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Things I Learned From Chad Ford

Chad Ford's latest column teaches us How To Avoid a Draft Bust (insider) .  How wonderful!  By the time the 5th pick rolls around, there definitely an element of risk to picking any player.  So I began thinking, we should take these lessons and narrow down which players should remain on our draft board. 

I figure I'll take the group of players generally considered to be in consideration by the Kings, and we'll eliminate players until we have our true draft board.

"The Height of Sam Bowie"

Pitfall number one, according to Ford, is falling for tall players.  He calls it "The Height of Sam Bowie".  Ford explains why GMs keep making the same mistake with this example:

"If you're going to make a mistake, make a big one," one NBA GM said. "I can almost always justify to my owner when I draft a big guy and it didn't pan out that it was worth the risk. But when you pass on a guy like Andrew Bynum and then he blows up, that can get you fired."

This flaw seems to be real.  The success rate of tall players is pretty low.  So we can safely eliminate DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Derrick Favors, Ekpe Udoh, Cole Aldrich, and Hassan Whiteside.  Wow!  Chad saved us a lot of time.  There goes half our draft list right there!

"The Heart of Darko Milicic"

The second pitfall is a lack of desire or drive.  After taking a moment to say "You see, I wasn't wrong about Darko, Darko would've been the best ever, but he knew it was too easy to dominate the NBA so he didn't waste his time", Ford goes on to provide us a long list of players who washed out due to a lack of motivation.  Again we get an anonymous GM supporting this fact:

"Talent is the most important thing in the NBA," one GM said. "But if you lack passion for the game, a desire to get better and a killer instinct on the court, this league will eat you alive."

Scary stuff.  We better eliminate the players who have questionable drive.  Adios to Aminu.

"The Explosiveness of Adam Morrison"

Ford boils this one down to players that fail due to a lack of athleticism.  Another GM  backs up this information:

"Part of the problem is creating your own shot," another GM said. "But I think the real issue is that in the NBA you're only as good as who you can guard. If you lack lateral quickness, I think your ceiling is pretty limited.

We know that defense wins championships, and the issue with lateral quickness seems pretty legit.  I think we should probably be safe and eliminate anyone with questionable athleticism or who isn't considered an explosive athlete.  Removed from our list will be Evan Turner and Gordon Hayward.

We should also remove Avery Bradley since he was a great shooter but struggled to create his shot and finish at the rim.  Wesley Johnson also struggled to find his own shot, so he's gone too.

"The Resume of Nikoloz Tskitishvili"

Tskiti was the ultimate example of a player dominating workouts, but not being able to handle actual game situations.  This caveat indicates that you should exclude workout wonders and guys who didn't show it on the floor in games. This one seems pretty straightforward, but we've got more testimonials:

"I think the workout is the biggest source of mistakes in the NBA draft," one GM said. "I hate them. If you've watched a player all year and haven't been impressed, don't fall in love with a guy who suddenly starts hitting every jumper in an empty gym."

The reverse is also true.

"If you have a guy ranked highly all year," the same GM said, "why would you turn around and not take the guy just because of a poor workout? You have to look at the whole body of work."

So we need to eliminate players who struggled on the floor. This means we need to eliminate Patrick Patterson, Ed Davis, and Xavier Henry.  Sure, we could say it was because of the players around them or lack thereof, but excuses are an easy way to fall into this trap.  And let's get rid of John Wall, just to be safe.  After all, his PER was terrible.

We also need to eliminate anyone who has recently seen their draft stock rise since the season ended.  Goodbye, Paul George.

The Results

Wow, we eliminated our entire practical draft board.  I'm really glad Chad Ford gave us this list so we can avoid all those busts!

The Reality

Obviously, I took those examples to extremes in order to prove a point.  By the point remains that these tips are factual in nature, but only through the lens of hindsight.  Every one of these rules has serious exceptions.  These rules can help, and there are some GMs that ignore these basic concepts.  But it is ridiculous to label players a potential bust based on these criteria alone.  Player evaluation cannot be simplified this far.  It is a cumulative process. 

Every player has flaws, every player is a risk.  If they didn't, we wouldn't have these discussions and Chad Ford wouldn't be writing for ESPN.  The key is to figure out which red flags are deal-breakers, and which ones are worth the risk.  It isn't easy, and I can't tell you how to do it.  If I could, I'd be a GM and I'd probably make enough money to drive a newer car.

Chad Ford is an easy punching bag, particularly with hindsight.  My goal is not to take cheap shots at him.  My point is simply that this article was overly simplistic.  As Aykis showed us, Geoff Petrie has a fantastic draft record.  He exceeds many of his peers when evaluating success rates.  But even he has had his busts.  And yes, his busts can be placed in these categories.  But as I've shown, so can anyone.