12.17.2008

Don't Get Killed



Full disclosure: Part of the reason I love Upside and Motor's newly-unveiled NBA Archetypes so much is that FD has been discussing a similar model. Or maybe we did this, kind of, with the categories in the book. But he did it thorough, and I can't stop thinking about it. So here's the main image, and let's talk about it.

Actually, I really just want to use it to present my once-and-for-all argument for the age limit, something I developed during a shouting match at our Vassar appearance. While I don't exactly agree with Rob's hierarchy—big men of any kind seem to really get short shrift, even by my standards—it does clearly illustrate the rise of the guard that we've often discussed 'round these parts. The dream is of landing a Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Derrick Rose, who as recently history has borne out, are actually easier to build around, and thus truer franchise players, than the likes of the titanic Yao or Dwight Howard. Yes, refined big man is up there with point guard supreme, because the absolute gems of that category are still invaluable. But they've become 1B to the point guard's 1A. And, almost absurdly, you have to look down to the fourth tier to find another archetype that specifically requires size.

Again, I think that's a little batty. Still, it shows how far we've come from the "size conquers all" outlook, at least according to one model of things. While you usually hear about "need" versus "best available" (draft concepts that actually should more often be extended to include free agency and trades), the pro-height bias was almost a philosophy unto itself. In fact, it almost encapsulated, or subsumed, both of the others: Big players were always the best available, and you could always use height, because size wins.



And that, dear readers, is why I support the age limit. Let's not pretend that coming out of high school was about equal rights and opportunity for all. Teams disproportionately favored tall players; in fact, it was a truism that no one drafted high school guards. I can count on one hand the non-big men who ended up with favorable draft position: Kobe, T-Mac, Sean Livingston (length), Telfair (sneaker conspiracy), Webster (huh?), J.R. Smith (blueprint shooting guard, non-lottery), Gerald Green (dropped like crazy). Let's not forget about the 2005 draft, when Monta Ellis, Louis Williams, and C.J. Miles all fell into the second round, when at least one of them was projected to go in the first. Who went first overall last summer? Derrick Rose, who certainly deserved it. Would he have gone that high out of high school? Absolutely not. That just wasn't the culture of high school scouting.

There's a perfect confluence here of the rise of the point guard, which came about as a combination of Nash's MVP's and the success of Paul and Williams, and teams being forced to wait another year before delivering their final verdict on a player. High school big men were drafted on size, athleticism, and some semblance of coordination. Scoring wings or guards didn't just have to have outlandish numbers—who doesn't in high school—but also the size and physical ability that made them sound pro prospects. The likes of Williams, Ellis, and Miles might as well have been playing with counterfeit dollars. And then when you get to point guards, it's just impossible to judge how well they play with others until they're 1) forced to by stronger competition 2) given the opportunity to do so in a complex way, by having a coach 3) have teammates who can really take advantage of their brilliance. Don't believe me? Take a look at Chris Paul's assist numbers in high school (thanks to Kyle for that one) and college.

So if we all agree that guards, especially the pointy type, are gaining in value, but require more scouting, and big men are drafted on crude factors and no longer rule the game, the age limit makes perfect sense. Put simply, it gives the greatest opportunity to the greatest number of players, not just those born with tremendous height. The argument at Vassar hinged on the Williams/Ellis/Miles troika. The other side claimed that their being drafted showed that the age limit worked for guards. My point was, it shows that it didn't. Had Monta spent a year in college, he would've been a no-brainer lottery pick.

Anyway, we can debate Rob's archetypes further, but certainly it's a product of today's game and scouting climate, and makes a case that, in some ways, there have been shifts in this post-Suns era. Though that doesn't mean that Tim Duncan still wouldn't be picked over Rose, or even Paul, with hindsight.



BONUS: By popular demand, the saga continues:



HOLY COW ALERT: How did I not know until just now that D'Antoni had been on the Spirit of St. Louis?

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45 Comments:

At 12/17/2008 11:06 AM, Blogger Reverend Paul Revere said...

point guards are the present's future...bigs are so 1999.

 
At 12/17/2008 11:16 AM, Blogger Quantavius Sturdivant said...

i just found out that the band we're supposed to leave for tour with in 9 days can't go because of their drummer's work situation. didn't realize it was because the hawks played the bobcats. that sequence is almost frightening.

 
At 12/17/2008 11:22 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

RPR: That's what I'm saying (Dr. LIC actually made the point more extensively last month, but I can't find the link), which is why the age limit is good for players (and teams) now. The system is set up to let the most valued commodity emerge and be clearly assessed.

QS: We were debating last week whether Grizz/Hawks is the new Hawks/Bobcats, since Larry Brown is gutting Charlotte. Especially there was an ATL/Memphis game two weeks ago that was not broadcast. By anyone. Anywhere.

