Collapse in Reverse
Read the official FD Mock!
You don't need to warn me about the perils of drafting based on potential—what it seems like a player might be able to do one day. I have both been seduced by, and gotten endless mileage out of, this rotting cliche of NBA scouting. There's a distinction to be made, which I've done several times and don't feel like doing again, between "might be able to do" and "could be the kind of player who might be able to do." But while the latter is more immediately compelling, it's not like the former is more empirically sound, just not so utterly Romantic or suspended in a dream-like state not unlike religious conversion.
So it is with great trepidation that I seek to advance a serious scouting theory based on a hypothetical. However, since seeing that Brandon Jennings Euromix, I've been thinking about a line I've heard, and read, in several places: roughly, "there's just no one else in the draft who can do the things he can." The legend of Ricky Rubio aside, Jennings's slippery, high-speed trickery with the ball is an asset that just can't be ignored. Jennings is accused of showboating, streetball, next Marbury, and all the usual. But as a passer and facilitator, Jenning's game isn't bullshit, it's the kind of Nash/Paul skill that could pull together an entire offense in this PG-friendly (or -centric, you choose) era. And Jennings doesn't merely have great vision. When it comes to this one, rarefied aspect of the game, he can hang with anyone in the league.
If you don't believe me, ask Stephen Curry, speaking to Chris over at The Baseline:
CL: Tell me what you thought of Jennings. Everywhere he's going, he seems to be leaving a trail of fire, one way or another, like what he said about Rubio for example. Tell me what he was like as a player and what he was like as a person.
SC: As a player, he's very quick. You don't know exactly what he's going to do. He's got an unconventional style about him where you think he's going one way and he'll throw back between the legs and go another way. He's tough to guard because he keeps his dribble active and looks for open spots on the floor. He definitely is a solid point guard. I think his season in Italy really helped him develop going against physical guys.
CL: Did Jennings remind you of that you've seen?
SC: No, he plays different than anyone I've seen before.
CL: What makes him unique?
SC: His creativity with the ball. He's always moving. Even without the ball, he's just always active on the floor. When we were doing 3-on-3 drills he'd do the Steve Nash dribble from one side of the court, underneath the basket, to the other and do a turn around. He's a great passer, so you've got to stay in front of him
I know I shouldn't take the word of a player I'm not so high on. And as Henry noted, Jennings still has major holes. However, this is exactly the point I'm after here. Jennings isn't a gaseous cloud of could-be, nor a good young player whose past offers a template for future success. He's both more and less than each of these. In some ways, he's the best PG in the draft; in others, one of the shakiest, a project needing not only technical tutelage, but some basic help getting in tune with the pro game. The level of competition in Europe may be higher in the NCAA, and it helped Jennings grow up; at the same time, is there any question this kid's recent history leaves him with a lot to work through on the court?
But again, that brilliance with the ball, the total unpredictability and idiosyncracy Curry refers to. Yes, it could lead him to self-destruct. As of now, though, it's an enormous asset, at least one facet of what it takes to be a first-tier PG. I want to compare it to drafting Thabeet on the basis of his shot-blocking, and yet this isn't about a specialist. It's about a player with a gift, one that, if a team's ready to look past or committ to sanding down the rough edges, could be the basis of not just an All-Star, but a dynamic team. This is exactly why point guards can be the new franchise these days.
I like Evans, and he's ready right now. But he's not precocious, ahead of and behind himself, like Jennings. Rubio, who knows. At this point, it's impossible to separate his actual ability from the rhetoric (no, not "hype"), a lot of which is glib and contradictory. I don't blame him for not working out, but that's keeping us from getting the same measure of how he stacks up against other prospects. Please, discuss the Olympics below. However, regardles of what Rubio is or isn't, people seem either sold or not sold on him. Everyone agrees on Jennings. The question is whether you take a player on the assumption that from one great thing, other good things will inevitably follow.