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.