 
At 12/17/2008 12:00 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

I had thought about Monta's slipping into the 2nd round being mainly an effect of his being a (slightly) undersized shooting guard. Although, he Miles and Lou williams are also all from the South (Monta:Missippi, Miles:Texas Lou:Georgia) had anyone of those guys played highschool ball in NYC, they likely would've gone in the 1st. All 3 have better size/atheleticism/shooting touch than Telfair did. Monta scored 60+ twice in HS, and probably showcased his surreal skill set daily but scouts just couldn't make it all the way to Missippi enough to clearly "see" what was right in front of them. The same, although probably to a lesser degree, is likely true for Miles and Lou Williams. The "big man" isn't dread as much as the "post man" is dead.

 
At 12/17/2008 12:02 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Most high school picks came from the South.

Oh, and I forgot Travis Outlaw, but I would've left him off the list for the same reason I did Josh Smith.

 
At 12/17/2008 12:04 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

I agree that the age limit is good for the league because it gives them another year to evaluate/market new talent. It also gives kids a more realistic picture of where they stand, though thats not neccesarily a benefit. Telfair would've dropped almost as surely as guys like Monta would've risen. The question is, is it FAIR to kids who have the talent and ability to get drafted (be employed) by an NBA team?

 
At 12/17/2008 12:11 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

These comments have me thinking about the year when JR and Josh cae out of HS. I remember watching the McD's game and dunk contest (which they both particiapted in) and thinking "Oh sh!t. Its going down when these cats get to the league." JR was already fully tatted and Smoove was just too raw for words.

 
At 12/17/2008 12:13 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

It's only unfair to players guaranteed to go #1 overall right out of high school who deserve to. Everyone else can only move up.

I guess for a lot of kids, getting money faster is more important than getting more of it, but again, the old model prevented a lot of players from doing that because of height discrimination.

 
At 12/17/2008 12:16 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

J.R. actually had one of the better rookie years of any high school guard ever drafted.

 
At 12/17/2008 12:55 PM, Blogger Rob Mahoney said...

Wonderful follow-up. I just have one comment: big men do see a little bit of love. 'Interior defensive presence' almost certainly requires size, and 'Offensive-minded pivot' and 'Skiled, but flawed post' are certainly leaning tall.

 
At 12/17/2008 1:12 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Okay, I just saw your edit: Within each color, there's no definite order based on position. I saw the categories you just listed as 4th or 5th tier, but they'd actually be third. Still, the profusion of guard-ier positions--and hell, the fact that size doesn't overrun the second tier--supports my point still. Actually, your chart makes a lot more common sense to me now, while still leading me to the same conclusion. Everyone's happy.

 
At 12/17/2008 1:18 PM, Blogger W2 said...

Would you file Gerald Green under enigma or bust?

 
At 12/17/2008 1:36 PM, OpenID tredecimal said...

I still prefer "me-first douchebag" to "megalomaniacal small guard".
Is there a "GAOL LARRY" shirt in the works?

wv: avastere - the specific pirate who tells you to stop

 
At 12/17/2008 1:44 PM, Blogger mdflores said...

Great post, but it does leave one (potential) question unmentioned: Where do guys like Brandon Jennings, (and by that I mean the much hyped HS star who skips out for the cheddar in Europe) fit into the whole discussion? Does going and playing across the pond affect a high schooler's draft status in the same way that a year in college would?

 
At 12/17/2008 2:08 PM, Blogger Quantavius Sturdivant said...

bs: i don't think you can give the bobcats spot to the grizz until gerald wallace is traded. not to say memphis isn't deserving of the spot with the freewheeling gay/mayo tandem, but wallace and josh smith (and yes, kirilenko, but utah is too structured/talented) are the pioneers of that weird "small forward" archetype. it's hard to say who's doing more harm to the 'cats right now: brown or jordan.

i'm trying to figure out what scenario could lead to the bucks getting brandon jennings so i'd have a reson to go to games. nba-wise, milwaukee sucks. i don't want to say basketball hell, it'd be more like purgatory, with no one aware that they were even in purgatory.

 
At 12/17/2008 2:14 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I thought the consensus was that going overseas, for a good team, with a good coach, and not being pampered, was even better than a year of college. I tried to convince someone the other day that even if Jennings was being benched, that he took it like a man raised his draft stock.

NEW SHOALS UNLIMITED about Celtics

 
At 12/17/2008 2:40 PM, Blogger mdflores said...

So playing in Europe and being a man amongst men is better than going the college route and being a man amongst mere boys? OK, i can dig that, agreed.

The only thing I can foresee is that playing in college could have made him look like a better player than he really is, a la Acie Law or even Dee Brown back at Illinois. Playing in Europe puts BJ against semi-analogous players to whom he would be playing against in the NBA. Is his non-successful start also analogous to his play in the Association?

