FreeDrafto, Pt. 2405202: Retarded Ornithology
The NBA Finals haven't even begun, and the race for the Democratic presidential nomination still hasn't ended, but it's time to once again rev up the FreeDrafto engine. In this most historic of years, we wanted to reach out to FD: The Next Generation (Ty and Carter), as well as the esteemed Dan Shanoff, for the first FreeDrafto Roundtable of 2008.
Also, be sure to check out the recently released draft measurements over at Draft Express. As always, some very interesting stuff in there, such as Joe Alexander being taller and having a higher vertical than Michael Beasley.
Tom Ziller: Joe Alexander seems an intriguing guy to me, based on his status as Chris Andersen with a privileged upbringing (though I really don't know much about his upbringing; just that it was assumedly better than Andersen's).
Brown Recluse: Ladies Love Cool Joe Alexander. I think of him more as Wally World if he wasn't a douchebag. Seriously, though, didn't he grow up in China?
TZ: Beasley is the next Gil, in terms of personality and quite possibly his "fuck-you" (teammates and opponents) game.
Bethlehem Shoals: Because Beasley is big, black, aggressive, and not a lovable seven-footer, his authenticity/honesty is perceived as unstable and dangerous. Hints of worse things yet to come. This kind of relates to what Krolik wrote a while ago about Rose being assumed to be a "good guy" over Mayo because of their respective games.
Dr. Lawyer IndianChief: Wait, have we already talked about how Michael Beasley's sleepy eyes have cost him draft placement because they appear to suggest lack of work ethic?
BS: I think they might lead to some confusion about his personality. He looks like he's about to fall asleep all the time, but carries on like the world's about to end. He must be on drugs.
Carter Blanchard: Isn't there a qualitative difference between "tagging stuff" randomly and actually autographing the Principal's truck? Not saying one is better than another per se, the ballsiness/stupidity/arrogance of the latter definitely makes me think of Beasley differently than if he had just been caught doodling on bathroom walls.
BS: Aimless doodling would've been silly. Tagging the principal's truck after he's warned you to cease and desist? That devilish, on part with something Gilbert would do. The key is that it's ultimately harmless, and only anti-social if you buy that slippery slope, gateway to the beast model of human behavior.
TZ: Has any one profile affected a player's draft stock like that one in recent years? Other than the SI piece on the Lopez twins, I suppose. (And yeah, the WaPo Beasley piece really affects little since he'll be top-2 regardless.)
Ty Keenan: The Lopez SI article didn't even uncover that much. They are also really big Magnum PI fans. And they play hide-and-seek together.
Bill Walker Blues
DS: I am oddly fascinated by Bill Walker.
BS: What I think is so amazing about him is that it's like Mayo, but more extreme. Everyone's working with media-driven depreciated O.J., until they go back and remember what he's really capable of. Walker, people seem to have completely forgotten how amazing he once was, and how much he's still on the road back. I'd predicted that Walker would end up in the early 20's, but that was before the weight loss stuff came out. Now, late lottery wouldn't surprise me at all. There's potential out the ass, and even if there's not, he'll be solid and capable. Pretty sweet deal.
DS: Bill Walker can -- and should -- have sued the hell out of the NBA when he obliterated his knee last season, because if he had come out of high school and into the NBA draft, he would have been a first-round pick. He is the poster guy for why the one-year rule is a monstrosity.The fact that he has recovered to make it back into the first round (and perhaps high first round) is mere fortune for the NBA.
DS: Chris Douglas-Roberts ("retarded Shawn Marion")
BS: For some reason, I have it in my head that CDR is Gervin-esque.
DS: Correction on CDR: "Retarded George Gervin."
BR: I don't know, I think people are overrating CDR's length (pause). He's 6'5" at best. As I said in the comments a while back, I see him more like a less talented Larry Hughes. My parents told me not to call people "retarded."
TK: I don't even know what I'm supposed to think about foreign prospects at this point. I think we've seen enough of them that we should just accept the fact that someone will draft the best one in the Top 10 and he'll have the same probability of success as any American player taken in the same slot. It's just frustrating because we don't know what to expect, and lord knows we like predicting these things accurately.
