Lane Agility: What exactly does it project?
I have been scratching my head over this question for a long time. I know that it is obviously a difficult few seconds of a test, and some of the best athletes in the NBA have done quite well, as I hear John Wall did this year with a time of 10.48 (I believe, I think that is what was reported). Well, in my journey to try and find more on these combine tests, which interest and confuse me in their relevance when it comes to a players potential to be a great basketball player (I feel it holds some relevance, but I see no real connecting formula), I came across an interesting fact when it came to the Lane Agility Tests.
Jamison Brewer ran a 9.65 in this test. 9.65! I mean, it is .43 faster than the next fastest finisher in draft history (Maurice Evans, who has carved a nice little niche for himself) and after that it is another .24 until the next fastest recorded Lane Agility Drill at the combine. Now, how is this possible? I mean, it is like Usain Bolt running against Cecil Fielder (maybe a slight exaggeration), but honestly, when he ran that time, were people like, "Man, you sure you got it right?" It just seems to make so little sense that a person have that much of a lead over the next competitor. But, at the same time, maybe Jamison just trained in that drill until he had it perfected, maybe it was his focus to master it. But, I have so many questions. Do players train in this drill before they participate, or just do it on the go? I am guessing it must be a common practice drill, and that they at least do it before hand, but how did a guy just smoke the rest of these incredible athletes?
Jamison Brewer obviously was no slouch athletically. He jumped 32.5 max vert (which is fantastic if you are between 6'8-7' plus, but not even close to elite for a player who was 6'2.5 without shoes) and ran a very respectable 3.15 in the 3/4 court drill. But his lane agility destroys any formula you would use to try and get a solid grip on how the drill portains to a players capabilities. I mean, Jamison could have started his Lane Agility Drill at the same time as John Wall, taken his Max Vert test and than still have time to cheer John Wall to the finish. Maybe I am overreacting, ok, definitely, but I really want people to answer what this test projects. We all know that these athleticism tests are not the end all be all, many of us are just curious and use it as a way to maybe project players and make comparisons to past draftees, but with this test, it just boggles my mind. All I know, is that when it comes to lane agility, we know that Kevin Durant got smoked by the likes of Greg Oden (11.67 to 12.33, huh?) and not to mention Durant is sandwiched between the athletic prowess of Emeka Okafor and DeSagana Diop when it comes to the drills history. Also, us that follow combine history know of Monta Ellis' notoriously horrible combine numbers, but his Lane Agility was bested by Mark Madsen. Yes, one of the quickest players in basketball currently was bested by a guy who is known for the most awkwardly white crip walk in the history of man kind.
Now my feeling is, that certain players, more than likely the ones on the edge of the first round or even guys who just want to get into the draft picture period, train for these combine events night and day. It is not to say they maintain this regiment, or have the ability to maintain and work at that level as the top athletes in the sport of basketball do, but the combine is kind of a one time deal, and I am sure most of us still say, "Oh, so and so has a 40 inch vertical" even though so and so may have just eaten 3 inches off that vertical as soon as he finished his last team workout. But I honestly am just musing about the meaning of these tests when it comes to measuring the potential of a player. I think that logic says you have to take these results with a grain of salt and focus on what tools a player possesses as a basketball player and their mental approach to reching their full potential, but it is hard not to muse "well, he is just like this other great player." In this I am talking about Chad Ford's recent exclaimation that Derrick Favors has incredibly similar measurements to Dwight Howard, thus has the potential to be more than just a 4, but a 5 as well. Now, no matter how poor the PG play was at G-Tech, does anyone believe that Derrick Favors is the second coming of Superman (Jr., respect to Shaq)? I do not even think Derrick Favors believes that, I do not see him yoking down 13-14 rebounds on an average night. Amare Stoudemire, maybe (which is actually not a bad thing at all, but just a drop off on the defensive end/rebounding that has proven Amare to not be in the class of Howard when it comes to elite basketball players). Heck, maybe you can even make a case for Favors going second, but basing it just off of him measuring 6'10 and getting up, which was pretty much already known when it came to him, is to me not at all proof he should be selected over Evan Turner as a potential franchise 5. It is one of those things where Derrick Favors will more than likely be forced into it against his will, I am pretty sure he does not want to guard Centers or post up the entire game. But, his measurables somehow told Chad Ford otherwise.
