Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Who will be the 1st pick in this years draft?

By all accounts, the top two picks in this year's draft will be Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley. Both are supremely talented basketball players that will be able to contribute to an NBA team immediately, but are still a long way from reaching their full potential. So who will get picked first? Based strictly on the numbers they put up this year, Michael Beasley is the obvious choice as he averaged a ridiculous 26 points and 12 boards, both top 5 in the country.

When it comes down to it, who the first pick is will depend on what team wins the lottery and their specific needs. For example, if Seattle wins, wouldn't it make more sense to take Rose, who fills their void at point guard, will be willing to give Kevin Durant all the shots he can take and avoids clogging their frontcourt with Beasley, Durant, and Jeff Green? If Miami wins it, then wouldn't taking Beasley and putting him on the court with Dwayne Wade and Shawn Marion all but guarantee at least a shot at making the Playoffs in the East (although personally I would still take Rose and team him with Wade in what would be the most athletic backcourt in the league)?

So with that in mind, let's assume that we are drafting to start a team, or more simply, that we are trying to pick based on who will be the better player in the NBA, not based on who fits better with which ever team ends up with the first pick.

Personally, I don't think Beasley is going to be great. He is immensely talented and has incredible physical tools. Offensively, his only drawback is that a bit raw skill-wise, especially with his handle, and doesn't yet really have a feel for the game, rather much of what he does is a result his talent and instincts.

There are a few reasons I believe Beasley will be a good and not great NBA player, none of which (well, one of which actually) has to do with his basketball ability.

What's the difference between guys like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Tim Duncan and guys like Vince Carter, Carmelo Anthony, and Amare Stoudamire? Why are the first three considered all-time greats, while the second three are considered very good players? Because of defense. Kobe, KG, and Duncan are all familiar with the NBA all-defensive teams, and more than just blocking a few shots or picking a few pockets, they actually take pride in shutting their man down. Yea, VC will pick off a few passes and take them for a dunk, but have you ever seen him take a charge or try to deny his man the ball? Yea, Amare set a career high in blocks this year, but have you ever seen him front in the post or at the very least consistently fight for position?

But it's more than just defense. It's about heart and doing what it takes for your team to win. It's about being a team leader. Do you think anyone on the Celtics is going to play lazy defense or take bad shots when they know they have to deal with KG? What about with Melo or VC? And which category do you see Beasley falling under? For the record, I know that Beasley is not an emotional player (like a KG or Kobe is), but neither is Duncan, who is a quiet leader. Can Beasley ever command his teammates respect the way Duncan does? I don't think he can, mainly because half the time when he is playing he just seems completely disinterested in the game. Maybe that is just his demeanor, but even in the NCAA tournament second round, when Wisconsin built a big lead in the second half, Beasley just looked like he packed it in instead of trying to lead a comeback.

Going along with the idea of heart, Beasley, by all accounts, has no work ethic. Check out this article from the Washington Post when he was still in high school (actually, his fifth high school in four years). Beasley actually stopped lifting weights because he said that the weight room in his school was too cold and he did not want to catch a cold. Doesn't exactly sound like he's a workaholic. And he also does not seem to have the ideal character or maturity to be an NBA player just yet. He actually managed to get himself kicked out of Oak Hill Academy - a private school that has been criticized for putting too much emphasis on basketball.

Rose, on the other hand, reportedly has an incredible work ethic, and that showed through during the season. The biggest element was the development of his mid-range game. Early in the season, Rose was struggling because he was working too hard trying to get to the rim everytime he put the ball on the floor. But by the end of the season he had developed a good, if a bit inconsistent, pull up jump shot, and had started taking floaters and runners instead of trying to use his athleticism to get all the way to the rim. He also is a good defender, and works hard on that end of the floor, using his size and athleticism to overwhelm smaller point guards.

He also proved he has the ability to shine on the biggest stage. One of the main reasons he is in the discussion as the first pick is the fact that he put it all together during the NCAA tournament, dominating games and playing nearly flawless basketball (until a late free throw). Even when he was struggling in the finals, playing with a stomach bug, he carried Memphis for a ten or twelve minute stretch of the second half, the same time when Memphis built the eventual nine-point lead with two minutes left (which really should have won the game for the Tigers, if they could hit foul shots). Isn't that what you look for in a guy? Someone that will elevate their game at the most important times, even when they aren't 100%?

The way he plays is also very important. He is a very unselfish player, with above average (although not great yet) court vision. He averaged 4.7 assists per game, which isn't exactly Jason Kidd like, but is low because of his slow start to the season and the fact that Memphis lacked perimeter shooters (so when he would draw defenders and kick the ball out, the guys he hit would then attack the basket, canceling out the assist).

Great point guards are few and far between, but can make a huge difference on a team (think about where Atlanta would be right now if they had Chris Paul or Deron Williams with the athletes on that team). I just don't see how you could justify passing up on one with the ability, athleticism, and mentality of Derrick Rose, especially when the other options has some very obvious question marks and (at least to me) seems like a fairly risky pick (Derrick Coleman anyone?).

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