2008 NBA Draft: Playing Devil's Advocate
I'm sick of it.
I'm tired of hearing about how great this draft is. I'm done with hearing about a skin-and-bones swingman being compared to Chris Bosh. I'm through listening to people tell me that an out-of-shape, under-sized power forward should be a top-5 pick. I'm overwhelmed by the thought of a selfish combo guard with a bad track record and a history of being shut down by college defenders being the clear-cut No. 3.
Granted, it happens every year. We want to believe that every draft falls into one of two categories: horrible (think 2006) or earth-shattering (2007). But it's time to step back and analyze matters properly.
The first issue with this draft is that nearly every top player is struggling to fit a position. Let's take a look at a quick breakdown, including only potential lottery picks:
TWEENERS (between forward positions): Michael Beasley, Joe Alexander, Anthony Randolph, Danilo Gallinari, Darrell Arthur
[img_assist|nid=1188|title=OJ Mayo|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=452] COMBO GUARDS: O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, Eric Gordon, Russell Westbrook
Now, I'm not going to be too picky. I do believe Westbrook are Bayless are quick enough and strong enough ball-handlers and play makers to become star point guards. I also think Beasley's talented enough that his tweener question marks won't hold him back too much.
But we're still looking at a list of seven players who could be drafted amongst the top 14 picks. In fact, Arthur is the only one who seems to be on the lottery bubble. Where does this put us?
Alexander can't handle or shoot well enough to truly play on the wing, but he's too short for the post. He's definitely got some Shawn Marion in him, but often players with similar skill sets struggle to find their offensive games in the NBA.
Randolph is being compared to Chris Bosh. But he struggled with his efficiency as a freshman, turning the ball over 3 times per game and shooting just 46% from the field. And he's rail-thin and had the worst bench press results at the Orlando predraft camp. He'll have to bulk up big time to ever play in the post. But his 2-of-19 shooting from three-point range will need to improve if he expects any respect from defenders at the NBA level.
Gallinari's problem is that, while his skills are that of a natural small forward, he will never be able to competently defend at the positon. If he bulks up, he would be able to give his team some ways to hide him against post players defensively. If not, he'll give up more points than he scores in most games.
Arthur has all the skills to be a top-tier power forward. But he's barely 6'9" and just 216 pounds. That says it all. He will be abused inside, and a team will need to be very patient while letting his body fill out.
Mayo and Gordon are both dynamic scorers with great shooting touches and a knack for finding the basket. They're athletic and strong and quick and should be stars. Except both will be very short shooting guards, and as a result, two potential stars who were arguably the top recruits in the country will struggle to prove themselves any better than Ben Gordon - a scorer who gives up nearly as much as he produces.
So What's Left at the Top?
We've now scratched off seven of the top 17 players on NBADraft.net's 2008 Big Board due to positional issues. I'm not saying those guys can't become stars - just that they will have to deal with issues that have really plagued other potential-filled prospects.
The remaining names:
1. Derrick Rose
2. Michael Beasley
3. Jerryd Bayless
4. Russell Westbrook
We'll get back to this group at the top later.
9. Brook Lopez
11. DeAndre Jordan
12. Nicolas Batum
13. Kevin Love
14. JaVale McGee
15. Kosta Koufos
16. Donte Greene
[img_assist|nid=1189|title=Kosta Koufos|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=471] There's a clear pattern here. Leave aside Batum - whose heart issues created some major concerns about him - and the lazy but talented Greene, this is a group of big men - and not a particularly impressive one.
Lopez, I believe, should turn into a solid NBA starting center. He's got the offensive skill set to become a solid player, even if he's proven to be a bit slow. He's got about as little star potential as anyone other than Love though.
Speaking of Love - yes, he was a nice college player. He can rebound and his fundementals are outstanding. But have you seen Kevin Garnett? Tim Duncan? Even Carlos Boozer? How can this tubby, undersized Bruin be expected to compete with the size and athleticism of the modern power forward? Kevin Love could dominate Europe, but in the NBA, Luis Scola is a reserve.
Jordan, McGee and Koufos are different stories. All wildly inconsistent and rather inexperienced, it's a wonder that three players who struggled to earn the respect of their coaches are now being considered lottery-worthy prospects.
Jordan has all the potential in the world, but he battled with fatigue and was too often at his worst in the biggest situations. McGee turned the ball over far too often and waivered between super-skilled and super-soft.
Koufos is clearly the most NBA-ready of the trio, but, for a player known for his jump shot and passing, 0.5 assists per game and a 34.9 three-point percentage aren't impressing anyone.
So Where Are We?
Potential, potential, potential. It's the most dangerous word in June.
The top of this draft is strong. Derrick Rose should be a top three point guard in the league for a long time. Michael Beasley is an explosive scorer and rebounder. And everything gets murky after that.
I've said that I believe Jerryd Bayless and Russell Westbrook will be able to run the point at the NBA level. But Bayless screams out to be the next Gilbert Arenas - a star who can carry a team but only so far.
Westbrook, on the other hand, has the look of a really good second or third scoring option. His defense and athleticism are truly outstanding, but it's difficult imagining him taking over a game.
In my mind, this draft has one potential 50-greatest type player, Rose. It has one other Hall-of-Fame caliber player, Beasley. And there are several players who should be All-Stars from time to time.
But comparing this draft to one of the best is foolish. 2003 produced one megastar (Lebron James), three hall-of-fame types (Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony), and numerous all-star caliber players (David West, Josh Howard, Leandro Barbosa, T.J. Ford).
I believe this draft will go down as a solid year. There is more depth this year than last. But at the top, the draft is weak.
So get your hopes down. Someone had to say it.