I've also decided that the draft experts who've actually seen these guys need to give two comparisons: 1) which NBA player he plays like and 2) which recent foreign pick was talked about in the same way.
BR: I have to yet to see why this guy's anything more than the second coming of Sasha Vujacic. Also, he looks like Val Kilmer in his ESPN photo.
DLIC: My brother thinks Eric Gordon is going to be the best player from this draft.
DS: Eric Gordon is a chubby Bryce Drew.
BR: First, Eric Gordon's game IN NO WAY resembles Bryce Drew's. Also, he's not fat--he just has a remarkably round face.
DS: The Gordon/Drew thing was a joke.
TK: I'd really like to know how much Gordon's injury affected him late in the year. There were times in the fall when he got anywhere he wanted on the court. (I am also a fan of anyone with the same name as the villain in Billy Madison.)
DS: Donte Greene (Blatchian)
BS: Greene is so high on my list!!!!! No one seems to be able to decide what potential, if any, is there.
Potential: Working toward a distinct game. Bird learning how to fly.
Potential potential: Someone with the tools to put together some kind of distinct game. Bird in the egg with the genes for wings.
Potential potential potential: Is this even a bird egg?
DLIC: Donte Greene is the most NBA name ever.
TK: Roy Hibbert is going to carve out a fine career for himself as someone who commits fouls on an all-NBA big man who can't shoot free throws.
TK: A retarded Josh Smith, to steal Shoals's "retarded LBJ" line from a few weeks ago.
BR: Can you go by LBJ if two of the initials are in your first name?
CB: One player who sort of fascinates me is DeAndre Jordan, if only because I'm pretty confused as to how someone who couldn't get off the bench for a middle-of-the-road NCAA team gets projected as a top 10 pick. I was at his two NCAA games for which he combined 20 minutes, 6 points and 5 rebounds. He had missed a game a couple weeks before that with a stomach virus, but as far as I knew and could tell he was healthy and uninjured for the tourney. Part of me wants to know how, even as a raw as he is, you don't play someone as physically gifted as him in college ahead of the Joseph Jones' of the world.
Mostly I just don't get how he continues to be projected as lottery after pretty clearly demonstrating that he's less skilled than Kwame. Like it's the ultimate vanity project: sure he has the body of a basketball player, but none of the skills; do you really think you can impart those on a 19-year-old who as far as I know hasn't even shown flashes. I see people pointing to Bynum's turn-around, but does anyone think Bynum as a freshman wouldn't at least have been the Dwight Howard of college ball, dominating through physicality alone? Anyway, I'm curious how other people feel on him, but think he could be an interesting case study on imaginary "upside" and "potential."
TK: Jordan did not look good when I saw him, but there's no reason he shouldn't have played more. A&M was not good enough to justify keeping him in chains.
TK: Has an American ever been so readily misidentified as a Euro? I'm pretty sure this has hurt his stock with lots of teams.
CB: Wow, I seriously had no idea, and I've watched him play more than a couple times. Before I knew that I was planning on writing: "Draft Express has the Warriors drafting Kosta Koufos. They would."
TK: Stanford threw him on the block and dumped it in every possible possession this year. It's difficult to describe how boring it was outside of the fact that he was able to score over double-teams the entire year. He's tremendously skilled (three-point range, even), but there's a precision to everything he does that aligns him with Duncan in many ways. Robin's much more interesting.
TK: Not nearly as polished as his brother, but he obviously has a complex about it and tries to pull off awesome moves. He's like a bull doing ballet in a china shop.
DS: Has anyone mentioned that Robin Lopez is dating Michelle Wie?
BS: Wait, is that the greater or lesser Lopez?
CB: It kind of depends on how you define "greater" and "lesser." The "lesser" by most standards, but for me, losing Robin to the draft hurt way worse than losing Brook and our coach combined. First off, he's about as FD defensively as I think a big man can be. Something about on-the-ball shot-blocking is so much more devastating than coming over from the weak side to swat a guy a foot short than you. I know Ty already touched on Robin's offensive genius a little, but it really deserves elaboration: ridiculous head fakes that couldn't possibly lead to a shot; starting to post up from the freethrow line; and best of all, an assortment of spin moves in traffic that wouldn't seem possible without traveling.
