Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Am I Missing Something With NBA Draft Scouting?

And people wonder why Duke is hated.

Unlike the NFL, MLB and some other sports, I don't pretend to know a ton about the NBA. I don't write about it, I don't think about it and in general I don't give a shit about it. But there is one thing that I've never been able to figure out with the NBA and that is how they evaluate college basketball talent and project it on the NBA level. And because I love college basketball I feel compelled to talk about it. Here's what I don't get in a nutshell: In every NBA Mock Draft I've seen this year, Josh McRoberts and Spencer Hawes are supposed to be selected before a guy like Arron Afflalo. When asked to compare Afflalo to current NBA players, names like Raja Bell, Bruce Bowen and Morris Peterson are brought up, but Afflalo has a better jumpshot than any of them. If Raja Bell or Bruce Bowen was a threat to score 22pts a game and dish out six assists, they'd be a couple of the hottest commodities in the league (not that Bell and Bowen are not desired players). That's apparently what Arron Aflalo has the potential to become.

As for Hawes, he is compared most favorably to a more athletic Brad Miller (and Vlade Divac) or a far less athletic Al Jefferson if he bulks up and starts to play defense (the latter being a more favorable comparison). If Hawes's upside is Brad Miller with a better handle, he'll have a good career. Brad Miller is an all-star caliber Forward / Center. But like Miller, Hawes can't guard his own shadow and is such a tweener Forward / Center that quicker forwards blow right by him and bigger centers bowl him over. Would you take that over Afflalo who was a three year floor leader for one of the top programs in the country and who you can lock up against the other guy's top 2 or possibly 3 guard while also posing a deadly mid range threat and who even can handle the point if necessary? But if we really want to blow this apart, let's forget about Hawes. How in the WORLD can you say that Josh McRoberts is a better player than Arron Afflalo.

McRoberts is one of my least favorite players of all-time. Right up there with the Rat, Chris Quinn, and one of the ugliest players on the planet, Josh Boone. So my analysis of McRoberts's game should be taken with a grain of salt (not that this entire post shouldn't). McRoberts compares himself to Chris Webber. Sure. I can see that. If Chris Webber couldn't shoot from outside three feet, loathed contact and couldn't rebound worth a damn, he'd be a carbon copy of Josh McRoberts. McRoberts has no back-to-the-basket game, he's got a decent motor and he was 5 for 23 from the 3 point line last year (not to mention he shoots 66% from the free throw line). So where do you put him? Is he Tayshaun Prince? No, because he can't shoot. Is he a less athletic Tyrus Thomas with a better handle? Probably, but what does that get you? At 6'10", you better be able to bang or shoot like Dirk, because there's not that much else out there for you. McRoberts can do neither and he didn't exactly dominate against weaker opponents in the ACC. His decision to leave Duke a year early in year where the group of athletes around his size (Durant, Brewer, Hawes, Horford, Noah) can do so much more than he can and was a really poor decision. These players are so versatile as to expose every single one of McRoberts's many weaknesses. His decision to leave early was the worst since Omar Cook came out.

With all of this said, what really gets me about the scouting process is that guys like Hawes and McRoberts don't pass the eyeball test while a guy like Afflalo does. By that I don't mean that white guys can't play in the NBA (though I wouldn't necessarily be wrong if I suggested it). But when you look at the skill set of Hawes, McRoberts and Afflalo and then look at the guys in the NBA, you see a dozen Arron Afflalo's and you don't see ANY Spencer Hawes or Josh McRoberts. Not one. I know that people try and compare these guys to current players, but nothing works. You want to know why? It's because their college game of "out-athleting" players and getting dunks doesn't translate in the NBA where the bigger guys are quicker and you can't get around them and the "smaller" guys are bigger and you can't back them down.

I understand that the mock draft guys have their ears to the ground and are only relaying what they think is going to happen because of what they are told is going to happen, but shouldn't someone take a step back and try and see where these guys fit in? Because if they did, they'd figure out two of these kids are doing there own thing. And their own thing sucks.

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