Sorry, this as usual has become a rant, and a long post, but it just has been in my mind, and I would love to make some sense of it, and get input. What do you take away from athletic testing? Is Luke Babbitt the next Joe Alexander because he is a white guy who had a strong combine? I think Luke can just flat out ball as well, where as Alexander always had a lot of questions when it came to that area, though he smashed the combine and could speak Mandarin. But do Luke's combine numbers boost him in front of players of maybe similar size who just seem to have better basketball acumen and more potential? I would say not, but I am guessing it makes Babbitt to the Grizzlies seem a lot more likely (or maybe even pushes him up to the Pacers, lol). All I know is that if Luke Babbitt goes to the Clippers at 8, the Joe Alexander curse will just be thrust on him from the get go (Milwaukee 2008). But does DeMarcus Cousins having a high body fat percentage scare you, or lead you to say, wow, imagine if we got this guy in better shape? I am guessing it does both, but to me it just makes his potential even greater honestly. It makes his level of reaching this potential in my mind less, but if that guy even gets to around 10-12, like Shaq in his prime, I could see him being a very significant 5 man. So, here are my last questions, if you would like to take a shot at answering them.
What do you take from combine athleticism scores?
What do you think the Lane Agility Tests measure when it comes to a basketball player? (and I do not want, it measures their agility, duh)
How did a player like Jamison Brewer run such a blazing Lane Agility Test? (Fast enough to get a relative unknown drafted in the second round by the Pacers)
Do these measurements sometimes change your feelings on a particular prospect for the better or worse, or do they confirm a prospects worth?
and, a final one, that I am guessing people will love:
If already established NBA players, or past players in their athletic primes or otherwise, did these drills again (I am mostly thinking about vertical, which I find the most interesting though not necessarily a great way of actually seeing how athletic a player is), do you think they significantly or even slightly imporve on these results? I remember seeing Dwight Howard's Max Vert reach was 12'2 according to combine stats. Now, this would not really make Dwight able to dunk on 12 feet now would it? Or get that 12'6 marker in that first dunk contest? The answer: Either he improved in terms of his vertical, or he just in fact can jump somewhere in the 12 foot range. So, this is some food for thought. By the way, anyone still think Jordan Farmar has the highest vertical in the NBA? Just wondering :)
the abillity to move back and forth quickly and fluently and turn while still maintaining speed
your Footspeed basically
But do you get that from the results basically, is what I am trying to ask? Like, would Steve Nash, who is excellent at changing speed and direction, kill this drill? I mean, what do you get from the results that Jamison Brewer makes John Wall look like Mark Madsen? Do you think Maurice Evans has some of the best foot speed amongst the Atlanta Hawks, much less the entire league as a whole?
They probably are capable of good defense(if They try) and are tough mo evans actually is a really good athlete and defender
mikeyvthedon you pose some really interesting questions.
I think lane agility in particular is an excellant marker of 2 attributes. Body control and foot speed. I believe its an excellant indicator of your defensive ability to navigate the floor without picking up bad fouls. This certainly doesn't mean you know what your doing out there on the floor. You may still very have a poor basketball IQ... but athletically your capable. It proves you can change direction and maintain speed while doing it repetitively over a 10 second period.
Vertical jump is the ultimate body weight exercise. It takes everything you can muster to jump high. There are many "stick figure" guys who jump very high but are otherwise very weak. It is more of a measurement of how capable you are at controling your body in an extremely short burst of energy. Of course fluidity and timing come into play here aswell.
Basketball is considered an anerobic sport. This means theres alot of breaks, standing around and walking when the players aren't making jaw dropping plays. I'm sure you notice that there are players such as Paul Pierce for instance who might show up for combine testing and not do very well at all. This doesn`t mean he`s not a good ball player, but if you put too much weight into athletic testing you will miss out on some remarkable players. I think Gordon Hayward will be this seasons example of a player who falls into this category.
