Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NBA Draft, MBA, HORSE, Crabtree

NBA Draft
I love the “this guy looks like that guy” game and the “this player is most like this player” game. I do it constantly. And while I do it for fun, I’m told that scouts do it because it’s a good way to completely evaluate a player because it sort of puts a fake ceiling on the guy’s potential. With Blake Griffin telling the sports world what it already knew by declaring for the draft yesterday, it seems like a good idea to share who I think Blake Griffin is after watching him play in the tournament. He looks and plays exactly like Kenyon Martin, except that Martin was a far better defender, especially shot blocking (3.5 blocks per game). At 6’9 230, Martin is lighter than Griffin who is 6’10 250, but for all practical purposes they have the same offensive game because they both have (or had in Martin’s case) great aggression, explosion, and suddenness around the rim. Both are very solidly built, athletic guys, and both are bad-to-terrible from the free-throw line.

Griffin is lagging way, way, way behind in the ink and jackass category, but with time, he can make up some ground. Even with the injuries that Martin suffered in his NBA career (not to mention breaking his damn leg in the Conference USA tournament), Griffin would have to be pleased with this comparison. Martin went No. 1 overall and has made well north of $100M in his career. I’m guessing that Griffin would take that.

DeJuan Blair is another guy ripe for an NBA comparison. When watching games and reading through various profiles, I’ve heard him being compared to Robert “Tractor” Traylor, which is completely unfair and actually off base. Blair is 6’7 265. Traylor was 6’8 and 300+. Traylor was, and probably still is, fat. He also didn’t hustle at all possessing an extremely lazy all-around game. It’s a mystery why he was drafted so high, going to Dallas at No. 6(!) overall in ’98 at then immediately traded to Milwaukee for Pat Garrity and the Diggler. Blair is not fat he’s just huge. He also plays tough and his teammates seem to love him.

The guy whose game Blair’s most closely resembles, from a widebody and below-the-rim perspective is Corliss Williamson. They both are big 6’7 power forwards. Williamson weighed anywhere from 245-260, putting him in the same girthy category as Blair. They both were and are tough guys who don’t seem to take any mess. Now, Williamson was drafted higher (13th in ’95) than Blair will be, but Blair’s game is so similar to Williamson’s and he may even be a better player defensively because of his long wingspan. While Elton Brand is the absolute ceiling for Blair, but a more realistic career is Williamson’s, which ain’t bad.

A very random guy that we saw too little of this tournament is Florida State’s Toney Douglas. We only saw him play against that team with no regard for decency in basketball (Wisconsin) but in that brief period, he looked great. At 6’1 195, he reminds me of a better, stronger, more explosive Mike Conley Jr. (6’1 185). Douglas is actually older than Conley because Conley left after his freshman season while Conley is a senior, but that shouldn’t lessen his NBA prospects. The biggest issue with Douglas, now that I’ve actually looked at his stats is that he didn’t create many buckets for others (only 2.9 assists/game) and turned the ball over at nearly the same rate (2.5 turnovers/game). I have no idea if that’s because of his team’s inability to score of if he hogs the ball. He scored 21.5 and shot 38% from three and 81% from the line so he’s clearly able to get his own points, but if the Wisconsin game is any indication, he’s got a pretty decent-looking game and looked to be in complete control the entire time with an abundance of (well-deserved) confidence. He probably won’t be drafted in the first round, but it won’t be because he doesn’t deserve it (just as Mike Conley Jr. didn’t deserve to go No. 4 overall), but I can see him making a team and doing some good things in the NBA. Anyway, just watching him for the short period that I saw him, I’m convinced that he’s better than Luke Ridnour ever was or will ever be, not that that means much.

Here’s an extremely random and out-of-date take that I buried in my notes awhile back regarding Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who, by all indications, looks to be a guy I may castigate until he leaves UW.

I pulled this quote from Bob Condotta’s blog, the excellent beat guy for UW Football and Basketball. He spoke to Matthew Bryan-Amaning and asked him about his production during the Pac-10 schedule:

"It was just that when the Pac-10 season started, everyone started to fill in their roles, Jon and Isaiah (Thomas) and Quincy (Pondexter) were the main offensive guys on this team and I felt that maybe if one of those guys wasn't having a good scoring night I needed to step up,'' he said. "But what they needed from me and Darnell (Gant) was defense and rebounding, really.''

