The Actions of Others

Thu, 06/26/2008 - 6:03am

Russell Westbrook should buy Rajon Rondo a really nice Rolex. At the very least, he needs to send him a thank-you card.

[img_assist|nid=1273|title=Russell Westbrook|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=477]DeAndre Jordan needs to head back to Texas A&M to study arthroscopic surgery. Either that, or hire a witch doctor who specializes on healing the knees of 7-foot Lakers' centers.

Danilo Gallinari needs to ask Shaq to come up with a new rap directed at Andrea Bargnani.

The most fascinating subplot of every NBA draft is how the actions of other professional basketball players can have drastic repercussions on each incoming class.

A player's stock can either skyrocket or plummet based solely on the performance of other players with similar skill-sets.

Sure, it's beneficial to perform well and impress scouts and GM's with what you bring to the table. But unless players comparable to you enjoy success the same year you're eligible for the draft, you might lose out on millions in guaranteed money.

This time last year, Westbrook was known in most circles as "the other guy" in UCLA's backcourt. Darren Collison ran the show, but an early-season injury allowed Westbrook to grab the spotlight and showcase his point-guard skills.

After a pair of Youtube-worthy dunks established Westbrook as a cult icon, his stock soared on most mock drafts.

We here at had Westbrook listed as a potential lottery pick in 2009, but his defensive prowess and all-around athleticism allowed him to enter his name in this year's draft. The sophomore earned rave reviews at every workout he attended and decided to keep his name in the mix.

Meanwhile, Rondo attempted to hold down the fort at point guard for the Boston Celtics. Like Westbrook, Rondo was an otherworldly athlete blessed with supreme defensive skills, but he was held back by a shaky jumper and inexperience as a floor general. However, the pluses far outweighed the minuses as Rondo proved to be a key cog in Boston's charge toward an NBA championship.

Just imagine, had Rondo flopped in the Atlanta series, allowing the Hawks to pull off the unprecedented first-round upset, Westbrook might be headed back to UCLA right now. As it stands, there's a good chance Westbrook could be drafted as high as No. 4 this year.

On the flipside, Jordan was mentioned as a possible top-3 pick through much of the winter. With an enormous frame and mind-boggling athletic ability for his size, Jordan was said to have an upside comparable to Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum.

Through the first half of Texas A&M's season, the vast majority of Jordan's field-goal attempts were of the dunk variety. Few scouts cared that his aim at the free-throw line made him look like a drunken Cyclops trying to play darts for the first time. They loved his jaw-dropping, mind-blowing, skull-shattering upside.

At this time, Bynum finally seemed to put everything together as the Lakers looked like a genuine title contender. He took a while to develop, but when he had everything working, there wasn't another big man quite like him.

Had Bynum managed to stay healthy and provide a steady contribution throughout the Lakers' playoff run, there's no doubt that Jordan would be among the first 14 names called. As it stands, there's a better-than-decent chance Jordan slides out of the lottery.

The draft has changed in recent years. Back in the day, scouts wouldn't have cared about Jordan's propensity to vanish for games at a time or his completely underdeveloped post-up game. Had Bynum stayed healthy, someone in the lottery would have talked themselves into Jordan's immense physical gifts and pulled the trigger on the enigmatic Aggie.

As for Gallinari, he is without question the top foreign prospect available this year. In past seasons, you would have seen certain draft prognosticators trying to convince the general public that he was a more valuable commodity than Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley.

The 6-10 Italian swingman can shoot, handle and create his own offense. Unlike some Euro phenoms, Gallinari has posted strong numbers against stellar competition. He was the key offensive component for AJ Milano of the Euroleague -- a brand of basketball considered as good or better than Division I college hoops.

Gallinari was ranked as a top-5 prospect through most of the spring, until Bargnani's sophomore slump extended throughout the Toronto Raptors' stretch run.

Had Bargnani, the No. 1 overall pick in 2006, asserted himself as a vital component to the Raptors' playoff push, Gallinari would be a lock for the top five. As it stands, he is relying on the New York Knicks at No. 6 to select him, or else he might slip to the New Jersey Nets at No. 10. If the Nets pass, who knows where he ends up?

There are few professions where the performance of total strangers can have such a drastic impact on one's earning potential.

If it wasn't for Chris Paul and Deron Williams establishing themselves as two of the league's brightest under-25 stars, we're almost certainly looking at Beasley as the No. 1 overall selection. However, Carmelo Anthony (the player Beasley is most frequently compared to) didn't know when to say when, which means Rose will probably be the face of his hometown's franchise.

As we all know, the NBA is a copycat league. Much like the entertainment industry, basketball GM's see something that works and attempt to take advantage of it for as long as it's successful. With the league's modified hand-checking rules, it is of paramount importance to lock up a skilled point guard.

Had this draft happened five years ago, Beasley might have battled Gallinari for the No. 1 overall pick, with Rose inexplicably slipping. Jordan might've gone in the top-5.

In the present tense, Westbrook is this draft's hot prospect, while Jordan is likely to wait a while to hear his name called.

For guards, the so-called "tweener" label was considered a death sentence, but Gilbert Arenas, Monta Ellis and especially Dwyane Wade have turned that theory upside down. As a result, Jerryd Bayless and OJ Mayo are considered potential All-Stars.

In the novel "High Fidelity," Nick Hornby's main character Rob Fleming uttered the immortal quote, "It's what you like, not what you are like." In the NBA, it's not necessarily how you play; it's who you play like that will play a vital role in your draft status.

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