The 2 things athletic testing does not cover is Shooting and Basketball IQ. It is helpful to know that if a player has just run his heart out for ten seconds, can he hit and open jump shot? If your out of shape, your legs won't be under you for long and your shot becomes eratic. Basketball IQ. Can you see a play unfolding before it happens? Do you recognise the tendancies of teams and players? How fast can you see these things? What kind of anticipation do you have? The ability to make the right play at the right time... like what Reddick accidently did at the end of game 2 against Boston this playoffs. He grabbed a rebound on the defensive end with 7.5 seconds left in the fourth and instead of immediately calling a time out he dribbled twice but didn't cross half court before he called the time out. This not only ate up 4 seconds of playing time but it also forbid the Magic from advancing the ball. That was a critical play.
This brings up the 3 types of ball players who exist in the NBA today.
1) the athletic freak
Young players under 28-30 tend to play this way. When their athleticism declines so does their game. Guys that stick around after 30 have evolved and improved their overall game because their physical gifts no longer provide an edge. Thus, their effectiveness tappers off.
You would be surprised to know how many NBA players don't lift weights or do any other conditioning other then just playing basketball and a sensible diet. Usually these players are taller, but its not a rule. Bruce Bowen said he had never lifted a weight ever, but he was a very good defender.
2)the savy player
Paul Pierce, Sam Cassel, Steve Nash, Larry Bird, Jason Kidd, Dirk etc were/are all category 2 players. They anitcipate plays as they unfold and move around the floor with or without the ball like they were moving chess pieces. Their technical skills tend to be off the charts aswell.
3)the savy player who is also an atheltic freak.
Fans tend to gravitate towards the 3's because they are amongst the most productive and entertaining players to watch. Wade, Kobe, MJ, Lebron etc. These players are very rare because when you play like a savy vet. you tend to think "I'm good enough skill wise". I can get to where I want and move fast enough to accomplish what I want. The athlete in them decides they could further improve their games by being the highest jumpers, fastest runners, quickest, most agile player on the floor aswell.
Solid answer Hot Snot. You bring up very good points as well, and I agree very much on the last part about the players that combine savvy with elite athleticism. They are usually the best players in the game. I just wish the combine gave us more than just a players potential to excel, but I guess that is why you have the draft in the first place. Everyone in the draft has a chance to show and prove, and I guess that is what makes a draft so intriguing. I call the draft ignorant bliss, because for fans it is always about hoping you picked the right guy, and for the few months or even few years until they contribute or fizzle, you get to project great things out of the player your team or another team has chosen.
Their will never be a way to know what these tests fully mean, their is too much of a margin of error and honestly, some people might not be the test taking type. But if someone thinks that DeMarcus Cousins and Larry Sanders won't block shots because they jumped sub 30 inches, I think you will be pleasantly surprised when they are both fairly productive. I for one can not dunk a basketball, but I have beaten and got the better of people who can quite often. One time in a full court 4 on 4 game against some younger, much faster and more athletic track runners and jumpers in college, I thought it was a good example of athleticism only getting you so far on the basketball court. We I believe beat them 11-2 or maybe they scored 3. Their speed did not really seemed to matter to someone who just pulled up from 25 right through the hoop. A good example I think of someone who killed athletic testing and was picked much to high wa Troy Bell. Troy was a great player at BC, tested off the charts athletically, which gave people the idea that he had a world of potential. But, Troy's game was not really one that used this athleticism to his advantage, he was more of a shooting guard in a point guards body, and he just did not stick around. When people were comparing Randy Foye to Dwyane Wade a few years ago, it was hard not to see some parrallels. But, even as close as they seemed athletically, Foye just does not have that wreckless abandon to get to the tin that Wade has. The bottom line is their are some players who the athletic testing confirms what we already knew, they were fantastic athletes. But I think for certain players, it is a mask, that covers up certain glaring holes in their game. That is why the NBA probably got rid of its ranking system, as it was becoming obselete. The only way you know how athletic a basketball player is comes with what they do when they are on the basketball court. That is why the combination of athleticism and saavy is what stands out past raw athleticism, all the time.
