert" as a more important position as GM or coach.

Sure, the coaches eventually will try and mold the players to fit their system, but a draft expert has a keen sense of a ballplayer who simply "has it."

Jerry West knew Kobe "had it" in '96, so he did everything he could to get him. KB never shot a basketball for the Hornets, and 3 rings later, West was proved right.

Drafting is so hit or miss that to have someone with a proven track record of eyeing NBA level talent is uber important.

At 12/26/2007 1:01 PM, Blogger evan said...

Thing about the time and place of when Bynum was drafted. Right at the end of being able to draft high school talent.

The last high school center drafted all at in the first round was Kendrick Perkins two years drafted two years prior at #27. The vast majority of high schoolers were SF and if Kupchak was going to draft a center, he had to be absolutely sure.

In that assuredness, we have to realize that the Lakers could have taken the best available that's not at Kobe's position. They could have reliably picked : Sean May, Hakim Warrick, Jarrett Jack, Maxiell, Simien or David Lee.

This was not just one of the draft selections that a GM has to cover his ass with, but one that they were seriously committing to when there was no team direction post-Shaq. This has all been lined up since the beginning and was probably a more developed draft process than most teams have when they're drafting 10th. Get the center, get the mentor (Kareem) and truly develop him in a great incubator. No other team that needed a big man as much could have given this amount of buffer time in development.

Bynum is on track to give Dwight Howard a world of problems and may turn out to be the bigger team success story. I'd rather have Kareem tutoring him than Ewing with Dwight.

The only person in the league who can mentor Dwight in the same way is Shaq.

At 12/26/2007 1:05 PM, Blogger T. said...

This is one area where Isiah Thomas is actually quite good - Mighty Mouse, Camby, TMac, NateRob, David Lee, hell, even Balkman are all quality draft picks. (I'm probably missing someone here)

At 12/26/2007 2:23 PM, Blogger R. Lobstah said...

Kupchek was being tarred and feathered to prove one bit of NBA cant, trading a superstar never works.

Now that people are getting used to the idea that the Shaq trade was a good idea "they" continue to insist that mistakes were made. Notice the mention of Caron Butler for Kwame. Would I love to have Butler instead of Kwame? Of course. Have a look at salaries though and you'll find that even with Kwame coming off the books next year the Lakers are capped and Bynum is going to be taken off the puppy chow soon. How much money can an organization afford to tie up in swingmen and still beat teams like the Suns?

This goes back to the point in the post, trading, nearly as much as drafting, is a chancy business. Today we can say that sending LO instead of Butler might have better worked for the Lakers. Either way the Lakers needed to move a smaller forward for a post player with potential and create the sort of talent and financial dispersal that provides a team the sort of balance required to both entertain and win.

At 12/26/2007 7:51 PM, Blogger robby said...

I think this explains it all

At 12/26/2007 9:19 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

Ronnie Lester (Lakers Ass. GM) is the man that made Bynum happen. He discovered Bynum and then got Jim Buss to support the pick. Kupchak kind of just went a long with it after everyone in the front office wanted to take him.

I also think Isiah Thomas was the only other person that wanted to select him, but ended up taking Channing Frye instead. If someone could hire Isiah Thomas just to scout and draft players they would have something good on their hands. That's one thing the man does do well.

At 12/26/2007 11:55 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Wow, the Lakers have an Ass GM?!?

zdqpxqp: flying kick sequence in Teen Titans' Battle Blitz

At 12/27/2007 3:09 AM, Blogger Me. said...

DLIC's plea was wonderful. Getting to know the game in the late 80s and early 90s, I have a certain affinity for the black and blue ball player. Today's pussified state makes me cringe daily, which, sadly, has made its way to the pick-up arena as well.

At 12/27/2007 8:30 PM, Blogger rebar said...

how does DLIC's lament fit in with the fact that whenever i tell people i'm an NBA guy, the response is always something like: "how can you like the NBA? it's just a bunch of pampered superstars playing for stats. college, now that's real basketball."

the strange thing is that so many hail college as the true incarnation of the sport these days, but i've always seen the college game as even less physical than the NBA.

At 12/27/2007 9:12 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

College is less physical than the NBA, but there are more guys who have to exert all their energy to play well that it appears more physical. In the NBA, guys are so skilled and athletic that physicality fades into the background.

At 12/28/2007 12:24 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

Yes, when you have that many guys missing shots and that many uncoordinate lugs on the court, it's always going to look like they're trying harder. Which looks like it takes more effort, making a contested jumpshot after creating an inch of space, or hurling your body and flailing your arms until the ball happens to go into the hoop? Which is actually harder? And which is more fun to watch?

At 12/29/2007 12:40 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Watching Bynum develop this year, I've found it fascinating that he and Kwame are on the same team and studies in contrast. The Lakers decision to give Bynum a mentor like Kareem, rather than letting him languish alone as the Wizards did Kwame, has made such a huge difference for two players who are otherwise so similar.

At 12/29/2007 1:06 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12/29/2007 1:07 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Bynum has the hands of the guy who sculpted a Greek god, Kwame's got those of the material he used.

At 12/29/2007 1:15 PM, Blogger ** said...

Ah, Bynum--the pride of my former home PLAINSBORO, NJ. Listen--it's just a plain boro, none of that crazy shit.
Here's an account of when he came into my workplace:


At 12/29/2007 2:17 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Kwame's hands are indeed anything but C-Webb-ish, but I wonder whether anyone during his first years in the league even attempted to teach him how to use the appendages he possesses.

And even now, where is the mentoring for Kwame? Bynum gets tutored by one of the all time greats--as someone pointed out in comments a while ago, probably a better hoops education than four years of college. It's just weird that Kwame doesn't seem to get even a fraction of the attention.

At 1/01/2008 6:48 PM, Blogger Dant said...

Come on! Kwame's been in the league for 5 years now. He's made plenty of money. If he wants to get better, why doesn't HE hire a tutor? I don't get the feeling that he's unhappy being a wealthy bust. Can't say that I blame him.


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