What we know that NBA folks will find out
Updated: May 4, 2010, 7:58 PM ETBy Doug Gottlieb
With the seemingly blank canvas that many young draft prospects present to NBA teams, the pre-draft workouts and the "combine" in Chicago often offer coaches and front office people a different perspective. All that sounds great as players get a chance to show who they "really are" instead of who their college coaches wanted them to be. No longer are roles assigned -- instead, players break free of the supposed chains and constraints of their college offenses and play freely. But to steal from a car analogy, some players are pre-owned, some are pre-loved and all need to have a thorough diagnostic check before you buy. Real background and insight are at times cast aside because coaches and general managers have only two or three years of development to study. A GM and a coaching staff will more often use the info that is tangible, what they see in their workouts. The extensive write-ups done by scouts and the director of player personnel combined are often used only to validate the staff's position, not talk them off the proverbial ledge. But buyers better beware. Granted, there are times in which the past can trick us. Russell Westbrook was a major risk at the No. 4 spot in the draft. He had not really been a point guard at UCLA and in truth his explosive game only took shape during his second, and last, college season (he averaged just nine minutes a game as a freshman). Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti took a supreme risk in drafting Westbrook and handing him the reins, but despite a high turnover rate and a work-in-progress jump shot, Westbrook has been as or more dynamic than most -- myself included -- could have imagined. On the other hand, Jordan Farmar's inability to win the starting point guard position from Derek Fisher is surprising to some. But to those of us who had watched Farmar in high school and college, we knew that though he had many attributes to his game that would work at the next level, he was/is a pick-and-roll point guard in a system that rarely uses ball screens. While he is a good leader, he was stepping into a situation where Kobe was clearly the leader and Farmar's sharp tongue would never really be utilized. Want a few more examples? On draft night, Jay Bilas publicly warned NBA teams of Marcus Williams' baggage on and off the floor. Williams never really got into great shape in college and never pushed himself to be a better athlete or shooter on the floor. Julian Wright never really came into his own at Kansas because he could not shoot and had no position, the same issues that have plagued him in the NBA. Javaris Crittenton was all upside and size at Georgia Tech, but he's now best known for being the well-traveled "other" guy in the Gilbert Arenas gun display. Bottom line: Every GM and exec has been fooled by guys leading up to the draft and some have unfortunately taken the bait and selected just such a player, while passing on the likes of Paul Millsap, Carl Landry and Glen Davis. So with that in mind, here's the buyers-beware guide to next month's NBA draft:
• Daniel Orton did not play his senior year in high school because of to a knee injury, but if you had seen him play growing up, you would know that it all depends on what day you saw him. One college coach told me that he watched Orton play at the same event two days in a row in the spring of his junior season. The first day the coach drove home thinking he had just seen the best prospect he had seen in his 15 years of recruiting. The very next day, he went into the same gym and watched Orton get abused by a player five inches smaller, while pouting over not getting the ball and generally getting taken behind the woodshed. Keeping in mind that Orton is a 6-foot-10 specimen who has a nice face-up game and can be a terrific shot-blocker -- and truthfully is a good kid with a solid family -- the "Carfax" report says he is just emotionally immature at the moment, and to throw him to the wolves in the top 15 of this draft seems foolish at best.
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