The draft is an incredible process. Every year we see players rise and fall in draft rankings, long after the last games have been played. Teams get excited about a players workout, our sour on a player based on a perceived flaw. Most importantly, teams make these same mistakes over and over.
I don't watch much college basketball. I watch even less international basketball. As such, I struggle to evaluate players in traditional methods. I rely heavily on what I read and learn from all of you. Rather than writing a draft preview full of information gleamed from others, I instead prefer to focus on situations.
In what has become a bit of a tradition (see 2010 and 2009 versions), I compare players and their draft situations. As such, the following comparisons are not based on how players play. At all. I cannot emphasize this enough. If I compare a player to Darko, it isn't because I think he plays like Darko. It is because I believe his situation leading up to the draft is similar to Darko's.
If you click the links above, you'll see that I am often wrong. Sometimes comically so. That's OK. These are intended to provoke though and discussion, and then to provide laughter in retrospect. Looking at last year's predictions, mission accomplished.
Please note, players are in no particular order. Although Sactown Royalty bylaws required that I list Jimmer first.
The Jimmer is actually one of the tougher players to contrast. I could easily turn to a Stephen Curry comparison and shamelessly link to my comparison of the two players. That, however, would be a comparison of playing styles, so I shall resist the temptation. Instead, I believe the best comparison for Jimmer's draft scenario is that of Ricky Rubio.
Rubio is the last player I can recall stirring StR into a such a frenzy, and was equaling polarizing. Half loves him, half loathes him, half think he's somewhere in the middle, and the other half sucks at math. Unfortunately, we still don't know if Rubio will be a success in the NBA. However, this comparison does ensure that David Kahn will likely draft Jimmer and then spend the next 2 years trying to convince Jimmer to buy a house in Minnesota.
Biyombo has a great first name, and the last name works pretty well. He's an international man of mystery that has scouts and GMs fascinated with what he could become. He young and raw, but could become one of the best players from this draft. Chad Ford wrote the must-read bio of Bismack, a bio which convinced many folks to buy in completely. Clearly, Bismack is Darko. Darko Milicic.
This seems like a good time to reiterate that these comparisons are not necessarily meant to be an evaluation of a player's potential or predicted success. This is simply an observation of the similarities between draft situations. With Darko we saw the importance of fit. Had Darko gone anywhere other than Detroit, his career may have been much different. Ending up under Larry Brown was a worst-case scenario for Darko. Similarly, Biyombo needs the right situation. Teams should be cautious about drafting him unless they are willing to devote the time and patience into developing him.
Kanter has been an interesting player. Slated to join Kentucky, he suddenly found himself ineligible after the NCAA rules that he had received compensation for playing overseas. Rather than attempt to catch on with another international team, Kanter remained in the US and worked out privately. If a perfect comparison exists for this scenario, I can't think of it. When considering the details of the scenario, Kanter most reminds me of Brandon Jennings.
Jennings, due to completely different circumstances, was also unable to join the collegiate ranks. Jennings opted to play overseas, but many of the same questions surrounded Jennings as now surround Kanter. We wondered what might have been if he'd played college ball. We wondered how his stats would translate? Jennings was unimpressive overseas, but translated fairly well to the NBA. Kanter is a similar mystery. I suspect he will be similar to Jennings; not a flop, but not an immediate superstar.
Irving is another difficult player to compare. Irving was a high school phenom, but injuries limited him to 11 collegiate games. In those 11 games, including games in the NCAA Tournament, Irving impressed. Nobody seems confident that he'll end up being the best player in this draft, but everyone is confident he should be selected first overall. This reminds me of John Wall.
Last year there were questions about whether Wall had the highest ceiling, but there was no question he would go first overall. Considered a safe pick, he was selected first overall and became the new face of the Washington Wizards. Irving might not have the highest ceiling, but he's considered safe. He'll be selected first overall, and he'll become the new face of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Williams' draft situation is one we've certainly seen before. He led his NCAA team to some impressive victories, but ultimately fell short in the tournament. He's widely seen as the consensus second pick, but there are some who believe he should be taken first overall. There are questions about what position he'll play in the NBA. All of these things remind me of the draft situation of Kevin Durant.
Whenever I make a comparison like this I feel compelled to include a reminder that I am not comparing styles of play nor am I comparing player potential. The situations are similar, that is all. Williams, like Durant, played the 3 in college but is considered an undersized 4 in the NBA. Time will tell, but Williams does have the potential to be more successful in the NBA than the consensus first pick. A consensus first pick who happens to have a history of injuries.
Vesely was initially in last year's draft and was expected to be a high lottery pick. He pulled out at the last minute and returned to play overseas for another year. This gave teams more opportunity to scout him, and more opportunity to observe the flaws in his game. More questions arose. It is difficult to project where he will be selected this year, but he probably would have been better off making the leap last season. All of this reminds me of Tiago Splitter.
Splitter was coveted by NBA teams for years. Depending on the season, he was projected to go somewhere in the lottery. He finally made the leap in 2007, being selected by the Spurs. He was selected much lower than he likely would have gone in earlier years. After remaining in Europe several years to avoid the rookie pay scale, he joined the team last year. It is too early to tell how this will impact his career long-term.
Rather than needing to focus intently on every key stroke, I'm going to call Jonas by his first name. In time I'm sure I'll learn to quickly and easily spell his last name correctly, but not today. Jonas is a young international player, standing just about 7 feet tall. He doesn't carry a ton of weight, making his a quick and versatile center who can step back and shoot the ball. Teams have had an opportunity to scout him, but would still be drafting based on what they hope he will become. Basically, he's Andrea Bargnani.
I don't really have a comparison for Leonard's draft situation. I'm sure one exists, but it escapes me. I considered leaving him off this list altogether, but that seemed inappropriate since he very well could end up on the Kings. Rather than forcing something here, I'll take a pass. This might seem cheap, but it's better than two years ago when I didn't include Tyreke on my list at all.
Brandon Knight seems like a great kid. I'd be pretty happy if he fell to the Kings at the 7th pick. But it strikes me as odd that he shot up the draft board shortly after the season ended. In early mocks, he was projected to be more in the 5-10 range, rather than seeming to be a top 5 lock. He's a player who jumped, and is considered one of the prizes of this draft. I'm not sure I disagree, but it seems to have come from nowhere.
This reminds me of what I saw with Tyreke Evans. I know he was on the radar for lots of people, but it took me by surprise when we were discussing him for the 4th pick. I feel I should reiterate again that I'm comparing draft scenarios, not player styles or player potentials.
Kemba Walker played a couple of successful seasons of college ball at UConn, leaving with a National Championship. He's more of a scorer, but his size has him pegged as a point guard. He's quick, and has been known to play a little out of control at times. And now, despite playing very well and demonstrating a variety of admirable qualities and skills, people seem to be talking themselves into why he should fall in the draft.
All of this reminds me of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook had played very well for a very good UCLA team, and demonstrated a variety of skills. However, by the time the draft came around, many pundits had talked themselves into lowering Westbrook's projected draft position, as well as his expected success. Sam Presti took Westbrook 4th overall, which was considered a bit of a reach at the time. Similarly, I expect Kemba will still go fairly high, it will be considered a reach, but Kemba will probably turn out just fine.