 
At 12/17/2008 3:28 PM, Blogger Rob Mahoney said...

Gerald Green = High talent, low IQ wing player + Under construction

 
At 12/17/2008 4:51 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Smoove on Rondo? How about this one?
http://assets.espn.go.com/media/apphoto/a122267a-ad2e-49a6-9dd6-ea8c4cd1119b.jpg
And yes he did get to it. Of course, he's now out with a strained wife's hat.
http://www.kirilenko.ru/photo/1/128_big.jpg
wv: flowgw. Gerald Wallace's version of the flowbee.

 
At 12/17/2008 4:51 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Duh, it was 5'11" DJ Augustin.

 
At 12/17/2008 5:28 PM, Blogger Kris said...

Switching up the topic a bit ...

In the last 20 years, how many "Elite point guards" have there been? And how many of those elite PGs have won titles?

 
At 12/17/2008 6:04 PM, Blogger Big Rils said...

Am I missing something?

"Actually, I really just want to use it to present my once-and-for-all argument against the age limit"

And then the whole post describes the benefits of the age limit. typo?

 
At 12/17/2008 6:13 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I hope it wasn't a Freudian slip. I'll fix that.

 
At 12/17/2008 6:23 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

"Playing in Europe puts BJ against semi-analogous players to whom he would be playing against in the NBA. Is his non-successful start also analogous to his play in the Association?"

No, not at all. EuroBall is not really analogous to the NBA for a variety of reasons. Jennings isn't producing because he isn't getting minutes, not because he's not effective. Being effective is not really related to playing time in Europe.

 
At 12/17/2008 6:37 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

I actually think jennings playing in Europe leaves him closer to a "out of HS" player in terms of name recognition and knowledge of how his game would translate. Of course, NBA scouts probably have access to all of the tapes of games he's played in and probably go to check him out live on occasion. So the picture they have of him is almost certainly more complete than mine. He almost certainly would've had more exposure/hype if he had been a "one and done" player at a major college program. Although, maybe retaining that air of mystery could be a good thing for him. He's most definitely learning some important lessons about pro ball in general (including the one Shoals mentioned, beefing with the coach, getting benched, etc) and I don't really see him slipping from the top 5 in next years draft. Hey Shoals, if you see this, whats your opinion on Johnny Flynn? I effing love that guy.

 
At 12/17/2008 8:58 PM, Blogger torgo said...

What about the dreaded unskilled/athletic wing? Or, as I like to call him, Tyrus Thomas? Where does the guy who can jump out of the building, but can't find his spot on the floor fall?

 
At 12/17/2008 11:21 PM, Blogger Rob Mahoney said...

torgo: Tyrus is in a group similar to Gerald Green, no doubt: high talent, low IQ wing player/under construction.

 
At 12/18/2008 1:11 AM, Blogger dickie said...

How did you manage to count seven players on one hand?

 
At 12/18/2008 5:34 AM, Blogger T. said...

I love the diagram, but I have a couple of issues. I think "brute rebounder" - Reggie Evans, Michael Cage, and "3 point shooting big" - Mehmet Okur, Sam Perkins - are all a lot more desirable than cancer, no?

 
At 12/18/2008 9:11 AM, Blogger lockeddown239 said...

on page 20 of your almanac it says a.i. entered the league one year after kobe

they were both drafted in '96
and were both rookies together

so it is lies you tell good sir

 
At 12/18/2008 10:27 AM, Blogger mdesus said...

Is dwayne wade realy not a first tier player? I get carmelo being a half step below, but wade? The guy is killing it. Also where does Devin Harris fall? This year he's an elite scorer, but I see that as a system thing (ie just go to the basket). As is jorge garbage (steve nash ultra lite) is on the same tier wade, and that's just silly.

 
At 12/18/2008 10:32 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

lf239--you're like the 50th person to point that out, so obviously your slowness is indicative of your own non-stop ignorance about hoops.

Once and for all: That kind of fact is exactly the kind of thing that can get altered, typo-ed, whatever, in the process of making a book. Especially when it's rushed by deadline. Same goes for the Bias mistake. Plus, you're not really questioning our basketball knowledge, but our ability to use Wikipedia, which is kind of silly.

 
At 12/18/2008 11:02 AM, Blogger Taliesin said...

Ellis also got drunk the night before the NBA draft combine and put up a terrible performance. Not that the pre-draft camp is the be-all end all of anything, but that plus his knee dropped him specifically into the second round. I agree with the idea is a benefit to small guys. Small guys are more about basketball brilliance than sheer physicality, and that extra time helps separate the wheat from the chaff.

 
At 12/18/2008 11:49 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

The short girl in that first photo used to cut my hair. Weird.

