Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Final Pre-Draft Thoughts

I'm softening on the idea of the Knicks taking Channing Frye. Not that he'll be the best available player at #8 or because he's likely to be a good player. The Knicks have two good players: Marbury and Mike Sweetney. That precludes them from taking a point guard (if available) or Ike Diogu. Their next best players are Jamal Crawford, Tim Thomas, and either Kurt Thomas or Quentin Richardson. Unless Isiah can trick some GM into taking Crawford or Thomas the younger off his hands, he won't be able to make use of Granger, Wright, Joey Graham, or Hakim Warrick. Selecting Channing Frye might be the first step not toward a championship but to half-way sensible roster construction. Unfortunately previous missteps may force the Knicks to ignore many players better than Frye. That needn't be disastrous. Someone useful should be available at #30 as well.

Beware Andrew Bynum. Pundits seem to be talking themselves into approving the potential selection of Bynum somewhere in the lottery because of Eddy Curry's improved play last year. Curry did improve last year but he still can't rebound, block even one shot per game, catch passes, or pass out of a double-team. And the Bulls (even leaving aside health concerns) have to decide at this moment in time whether to again invest a significant amount of the franchise's future in a slightly above average center who is definitely still young but may or may not still be developing.

Very few big men have to play basketball at the high school level. Their physical gifts exist in such stark contrast to the majority of their opponents that they have no need to develop the type of game necessary to take on the best basketball players in the world. The best high school big men struggle when they advance to college basketball where the upper limit of talent and size consists of Diogu, Bogut, May, Warrick, Simien, and Frye rather than Duncan, Garnett, Shaq, Stoudemire, and Ben Wallace.

Josh McRoberts is generally, almost universally, considered a better player now and a better prospect for the future than Andrew Bynum. McRoberts will struggle at times next year for Duke playing against Eric Williams and Ikene Ebekwe.

Bynum could be great at some point in the future, but I think the chance that he never develops into even a solid contributor combined with the chance that the drafting team spends the time and money to develop his talents only for him to use those talents for another team on his second contract makes drafting him an unnecessary risk.

I've got no problem with Andrew Bynum (or Brandon Rush or any other 18-year-old) not wanting to go to college, but far more important than instituting an age-limit, it's incumbent upon the NBA to create and maintain a developmental system for players who don't wish to attend college. The current system of drafting players who, like Bynum, have no chance of contributing immediately and sticking them at the end of the bench for two or three years while expectations for them fester benefits neither the teams nor the players.

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