Jun 23, 2009

Picking Apart the Top Picks

Admittedly, it's all speculation at this point. . . but this year's draft class seems pretty weak.

Browsing the sports cyber-world, I came across NBA.com's consensus mock draft, and was shocked by how many players with glaring weaknesses were projected as lottery picks. In fact, every player not named Blake Griffin (and potentially James Harden) seems destined to underwhelm at the pro level, in my estimation.

Normally, I focus my pre-draft analysis on team needs and overlooked "sleepers." This year, I'm going to be as pessimistic as possible. For each consensus lottery pick, I will present my arguments for why he shouldn't be drafted so high. I've excluded #1 (Blake Griffin) because I don't see any glaring flaws in his game.

2) Hasheem Thabeet: Where do I start? I contemplated writing this entire piece on Thabeet's shortcomings. He's a flimsy, one-dimensional shot-blocker with no resemblance of an offensive game. He got manhandled in college by DeJuan Blair, who is 9 inches shorter than him. He ain't gonna sell any tickets. But he's tall... and he has upside. Yeah, we've heard that before. Think Mutombo at best and Sam Bowie at worst.

Thabeet Rocking the Pink Throw Sweater in Defensive Stopper Fashion

3) Ricky Rubio: The Pistol Pete comparisons are tiresome. If the videos I've seen aren't lying, the Pistol could shoot. Ricky can't. In fact, he shot below 40% from the field last season in EuroLeague. And for all of the press on his remarkable ball-handling, Rubio turned it over 3 times a game in only 23 minutes per. That projects to around 5 turnovers playing starter minutes. But he's excited to play in the NBA. As long as he's not in Memphis. Or OKC. Or Sacramento. Or Minneapolis. Good luck with that.

4) James Harden: Harden's college stats point to a well-rounded game. I saw him play a lot, and he was clearly the best player on the court. When he was engaged. If Harden is going to be a bona fide shooting guard in the NBA, he's gotta be more aggressive. 13 shot attempts per game (like he had at ASU) isn't gonna cut it. I also think he's a little slow for a 6'4 guard.

5) Tyreke Evans: Apparently GM's searching for their franchise point guard aren't putting much merit in Evans' college stats. 3.9 assists, 3.6 turnovers, 27% on threes, 71% on free throws. Shaq can get away with those kind of stats. Point guards can't.

6) Jordan Hill: Meat and potatoes guy. Every team needs a power forward who can rebound and hit the mid-range jumper. There are a lot of guys in the NBA who can do that. That's why you pick one up through free agency -- not with the 6th overall pick.

7) Stephen Curry: Curry should be a 2-guard, but isn't really big enough to play the position full-time. He has the stroke to fill that Vinnie Johnson/Ben Gordon microwave role, but this is the lottery we're talking about here. You don't use a top-7 pick on a role player.

8) Jonny Flynn: I'm having DaJuan Wagner flashbacks...

9) Demar DeRozan: For all the "De"'s in his name, this dude doesn't play much "de"-fense. That's problematic for swingmen trying to cover Lebron, Kobe, and the rest of the multi-talented offensive juggernauts at that position. Oh, did I mention he shot 17% from three? And that's from the college three-point line.

10) Jrue Holiday: He can do a lot of things. He's just not great at any of them. 8.5 ppg & 3.7 ppg as a frosh at UCLA. Impressive.

11) Brandon Jennings: When drafting a point guard, leadership should be as important a factor as scoring, ballhandling, or passing. Jennings didn't get the memo. When Jennings couldn't skip college for the NBA, he thought he was too big for the NCAA, making headlines with an international rotation. Then he made those laughable pre-draft comments. He's sure got a lot of confidence for a guy who put up 6 ppg and 2 apg while in Rome. Rubio's international stats don't look too bad after all.

12) Gerald Henderson: The last 5 guards drafted out of Duke? J.J. Redick, Daniel Ewing, Chris Duhon, Trajan Langdon. That worked out well.

13) Earl Clark: Last year, he put up 14 points on 12 shot attempts per game. Not terribly efficient for a 6'9 guy. To be honest, I haven't seen him play much. I did a little research, and it came as no surprise that "shot selection" was listed as one of his weaknesses. Another listed weakness was "focus." That would worry me.

14) DeJuan Blair: It's no wonder Blair can't block shots. He's just a hair over 6'5" without shoes on. Only one post player has ever excelled in the NBA at that height: Charles Barkley. Will Blair be the next Barkley? I say no.

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