With the 2012 NBA draft just over 24 hours away now is as good a time as any to reflect on my evaluations of last year’s draft class. Normally it’s pretty easy to say “Oh yeah I knew X players was going to be a bust/success”, but unfortunately last year I made the tragic mistake of putting my thoughts in writing. So turning back, the “Sports Trough 2011 NBA Draft Recap” I did with my partner in crime (Justin Wynter) reveals something not completely shameful…
Before patting myself on the back it’s only fair to fess up to some of the players that I missed the mark on. These misses go both ways (either being too high or too low on a player) but overall none of them were particularly tragic.
Marshon Brooks –
What I said then: “Brooks really did end up being one of the most divisive players in the draft. As a fan of a team desperate for help at shooting guard he name certainly came up a lot. For me the concerns aren’t so much about his skills (no he’s not a great defender but not everyone is) and more about his attitude which came into question in a lot of the stories I read. He’s used to dominating the ball, being the man and getting his way. That won’t be the case next to Deron Williams and he better get hip to that right quick. Still the potential is there that he’s absolutely worth going 25th overall in this draft.”
What I think now: That wasn’t a particular scathing write up, but I didn’t exactly hammer anyone for their pick last year. The larger point is Brooks has already shown he’s worth a lot more than the 25th overall pick, and to be honest I wasn’t sure he was going to make it in the league. Injuries hampered him during the second half of the season, but his burst out of the gate seems to suggest he’s a rotation player (and a starter in Brooklyn) for years to come.
Jimmer Fredette –
What I said then: “This is my least favorite pick of the first 10 and it has nothing to do with Jimmer. People can’t get away from the “white player” comparisons of Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick, but Fredette is miles ahead of both in his ability to handle the ball and create his own shot. The problem I have here is with the Kings who now have the following backcourt players: Tyreke Evans, John Salmons, Marcus Thornton and Jimmer. If DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t lose his mind by mid-season and punch one of them just so he can get a touch that isn’t off a rebound I’ll be stunned. On the plus side as a Bulls fan this could also be seen as hanging a HUGE “For Sale” sign on Thornton.”
What I think now: Dead on about the part where a crowded backcourt was going to be an issue. However, the part about being miles ahead in ball handling and shot creation couldn’t have been further from the truth. Perhaps in a better situation Jimmer doesn’t have such a terrible season, but he’s still a lottery pick who got benched for the drafts Mr. Irrelevant – Isaiah Thomas.
Iman Shumpert –
What I said then: “I really don’t get Shumpert’s rocket up draft boards… wasn’t this one of the PGs who couldn’t get Derrick Favors the ball last year? If you have the #3 pick in one draft and the #17 in another aren’t you supposed to be a lot better than Georgia Tech was? This seems like a giant F.U. from Donnie Walsh as he walks out the door, here take the athlete with no defined or refined skills. Oh! And he can’t shoot, which ya know… is always great for Mike D’Antoni’s system.”
What I think now: This is a common mistake made in draft evaluations; in a rush to focus on what Shumpert couldn’t do I missed what he can do. Is Shumpert ever going to be a point guard even in the more non-traditional Russell Westbrook role? No. But he does have the potential to be a vital swing guard, a defensive specialist and occasional ball handler. That has a lot of value in the NBA even if he doesn’t fit the role I was evaluating him for.
Jan Vesely –
What I said then: “Wizards fans start your engines! In the last year the Wizards drafted John wall, managed to dump Gilbert Arenas, and find a plan moving forward: they are going to run, run and run some more. Youth and speed are the name of the game and with Wall running the show Vesely and McGee are going to throw down some serious highlight reel dunks.”
What I think now: For an international big man one year on a dysfunctional team is far too small of a sample size. This was a draft pick for years to come, but I made the mistake of expecting more immediate dividends. The main reason to put him on the miss list is the way the Wizards have responded in trading for multiple front court players: Nene, Emeka Okafor. That obviously means they have some concerns about Vesely as well (although even I admit using Wizards’ evaluation on players to justify my argument might be the biggest miss yet)
Tristan Thompson –
What I said then: “Well now we know who Irving will be feeding in the post and running those pick n’ rolls with. I am personally not crazy about Thompson because I think he offensive ceiling is low, but he will block shots, rebound like a maniac and provide a lot of energy. At the very least he and Irving will make the Cavs about 50x’s more watchable next year (if there is one).”
What I think now: Admittedly this is a bit of a stretch when talking about a miss but the only thing I said would happen that did was the rebounding. Thompson proved that he can bring that skill to the NBA but he was beyond dismal offensively with a 47% true shooting and no assists to speak of despite playing with a dominant lead guard in Irving. Most concerning is how little room for growth there could be; generally the biggest factor in the efficiency jump most second and third year players experience is in cutting their turnover percentage and Thompson doesn’t have much there to cut into.