That’s a fair point about why he didn’t score much, he only averaged 5.4 points during the Pac-10 schedule. I get that. He wasn’t called upon to score and that’s totally cool. However, if he wasn’t asked to score and wasn’t shooting much, how does that explain shooting a ridiculously low 38.9 percent from the field as a post player? That’s atrocious. We all know that he consistently missed easy 2-footers, so I shouldn’t be surprised that he missed 61 percent of his shots, but it’s still remarkable. Does he not look when he shoots? He seems allergic to the backboard and is in love with the back of the iron. He turns what should be a high percentage shot (being 6’9 and in deep position in the low post) into a low percentage shot because it seems abundantly clear that he has no idea how to shoot a jump hook with any reliable degree of accuracy. I’m going out on a limb here by saying that someone is going to beat him out for playing time next season. A successful team cannot have its post player killing them on the offensive end. Maybe he’s left handed and hasn’t realized it. I want him to be good and UW needs him to be good, and maybe he’ll turn it around because he’ll be the unquestioned big guy for them. As we’ve seen time after time, players’ games mature as they get older. Brockman looked absolutely terrible as a freshman and while he didn’t progress all that much as an offensive player, he never had those types of physical skills. MBA has them and hopefully he’ll use them.

I watched the HORSE (presented by GEICO) competition during NBA All-Star Weekend. I love the concept and it makes sense for the NBA to stage the event outside because most people play HORSE outside, at the playground or in the hoop at someone’s house. Sadly, the event was boring and I was disappointed. The idea is cool, but there is an unavoidable flaw to HORSE that makes it kind of a crappy spectator sport. If no one is hitting shots, it’s unbelievably boring. The players don’t think it’s boring because if they keep missing, they’re hoping the other guy is missing too so that he can get himself back in the game. To make HORSE a successful spectator sport, the players themselves absolutely must be engaged and entertaining.

No one outside of NBA scouts has seen Memphis play all year (not even the good people of Memphis), so OJ Mayo was a bit of a mystery in terms of his NBA talent. I’m not talking about his NBA game, necessarily; I mean his talent to be extraordinarily cocky and entertaining at the same time. He definitely had some flashes of smack talk, I heard him say something like “it’s an easy shot Kev… no problem…” just before Kevin Durant was going to shoot. That’s the kind of stuff everyone does playing HORSE. It’s a reverse psychology thing to make people let down their guard a bit and miss an easy shot. It’s a head game and it’s accepted and encouraged—especially by me. I didn’t see any of that out of Durant or Joe Johnson. This event was missing a cutup, a person who is a non-stop jabbermouth who could back up anything he was saying. The guy that they were missing was Gilbert Arenas. He’s a motormouth of the highest order and he’s funny. He’s also been known to annoy the hell out of his teammates. I recall a story when he was a rookie where he had to bring donuts to practice, but before anyone could take one, he licked every single one. It’s a childish and stupid thing to do, but that type of attitude (annoying, but funny) is perfect for HORSE because it would throw people off their game or at least cause them to concentrate more. It really is a shame that Agent Zero was hurt this year, he’d have been perfect. Maybe next year.

Also, Gary Payton would have been an incredible contestant for this event. He had a really gross-looking “jumper” that he’d toss up with his head slightly cocked back and would have talked the entire time. Plus, GP is great with his left hand since he writes with his left hand, but shoots with his right hand. He would have melted people down with his ability and mouth, it’s too bad this wasn’t around when he was playing. Maybe they should have an NBA legends HORSE game?

Michael Crabtree
His injury to his foot notwithstanding, it seems so weird that several news outlets and football writers are lamenting the fact that Crabtree is not 6’3, but instead 6’1+ as if that’s a huge difference. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is he not bigger than nearly every DB he’ll go against next year in the NFL? Since when is being over 6’1 a detriment to a WR? Does it hurt Anquan Boldin? Just because he’s not as big as Larry Fitzgerald, a guy people want to compare Crabtree to because our minds are so limited we can only follow what’s directly in front of us. E.g. Fitzgerald was all the rage, deservedly so, in the playoffs, doesn’t mean he won’t be amazing in the NFL. So, consequently, every receiver is compared to him and anyone not fitting his exact parameters is therefore negatively impacted. It’s ridiculous. It’s lazy. And it’s all too common.

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