How Not to Sound Like a Raving Moron on Draft Day

The Timberwolves opted for Wes Johnson in 2011 over DeMarcus Cousins, the best player available. Was that the right choice?

The Timberwolves opted for Wes Johnson in 2011 over DeMarcus Cousins, the best player available. Was that the right choice?

Draft season is always fun. Whether it’s studying countless mock drafts for days on end, watching the combine, or scouring scouting reports, the draft always seems to take on a life of its own. Yet, there are always some things that put a damper on the fun by looking at things the wrong way, and consequently saying the wrong things. Sometimes, it’s a fine line we walk between sounding like an informed individual and sounding like an endless cliché-spouting ninny. Don’t worry, I’m here to help you survive draft season while maintaining your respectability.

Rule #1: Remember Who You’re Talking About

This one really requires logic and common sense, so if you already understand things like don’t run a red light, you’re probably on the right track. Of course, I’m talking about our tendency to scrutinize and critique teenage prospects.

“He’s too skinny/fat/short.” Oh, so no one ever was able to put on muscle, lose weight, or hit a growth spurt after the ages of 18-20? That’s unfortunate.

“Player ‘X’ is a little raw.” Well yeah, they’re 18 or 19 years old. Who said they were a finished product? Skills can still be polished and developed here.

How many times have we seen a guy like Paul George hit another growth spurt, or a player landing in the right situation and improving in area? Many times. So do I necessarily care that a guy like Jared Sullinger is a 6’9 center…(See next rule.)

Rule #2: Ability Over Physical Traits, Every Time

…no, I don’t care. Since we’re on a Timberwolves blog, I’ll relate this to them, Kevin Love and Anthony Randolph particularly. Simply put: Would you rather have Anthony Randolph over Kevin Love because he can jump higher or run faster? Of course you wouldn’t, or I hope you wouldn’t. And just because you’re 7 feet doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know what to do with that height. Remember Ryan Hollins? The most practical use for him on a basketball court is designated shot clock duster.

So much of being able to rebound, and defend is being able to time your jumps, be aware, and ultimately knowing how to make the most out of what you do have. It’s pretty cool some guys can jump out of the gym, but if their basketball IQ is the same as their shoe size, it’s a problem.

Kevin Durant is a great example of this. Most readers, and myself can bench press more than him, but he has infinitely more talent than all but a few people in the world. Furthermore, he can get his shot off on anybody. I’ve never seen a basketball game on any level come down to a bench press competition.

Again, physical traits are meaningless unless a player knows what to do with them.

Rule #3: Watch the Clichés

You know who you are. You know what you’re doing. You probably even know you’re driving us all crazy, but you just can’t help yourself. Stop it. Seriously. Nothing is worse than watching or reading draft coverage and writhing in pain because someone had to fall back on their old, comfy clichés. Here’s a shortlist of the most egregious ones my Twitter followers could come up with: “Tremendous upside!”, “He’s a basketball player!”, “Upside/length/athleticism!” “He’s a bust/playmaker!” “Motor!”

Sigh. Yes, we know he’s a basketball player; he’s in the NBA Draft. You don’t know how a player will turn out either way before he’s played a game. Yep, he has “potential”; he is just 19 years old, after all. Please, do your part to stop the cliché’s, buzzwords, or whatever you call them.

Rule #4: If Your Team Won the Lottery, Their Main Need is Talent. Period.

I was talking to @Above_Legit, a Wizards blogger on Twitter about this after a report came out that the team had drafted many forwards recently and may not want to again. He agreed that taking the best player available is the way to go, regardless of need. With a team like the Wizards, they need everything. So what if you drafted Jordan Crawford, Jan Vesley, and Chris Singleton in recent years? You still won 20 games, and are at the top of the lottery again. And anyone whose team lets the likes of Crawford, Vesley, or Singleton keep them from improving, deserves their lottery team. Even our beloved Wolves for those years.

No, your lottery team doesn’t need a PG/SG/SF/PF/C; it needs one or two good PG/SG/SF/PF/C.

You can’t over-think these things and risk setting back your franchise. If the Wolves landed the number 1 pick last year, they should’ve taken Kyrie Irving, even with Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour onboard. They took BPA with the 2nd pick even though they had Kevin Love and like, four, other players who could play Williams’ position. That’s just what you do when you’re a perennial cellar dweller: take talent when you can and figure out the fit later. Ask yourself where the team could be had they taken BPA Demarcus Cousins over Wes Johnson the year before. Hindsight is 20/20, but you can’t be afraid to take chances sometimes.

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I won’t lie, I’ve fallen into these pitfalls in the past. I’m not perfect, but I’m better for having realized it. It’s more fun to observe the process without being hypercritical or regurgitating the same tired draft day lines. Following these easy tips will lead to a better time for all.

Derek can also be found on Twitter: @DerekJamesNBA