Well the NBA Draft Combine is in the books and the physical measurements are already available, with the athletic testing results to come out further into the week. And as some of us have already discussed, the results had some far-reaching effect for some players at the top and, perhaps more importantly, for players struggling to move up from either early second round to late first round (to get that guaranteed contract) or from the mid-to-late first round into the lottery or higher (to get more $$$ from that guaranteed contract).
As for the fans of each team with a pick in the first round (sorry Knicks, among other teams who were unlucky enough to trade their first round pick away in what has the looks of being one of the most solidly deep drafts in awhile), the measurements and athletic results have something of a mixed effect for fans in terms of who they want their team to draft come June 24th.
First off, we’re talking basketball and the taller, bigger, and faster you are (toss on how high you can jump on there as well) the more eyes are going to be turned your direction. So it’s no wonder that Jordan Crawford’s standing, no step vertical leap of 36″ wows not only scouts but fans alike. Or how Greg Monroe’s 9’2+ standing reach sends ripples throughout the league because at 6’11, 247 lbs and with that standing reach, he has all the physical tools (not to mention style of play) to be a center at the next level.
But I use Monroe for a reason. It is his measurements plus his game that equate to him being an intriguing prospect at the center position. We get engrossed by wingspan, shuttle speed, etc, etc to the point that we start trying to convince ourselves that so-and-so can play such position and could really take off at the next level and be the answer for that missing piece to the championship puzzle while also forgetting something that is pretty important in the NBA.
The ability to actually play basketball. How about fit, both positionally and when it comes to team chemistry? How about what you did during college and high school (or against equal levels of competition)? Or in other words, how about a player’s actual ability to use their physical and athletic gifts to excel at the game of basketball itself instead of simply looking the part.
Now by no means am I trying to chastise the fan or fan base who gets enthralled by measurements or athletic results because, as you all know, I keep track of them just as much, if not more, than most casual fans or even rabid bloggers. But that is precisely why I continually have to remind myself to keep the big picture at the forefront of my perspective.
There’s a reason Solomon Alabi is projected to go in the 20’s to 30’s. At seven-foot plus with surprising athletic ability, a sweet jumpshot, high shotblocking ability and a great character, there’s got to be a reason why this guy isn’t a top five pick that simply doesn’t show up on a measurements sheet.
That thing exists and is pretty easy to see. It’s called game tape.
I kept my eye on Alabi quite a bit this last year and for all the promise that he has (and believe me, there’s A LOT to like about Alabi if he can continue to improve), there are definite concerns about his development at the next level as a center, especially physically in the paint and as an offensive player, not to mention his lack of rebounding is a cause for pause.
But why am I using Alabi as an example? Because in a draft full of bigs that the Thunder could use, he’s the one that most draft experts have the Thunder taking, he’s the one who (if he develops) could be the answer to a lack of post presence and, especially, because he’s the guy (toss Larry Sanders on there) that we WANT to be the guy since there’s an actual shot the Thunder could get him.
And here’s the danger in that: It sets up unrealistic expectations for a player who clearly will need time to develop or will probably only be a reserve role player at the next level but “could be” that long awaited big man. And there’d be nothing wrong with unrealistic expectations if it didn’t typically turn into a sense of venomous disappointment at that player or the front office a year down the line when the promise of that missing piece takes longer to develop than originally thought or never comes to fruition at all…even when the “promise” of that player was never given by anyone but the fan himself.
And if you don’t believe me, do a search for “Byron Mullens” on this site and see what kind of reaction his rookie year provokes, even though he was an obvious project and low risk/high reward pick in the late first round but just happened to be 7′ tall, mobile and a very hyped player coming out of high school.
All of the signs were there for the fan base’s expectations to be tempered when he was selected (shoot, many of us would have preferred Dejuan Blair, to be honest), but what was the first thing that started raising those expectations after he was picked?
“Well he measures 7’1 3/4 in shoes, weighs 258 pounds and has a 9’3 standing reach. Plus did you see that he ran a surprising 3.45 in the sprint and scored an outstanding 11.10 in the agility drill. If he could just develop…”
But it’s what we say when we don’t keep things in perspective that is so troubling.
“And if he doesn’t develop, then he’s just a…”