TZ: Robin + Michelle is a poor man's Shelden + Candace, unless Robin fulfills Carter/Ty's dreams, in which case Robin + Michelle is just the West Coast Shelden + Candace (even though Shelden and Candace now play on the West Coast).
CB: The Robin as Varejao comparisons might be the first hair-inspired comparison in the history of draftology.
TK: This is really upsetting to me. Not necessarily as an issue of player/team fit, just based on the fact that someone would actually consider taking Love in the Top 5 of this draft.
TZ: If Minnesota takes Love at #3, Stephen A. will start screaming Smashing Pumpkins lyrics and immolate.
BS: Self-immolate or just plain immolate?
TZ: Mayo is 21, which is sort of like a college junior (Roy). He's a grown-ass man compared to Beasley, Rose, even Love.
BR: Even if Mayo was 19, it would still feel like he's been around forever. I mean, I first heard about him when he was in EIGHTH GRADE. The emergence of Beasley and Rose really helps Mayo, since it takes some of the focus off of him. There's no way he could have lived up to the absurd "next Lebron James" hype, and now he's not really expected to.
TK: Bynum is the hopeful model for a few guys this year: Jordan, JaVale McGee, Speights (from what I hear). Pretty much anyone who's tall and a project. It's like the third-year improvement of Bynum is going to be used as evidence that 1) it can be done again 2) it's worth waiting around 3) it's a good long-term plan even if you don't have a transcendent talent like Kobe. I'm skeptical, to say the least.
BS: Point of order: How is MONAB different from MONJO?
BR: Well, MONJO applies to young, raw players that have been in the league a minute, but haven't gotten the chance to play. But, when they do get that chance, they thrive. The Lakers (and the Grizz) trading for Kwame even though he sucks is like wishful MONJO thinking. By contrast, MONAB isn't really anything new. NBA execs have long been intrigued by big men with potential, back to Olowakandi, Sam Bowie, and before that.
BS: Ah, okay. Whenever we talked about MONJO in the past, it was just letting a guy sit till he got good. But with O'Neal, and Chandler, and maybe Curry, it really was about liberating them from a team that had kept them on. You could argue that the MONJO begat the MONAB, because all of a sudden teams were willing to wait.
BR: Remember that Bynum produced a lot earlier than O'Neal. JO didn't average double figures until season 5 (with a different team), while Bynum did it in season 3 (on the team that drafted him). That seems like a big difference.
BS: True. Bynum's actually overlooked in terms of the "when will they produce" hypothesis. Amare and LeBron kind of threw the whole thing ut the window, but it still holds for most HS players that it takes a few years. You could argue that he's made the most intelligible impact after three years of any recent HS player (the Smiths don't count), especially if we're looking only at big men.
CB: Sorry to backtrack the conversation a ways, but I'm interested in clarifying this distinction a little more. I think Recluse essentially captures the idea, but I'm curious how to best interpret MONJO. Is it more, "let's not give up on Viktor just yet, because this could be the year he spontaneously combusts" or is it, "let's trade for Patrick O'Bryant because they just don't know how to use him"? Obviously these are pretty interrelated, and MONAB is the half-brother of MONJO, just a variation of the same theme. I think Recluse is right about MONAB; I see it as, "let's draft this PROJECT, because even though he may or may not actually enjoy playing basketball, and it's unclear if he has any of the skills needed to succeed, our crack team of trainers can make him fulfill his potential potential."
NBA Racial Semiotics: Draft Dayz
DS: Let me declare one personal draft bias: I try to avoid race-based comparisons when possible. They are the mainstream sports media's implicit racism tendencies, annually legitimized. That dude from BYU is not "Matt Bullard"; he is Rashard Lewis, who is my default for all 6-10 jump-shooters. Euros are not Euros; Jonathan Givony needs to try to flex his "expertise" a little bit more intelligently and tell me which talent he plays like, not which countrymen also happened to play in the NBA at the guy's position. Body-type comparisons, on the other hand, are fair game, which is why I can say that Gordon is a fattie, regardless of whether you agree he plays like Bryce Drew.