Every dog has his day and with 30 picks to choose from there were bound to be a couple at least close to right.
Nolan Smith –
What I said then: “This is where Nolan Smith should be drafted? Sorry, I disagree. When I saw mock drafts suggesting he go 30th overall the Bulls I had to bite my tongue feeling it was a reach. Smith just strikes me as a very good college player who doesn’t have what it takes to make it on the next level. He’s a combo and a solid defensive player but I don’t think he’ll be able to score in the NBA, can’t shoot well enough and will struggle to finish at the rim. Plus he does not have the passing skills to get by as a point guard.”
What I think now: Is that I should have said what I was really thinking deep down – Nolan Smith is not an NBA player. He was a fine college player but the fact that the Trailblazers were working without a GM at this time was probably the only reason he went in the first round. He was terrible as a rookie and there really isn’t much to be optimistic about. Smith’s best case scenario at this point is that for roster or trade filler reasons that the Blazers pick up his third and fourth year options because he will not get a second contract.
Tobias Harris –
What I said then: “I love this pick because I don’t buy the line that guys develop better in college. As long as he’s going to get rotation minutes (and he’ll only need to battle Drew Gooden’s corpse for those) then I think Harris is a steal. Harris is a classic good at many, great at none type player who is always undervalued. In Milwaukee Bogut and Jennings are the anchors and the Bucks trade – dumping John Salmons and Corey Maggette for Stephen Jackson and Beno Udrih – plus this draft pick gives them tons more scoring, ball handling and flexibility 2 thru 4 to go around those two.”
What I think now: That the deal Drew Gooden made with the devil can only last for so long. Harris ended up buried behind a resurgent Gooden and emerging Ersan Ilyasova because – and trust me as a Bulls fan – Scott Skiles loves himself some veterans. He was basically fired from the Bulls job for refusing to play and develop Joakim Noah and Harris’ story could play out similarly. He put up really strong numbers in limited minutes as a rookie and once the veterans are cleared out in front of him I expect he’ll blossom.
Derrick Williams –
What I said then: “Williams is considered the other “sure thing” in this draft. Sure of what? I don’t know. He was a prolific scorer in college and did so efficiently by constantly getting to the line. But what does he do that Michael Beasely doesn’t? A fellow #2 pick, coming after a point guard, who was a tweener 3/4… Oh and he’s on the Wolves too? Yikes!”
What I think now: Williams talent is undeniable, but how many NBA flameouts can you say that about? He’s a four who wants to be a three because playing on the perimeter is glamorous, but the wing defenders in the NBA are significantly better than anything he saw in college. It just screams Beasely all over again. As long as Kevin Love is blocking minutes at his true position (read: as long as Williams is a T’wolve) then he’s well on his way to being another Top 5 bust.
Marcus Morris –
What I said then: “Speaking of duplication? Not only do the twins go back to back but they both go to teams that seemingly were already well stocked at their position. It’s interesting to see how different two players can come out with such similar physical gifts. Marcus is definitely more of a SF but I do wonder how well he’ll defend there, if he can’t play at the 3 then the duplication between Marcus, Chuck Hayes, Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson means someone has to go.”
What I think now: Is that we don’t know much more about Marcus Morris as a NBA prospect now than we did a year ago. He played a total of 126 minutes for a Rockets team that was absolutely bursting at the seams with 3/4 tweeners like Marcus. The trade of Chase Budinger might help clear a little bit up, but a year on the bench and shaken confidence has been known to derail quite a few NBA careers.
Enes Kantor –
What I said then: “You wonder if Kanter had played this year would he have gone #1? Still a big man with some offense and size at C with the defensive presence of Derrick Favors at the 4 and Paul Milsap off the bench give the Jazz a lot to work with up front going forward. Whoops, I did mention Al Jefferson there, did I?”
What I think now: While the prediction of an Al Jefferson trade was a bit off [reserving the right to claim that as a victory if he's dealt this off-season], it’s safe to assume had Kanter played a year at Kentucky he probably would have been the #1 overall pick. He certainly would’ve leapfrogged Williams and his size could’ve easily pushed him past Irving considering how injury limited his collegiate minutes. As it is he looks like a legit anchor going forward for the Jazz, and could pair with Derrick Favors to form the best defensive and rebounding front court in the league.
So where does that leave things? A few in the positive, a couple in the negative and a whole lot in the middle, kind of like everyone else. In closing I’ll leave you with a few thoughts on tomorrow night’s draft: Harrison Barnes and Austin Rivers are going to be seriously over drafted, and Jared Sullinger is going to have a number of teams feel very dumb this time next year.