Mickeyvthedon and Hotsnot, I like both of your breakdowns in this subject matter, but one thing i'd like to add is that GM"s and scouts see a guy ( to refer to HotSnot's 3 typs of players) who is an athletic freak and they chose him high in hopes that with the proper training and surrounding cast he can evolve into a "type 3" player. This is where a GM takes a look at the lane agility or 3/4 court sprint and take a chance on these workout all-stars in hope they be great. Honestly, most of the time they bust or are servicable players, but do not live up to thier draft pick number. BUT sometimes they do, Gerald Wallace was extremely raw and is now an all-star as was Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudamire, but they are by far the exception not the rule.
My man, I agree, that is why so many athletic combine wonders are taken so high. But as far as your examples, one was picked 1, and he was just the flat out best prospect in the class, and as much as he was not polished offensively and such, he was compared to Tim Duncan, Dwight had game (still does). Amare was another one who was an athletic marvel, but dude could flat out play. It was character questions that dropped him to 9 and not his ability in my opinion. Some people thought he could be the first pick in the draft had he left after his junior year of high school. Michael Jordan would have looked mighty intuitive :). With Gerald Wallace I see your point, because Gerald was still very raw and averaged less than a 10 spot his only year on a disappointing Alabama squad. But with Gerald, he went far too low. He went 25, so it was not like the Kings were taking much of a gamble. Gerald was the number 1 rated guy in his HS class the year before, decided wisely to go to school, as he clearly was not close to ready, and than over the years developed into a solid basketball player (though with a still fairly limited offensive arsenal beyond his athleticism, but nonetheless incredibly impressive year). But do you not think Utah said, "hey, we'll take Raul Lopez" because they were worried about more than just his athleticism. The three guys before Spains former 3rd stringer were Brandon Armstrong, Jeryl Sasser and Joseph Forte. All out of the league, all put up better numbers in college, all leave you scratching your head as to why anyone of those teams would not take a gamble on the athlete picked 25.
So you do bring up a good point, some teams do want to mold one of these athletes to a baller, but it is far more the exception than the rule. Two guys chosen for their athleticism in that same draft, Kedrick Brown and Rodney White, are both monumental busts. But, the guy who did little in college and just had athleticism to work with turned into a steal. My only problem, is that it does not set a precedent. You either choose the athlete and regret it, or not choose the athlete and regret it. Or vice versa. Agh! The choices one must make as a GM are not enviable. Makes the good ones look all that much better in my eyes. But even those guys have their share of regrets I am guessing. Think the Magic do not go back and say, "Why did we pick Fran Vazquez over David Lee or Danny Granger?" I know I would kill myself over that, even if they win the chip this year (good luck), I would be like "Well what about the year before?" Hindsight is 20/20, but I just wanted to get people thinking about the great qualities basketball players possessed beyond these tests that are used to gauge how athletic a prospect is in accordance to the player they are or could become.
I hear you my mention of Dwight and Amare are stretches, but, sadly, it was much easier to throw up a list of guys who were taken based off athleticism and failed as to ones that had success. Kwame, Darko, Swift, Julian Wright, Haislip, Alexander, and so on, I could probably rattle off 20 or so in about 10 minutes, but that does nail the point home that picking a guy off athleticism alone is such a risk and your right, that would be a rough spot to be in because as a GM, when you are confident in your organization and your coaches drafting an athelte in hope he may become polished isn't such a stretch...at the time, but in reality those are they guys who have the highest probablity of busting.
that you can't predict who's gonna work hard and who's not. Who's gonna be able to motivate themselves, and want to become better when they are basically set for life.
I pretty much agree with all the posts, it's basically the potential of being a great "lockdown" defender.
I also believe you have to look at the guys who are looking to improve all the time because honestly most of the guys now dont know how to work hard or are in NBA shape so you can have guys whose best years are their first two and then they disappear. Gerald Green look good early on but he stopped improving. I remember his first year people were saying Portland was stupid for taking Webster. Webster is still in the NBA but not Green.
This is why I am so high on Patrick Patterson. He has shown he like to work hard and improve his game. He also has great measurements as well. He also if I am not mistaken from his interview , he said he graduated so that is worked on his game and graduated in 3 years. There are some drafts before that he could be a number 1 pick but in this draft people think it is stupid for him to be number 6.
that JJ Redick posted a 10.94 lane agility time, which was faster than Russ West, OJ Mayo & Evan Turner.
Most people forget that Basketball is an adrenaline sport...