 
At 12/18/2008 1:05 PM, Blogger lockeddown239 said...

i'd feel bad if i didn't say anything wasn't really questioning anything

still an amazing book anyway

 
At 12/18/2008 3:11 PM, Blogger Gabe said...

The funny thing is D'Antoni still has the same mustache.

torgo: Tyrus wasn't the first. Remember Paul MacPhereson?


wv: aystes - the neuronal affirmation released by taste buds

 
At 12/18/2008 3:50 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Shouldn't there be another box at the top for "Blueprint Two Guard" or "Complete Two-Way Wing" (the latter of which sounds like some kind of deal at fast food chain that offers some form of fried chicken)?

Also, perhaps he and a few like him are merely exceptions, but OJ Mayo seems to me like a type of guard for whom the year at college is useless. If he'd gone straight into the L, he might have been #1 (probably not because of Oden and Durant), but might just as well have been the #3 that he ended up as (see id.). The year at college somewhat damaged his rep, but obviously unjustifiably so, since he's now tearing it up. Maybe he benefitted as a player from his time at USC, but it's hard to say. I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but it seems like there might be a subclass of guards for whom college really is a holding pattern that doesn't help them as players any more than a year as a pro would, and whose game just doesn't translate to college the way that it will to the pros, so the age limit doesn't help them or teams figure out appropriate drafting position.

 
At 12/18/2008 4:29 PM, Blogger AG said...

I have yet to understand FD's inability (refusal?) to classify and discuss Dwade. He is not second tier in execution, imagination, or philosophy. The fact that there is a feeling of 'boredom' or 'expectation' around him is ridiculous. The man creates. It might not be beautiful art.

 
At 12/19/2008 8:16 AM, Blogger W2 said...

DWade is slick. I would say that he benefits from palming and an extra step here and there, but this is not unusual for super stars.

I do think there is some resentment (and this may not be the case with the freedarko crew) from fans who watched DWade in the playoffs against the Pistons. I think the Pistons were a very likable team, and the Heat (Gary Payton, Toine, Posey, JWill) were the villians.

This is just a thought, otherwise I can't explain the DWade hate. I think his wife is ugly. That could be it.

 
At 12/20/2008 1:31 AM, Blogger Brian McCormick said...

I don't see how Monta Ellis and Louis Williams fit into a PG argument because neither are point guards. They are short shooting guards, like Ben Gordon.

Second, Monta Ellis dropped because he developed a horrible reputation for his work ethic. His trainer during the pre-draft workouts did not even want to work with him anymore and predicted he would be a bust. This is the guy who knows him as well as anyone and is supposed to be preparing him for success in the NBA. Talk about a red flag for an NBA team.

Derrick Rose would not have been the #1 pick out of high school, but O.J. Mayo might have been. A year of college helped Michael Beasley as much as anyone, and maybe Kevin Love because Love solidified the skills that everyone knew he had against better competition. He was the high school POY, but he probably would not have been a top 15 pick out of high school.

 
At 12/20/2008 2:13 AM, Blogger tray said...

See, big men are way more fun to watch than combo guards. You guys just don't realize it. Seriously, I'd pay about 20 times more to watch Duncan play than Arenas, Iverson, or whoever.

 
At 12/21/2008 3:12 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

@ Kris 12/17/2008 5:28pm:

On the subject of elite point guards, I wrote this elsewhere recently:
-------
Derrick Rose sure is great. I mean that with all sincerity. He shows signs of becoming a HOF, MVP type of superstar. Very few point guards in the last twenty years can say that. How many point guards were MVP contenders? There was Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, John Stockton, Kevin Johnson, Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway. I don't think Anfernee Hardaway ever rose to MVP level, playing alongside Shaq. Deron Williams is good, but he hasn't been transcendent yet.

And notably, none of the PGs above won a championship. Not one! OK, Payton won a title in 2006 as an ornery backup on Miami, but his luminescent days were long past. The last superstar point guard to lead his team to a title was Isiah Thomas back in 1989 and ’90. Looking at the last 18 championships, the lesson seems to be: If you don't have Shaq, Hakeem, Jordan, Duncan, or Garnett (i.e. a top 15 all-time player), you're out of luck. The Pistons of ’04 were the exception that proved this rule: they were able to prevail only after Duncan, Shaq and Garnett destroyed each other in the West playoffs.

Look at the point guards of all those champions: Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker (well, he was good in 2007, but mediocre in ’05, and so bad in ’03 that Speedy Claxton spelled him), Jason Williams, Chauncey Billups, Derek Fisher, Ron Harper, Avery Johnson, Ron Harper again, Kenny Smith, John Paxson. A serviceable point guard, plus an all-timer and an all-star, is all you need to bring home a title.

 
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