BR: I think it's okay to compare white guys to white guys when the white guy is the best comparison. I don't think it's racist to say that there are traits that are more common in black players than white players and vice versa.
TZ: I proactively try to compare whites to black players because I got kind-of ill with the Hawes stuff (he's Brad Miller! he's Vlade Divac!) last year.
DS: If you make the white-white comparison out of laziness (as most mainstream sports writers seem to), it's kinda racist.
BS: What about a black/white comparison? I know that comparing white players to black models is enlightened. But doesn't it seem a bit strange to compare a black draft entrant to a white player?
TZ: Roy Hibbert = Brad Miller
BR: I don't think comparing a white player to a white player is "racist." Lazy, sure. But, let's not ignore that there are cultural differences between your average white American and your average black American, differences that can manifest themselves on a basketball court. Not always, obviously, but enough that one shouldn't ignore them for fear of being labeled "racist."
DS: Michael Beasley = Dirk Nowitzki. Just wait until Jon Scheyer = Jordan Farmar. Again, I think you can almost always find a more reasonable and accurate comp from the entire league pool than you can when you only compare to another white [or black] player.
BR: Farmar is an interesting case because he's biracial. And sort of Jewish. You can compare anyone to him, I guess.
BS: But there is a question of style/attitude here. If we're talking about pure skill sets, well yeah, the entire pool does give you more options. But--to go back to the Beasley thing, sort of--certain positions are more racially polarized. You could even make it into a larger cultural question. Like, could there ever be a "white Allen Iverson?"Jump-shooting, rebounding, solid point guard play. . . these are pretty universal. That's why it was possible last year to compare Durant to both Dirk and Rashard Lewis, without anyone fainting from the dissonance. However, it just seems like, if style is substance to a certain degree, you just can't compare someone who "plays black" to someone who "plays white."
Names I will throw out there for no reason in particular: Chris Andersen, Manu, Jason Williams.
TK: The first player I remember getting upset about racial comparisons was Wally. When he came out he really wanted everyone to compare him to Glen Rice (if I remember correctly, that was the same year that Rice went off in the all-star game).
I agree about the style issue, but it seems to me that there's still a lot of laziness when you get outside of players that aren't the top-flight (or potential top-flight) talents. Like, Durant can be anyone because we want him to bust open our conceptions of what basketball players can do, but Spencer Hawes can only be another white guy with good skills. Then again, there also seems to be a lot of cutting across racial lines for the sake of it, at least on NBADraft.net. They have Budinger as Grant Hill, which is in no way accurate. Budinger's more athletic than most white players, but his style is basically that of a more athletic Adam Morrison without the late-game heroics Morrison had at Gonzaga (which equals the younger Brent Barry, who is the comparison on DX).
CB: On the race comparisons, I think both sides are right but are talking about two different things. Saying that Morrison is the next Bird is obviously racially tinged and fucking lazy/stupid. Saying that goofy Euro A with a nice shot is like goofy Euro B with a nice shot is fine probably.
TK: Athletic point guards who can't shoot will always be in my heart (of course, he probably won't get drafted and will go back to Gonzaga).
TK: Seems like there's a point to be made about drafting for need in the context of the positional revolution.
BS: Doesn't the positional revolution loosen the whole idea of role-based "need"? Or does it just require teams to come up with their own roles to fill, which ends up in a chicken/egg cycle with who is available?
TK: I was thinking both. Maybe also with a point about a greater willingness to draft at a position you already have because of the fluidity of a positionless system.
BR: In the most recent SLAM, Clyde Drexler said he argued back in '84 that the Blazers should've drafted Jordan even though they already had him, Kiki Vandeweghe, Jim Paxson, and some other wings. He said something like, "I could've played point." So, this is not a new idea, but perhaps the climate is better for such "out of the box" thinking these days.
BS: Are there GMs still drafting like these are HS players, even though in theory, a year of college should bring out something more than sheer potential?
