Thursday, June 26, 2008

Why some picks slip and why it might not matter

I've read where various players are slipping in the NBA draft. Interestingly, guys who slip sometimes end up being good picks. Paul Pierce dropped the year he was drafted and, as we just witnessed, has developed into one of the league's premier players.

So why do players drop?

One reason is the three-day postseason camps in Orlando and Portsmouth, where if a player performs poorly, it could really cost him. In other cases, he may not even get invited.

Then there are the individual workouts, speed and agility testing, and height/weight tests, etc. In my opinion, at the workouts, because of the rules, teams are no longer allowed to have players play 5-on-5 basketballm, which emphasizes real competition in a game situation.

Nor can teams have prospects compete against one of their current players.

Who will be drafted tonight, but struggle once he hits the NBA (e.g., lottery picks Sheldon Williams, J.J Reddick, DerMar Johnson) and who will be a second-round surprise (like Monte Ellis and Gilbert Arenas).

In every sport, there are guys who've been labeled by scouts as too short, too slow, too whatever. And yet these players often do wonderful things when they actually get on the floor/field/ice. That's because they (1) know how to compete; (2) are smart, understand the game, and know how to make up for their weaknesses; and (3) are fundamentally sound in other facets of the game.

I remember when I was an assistant with Orlando when head coach Chuck Daly taught me a good lesson about evaluating players. Coach Daly sent me down the Magic weight room to observe Rashard Lewis as he worked out with the team's strength coach Mick Smith.

I went back to Coach Daly to report that Rashard (a high school kid at that time) could barely bench-press 135 pounds. It was then that Chuck looked at me and said, "That stuff doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what he does in a 5-on-5 game."

Well, we know how the story ended: Lewis slipped to the second round, where he was drafted by Seattle. This past season for the Magic (after nine seasons with SEA), he averaged close to 20 ppg.

Lesson learned.