Friday, November 23, 2007

Kosta Koufos Is Old School, In A Late 90's Kinda Way

Kosta Koufos is described as "old school" and a "throwback." From what I saw the last two games the kid is Rik Smits without the post-NBA motocross ambitions.

I should probably start by saying that I think Kosta Koufos is a really good basketball player. Also, before I begin pontificating about the prospects of Mr. Koufos on the next level--and for the sake of full disclosure--I should probably say that Kosta was about 70% of the reason that Ohio State beat 'Cuse in the preseason NIT, and that that loss was infuriating because 'Cuse played so poorly and OSU shot out of their f'n minds. It's because of that loss that it's very hard for me to be objective about Koufos, but I'm going to talk about him anyway. And if you're still reading this, you're gonna listen.

First, Kosta Koufos is good. Very good. He's a legitimate 7 footer with 3 point range, a low post game on both sides of the paint and great feet. He doesn't have the muscle to bang yet but right now he doesn't have to because he's never in the wrong position and he's taller than everyone so even if he get moved by a stronger guy, he's usually long enough to grab the board or get the look. He's also smart as hell on the floor. At the top of the key he's one of the few college big guys with the vision to make the low post or backdoor pass. He's not the prototypical big kid who steps out and looks to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible. He can slip the high screen and move down the lane or fake the pick and roll and step back to take the three. His game is complete. We're told he's a lottery pick. A potential top 3 guy. A kid who in 4-5 years is supposed to lead an NBA team to a championship. We're told he's old school in a George Mikan kind of way with a Dirk Nowitzki flair. We're supposed to be excited. But haven't we seen this all before?

On defense he's lazy. He's conservative and strays far from the lane. Never fronts and never goes for the steal. In transition he's lazy. He holds the ball and doesn't look up court even if his young guards are flying. He's got the stamina of a mid 50's chain smoking Italian wife from Staten Island. Before tonight's game agaisnt A&M he hadn't played more than 31 minutes. And his most extended service of the year tonight against the most physical team he was awful at 4-16. He can't go up and down the floor 6 times without his hands meeting his knees. Matta is aware of this and pulls him 3 minutes before every the 13 and 7 minute TV timeouts to give him 5-10 minutes of break per half. Koufos also settles for shots that he won't be able to take against legit big men. He spots up from 15 feet with a 6'7" guy in his face because the guy can't reach him and takes crazy one handed runners through the lane because even if he misses he's in a better place to get the board then the 6'8" guys he's gotta reach over. He's no dummy. The guy can recognize his advantage and he uses every inch of it. He's an efficient weapon on the floor and it's impressive in the college game. But here's the rub, in 4 games he's got 9 fouls. He's not aggressive. He doesn't draw contact. He's been to the free throw line 10 times in 4 games. He's a guy who should be at the line 10 times a game. He should be blowing through people and getting charges on offense, blocking or attempting to block 8 guys a game and getting chippy bodying fouls. Instead he's laying back and fading away. He's around the basket and grabbing boards but getting out rebounded by smaller guys who want it more ('Cuse's 6'5" SF Paul Harris had 12 boards to Koufos' 9) and he never takes an aggressive foul. He's getting 18 and 8 a night and getting to the line 3 times and playing about 30 minutes a night. No better no worse. He can improve if he wants to but I don't think he wants to change his game.

I like watching Kosta Koufos play because he's such a smart player and plays such a different game than everyone else but he's done nothing to show that he's not just another soft European with great inside touch and not enough range. And if that's what you want to lead your team then he's your man. That's gonna get him a ton of publicity and probably won't leave him many lonely nights and he'll probably work lottery contract out of the whole deal but for the timebeing Kosta Koufos is Rik Smits with a better haircut and hotter teenage groupies.

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