TZ: That's pretty key, and fits the concerns with Jordan.
Racially Charged Athletic Wing Decision 2008
BR: If you wanted to draft an athletic wing player, would you take Budinger or Walker? And why? Does the fact that Budinger is white give you even the slightest pause? Be honest!
TK: I only have bad things to say about Chase Budinger. He almost never takes (or makes) big shots. He rarely drives. He's extremely athletic but has no idea how to use it (or overthinks how to use it). He seems content to hang out on the perimeter and shoot over undersized wings (because that's who guarded him this year). One of the few informed posters on the Stanford scout.com board thinks that his height is overrated because his long neck means that he plays much lower than what's listed. He's also a horrific defender. I guess he could become a spot-up shooter on some team. I made the Brent Barry comparison earlier, but Barry at least played like an athletic player.
BR: I kinda wonder why Budinger would want to be a crappy NBA player rather than the greatest volleyball player who ever lived. Or maybe his ceiling wasn't actually that high in volleyball? I don't know, they don't play volleyball where I come from.
BR: Since he played on a mediocre LSU team, Randolph has been under the radar, but he's my sleeper pick from this draft. He's really the only player in the lottery who fits the post-KG skinny, athletic 6'11" guy mold that scouts once coveted so. Brandan Wright, a similar player from last year's draft, didn't really produce much as a rookie, but that's the whole thing--the ceiling for these guys is so much higher. If you're not drafting on need, I think you have to seriously consider Randolph.
BS: This is the next big scouting term. Mark my words.
DS: Brian Roberts (Stuckey-ish)
BS: Is there a difference between "Stuckey-ish" and "Stuckey-esque?" With that in mind, Dan's use of "Blatchian" earlier becomes especially intriguing.
CB: A player I really want to force into the conversation is Sean Singletary. Sure, he's 5'10" and probably won't even be drafted, but he was still one of my favorite players in college for the past two years. If I were a GM, he'd by my MONGA mistake. Players that are hugely clutch in college who have little to no chance of translating that awesomeness to the pros (like Morrisson and Acie Law) are intriguing to me. Acie was pretty much the clutchest guy ever, so what happens to that trait in the NBA? Is it that he'll never be in a situation to be clutch, or does something about his genetic disposition allow him to be uberclutch only in an amateur setting. Anyway, for that reason alone I'd roll the dice on Singletary and just throw him out there as the clock winds down hoping to be impressed.
TZ: Marreese Speights has an NFL name.
BR: I had to check to make sure there's really two R's and two E's. Impressive.
West Coast Combo Guards
BR: Since I don't live on the West Coast and I'm old (read: I go to bed early), I haven't really seen Bayless or Westbrook play very much. I know they're both athletic and skilled, but are these guys legit lottery picks? Is Bayless "the next Stevie Franchise" or "a poor man's Stevie Franchise"? This is an important distinction. Also, I wasn't super impressed with Westbrook when I saw UCLA play, but that's primarily because I spent most of the time trying to decide if Kevin Love was fat or big-boneded. Is RW a MONGA candidate?
BS: I would just like to interject that "poor man's" is different from "retarded."
TZ: Bayless seems way more MONGA to me, beyond Arizona or the number 0. Westbrook seems like a better Skip. Bayless certainly trends Francis on the Starbury-Franchise scale, though.
BR: Westbrooke is a better Skip? I guess I don't really know his game. I suppose he isn't very Arenas-like, since he isn't nearly the scorer that he (or Bayless) is. I'm trying to think of a 6'3" defensive-minded, athletic combo guard in the NBA. Hmmm.........how does he compare to Delonte West?
TK: Westbrook was my favorite player in the PAC-10 this year. He's not much of a scorer with the ball in his hands, but UCLA ran good plays for him, and he dunks over lots of people (Carter said yesterday that he thinks he could be one of the better in-game dunkers in the league, and I'm inclined to agree with him). His real strength is on defense, though, because he's one of the few players who I could see doing a relatively solid job on both CP and Deron. I'm not saying he'll suffocate them or anything, but he's tremendously versatile defensively. I think he'll be a good player for a long time.