Saturday, May 24, 2008

Not Two

One of the more perplexing elements in this year's draft is the assumption that the top two players are going to be far superior to everyone else. I don't see it shaking out that way, and find it mildly offensive that seemingly everyone is willingly embracing this "Elite Two" idea.

The 2007 draft was unique - Oden was the classical center we see maybe twice a decade, and Durant made a shockingly indelible mark. By December it was clear that both were special talents worthy of the #1 selection. The age-limit rule was the only reason either of these guys attended school, and their wholly unique talents were on full display - Oden was a virtuoso center and Durant a freakishly long forward that spelled out "FUTURE". Both were special, not the type of players that show up every year or two.

Now we have 2008. Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose are two exceptional freshman, and because we were so inundated with the Freshman Duo of '07, we seem to have unconsciously labeled Beasley and Rose as being in the same realm. And they are not. While Beasley had one of the more prolific statistical seasons (playing Sacramento State and Winston Salem helps) a freshman has ever had, he has none of the revolutionary knack that Durant's game oozes with. Beasley is instead just an extremely talented forward, and one who should be an All-Star many times over. But his talent alone does not imply championships, as both Oden and Durant did last year.

However Beasley's misrepresentation in draft circles seems minor compared to Derrick Rose's status, which gets more overblown with each passing day. Rose is an incredible athlete who has been deemed the "next great point guard" despite the fact that he really hasn't shown to be much of a floor general. That is understandable for a 19 year old - but Rose seems more of a natural scorer than anything else, and while that is fine and should translate well into the next level, it is far too early to compare him with Chris Paul or Deron Williams. Rose's stats, unlike Beasley's, do not shoot out on us - instead he has the reputation of being a winner, although it helped that the Memphis team he was on was absolutely loaded ( and he wasn't actually their best player).

So the hype over these two guys and then the supposed drop off is sensationalistic - it is quite possible that the best player in the draft will be picked later. I personally think Jerryd Bayless (incredible scorer) and Kevin Love (an animal inside) will both be better pros than Rose. But the larger point is that good talent will linger long after the top two of this draft. The talent dip is not like last year - there is not the high peak that Oden and Durant represented, but more of a gradual slope. Shades of 1990 surely exist, but the storyline to follow this year could be how overhyped freshman (OJ Mayo, Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan, Anthony Randolph) get picked far too early. Ultimately the '08 draft might go down as blowback from '07 - and in retrospect we might begin to realize how dangerous it can be to overrate freshman, because not all can live up to their imagined potentials.


Rob Mahoney said...

You're right, Beasley and Rose shouldn't be uttered in the same breath as Oden and Durant as far as draft potential. The talent level in this draft is pretty high, and as a whole people seem to assume that if you're on top of a talented draft you must be really really good. That's definitely not the case with this draft, where I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Lopez, Mayo, Love, or Bayless ended up a better pro than either Rose or Beasley.

Although I'm not so sure the issue is overhyped freshmen. Most of the stellar freshmen in the draft really do have a lot of NBA potential, and a lot of their skills are translatable. I guess we'll just have to see how it turns out.

Nick Silverman said...

I actually agree with almost everything you said, but I wouldn't call Derrick Rose a natural scorer. He is a tremendously athletic point guard with phenomenal passing ability, but he is not great scorer because of his mediocre/average jumper.

The reason I compare him with Devin Harris instead of Jason Kidd is his ball-handling ability. Rose is a tremendous ball handler even under moderate pressure from single coverage, but if he is in traffic or is double teamed, he tends to lose his head a bit and pick up his dribble or slow down. The great point guards can dribble as well through traffic as they can in the open court.

jazzpowerforward said...

Yeah that's like just totally amazing. Ha! I know have made a comment with an identity!

Duff Soviet Union said...

I agree with most of this. I do think that Beasley is going to be awesome (on a whole, the schedule he played wasn't that easy. Everyone plays cupcakes) and I would take him number 1 in an instant, especially if I was a team that needed a scorer. Hey Chicago. I think he has real Dirk Nowitzki potential but no one ever makes that comparison because they're different colours. Agreed about Rose. He's nice, but for better or worse, I just see Baron Davis. I think Love will be really good too. The one guy I disagree with you about is Bayless, who screams "overrated" to me. Undersized shooting guard with no defense at all. Randolph, Gordon, Jordan and especially Brook Lopez also seem like busts to me. Mayo's also a bit overrated but at least he'll be o.k.