NBA Draft 2009: Ricky Rubio Wants LA Clippers Or Nothing?

May 22, 2009
Dollars or Euros next year?

Dollars or Euros next year?

by Jack Maidment

Making it to the League is the objective right? That’s pretty damn exciting. Getting paid to do something you love? Sign me up.

The opportunity to get drafted is such a huge opportunity that where you play is kind of a foot note. However, Ricky Rubio, having already played pro ball in Europe since he was 5, is apparently less than thrilled at the prospect of relocating to Memphis. Or Oklahoma.

So, while everyone else focuses on improving their draft stock, thus their wages, just being excited by the start of their NBA career, Rubio is busy scheming. Or at least his agent is.
“I’m drafted? Sick! Where to?”

“Oklahoma City”

“Oh. Ok. You know what, I’m good in Spain. I’ll check you next year.”

Apparently, Rubio wants LA. Or Sacramento at a push. Otherwise he is not interested.

The extent to which this is BS is clearly up for discussion, but it does ask a number of questions.

For 95% of the players in the Draft, this is the first chance they have to get paid to play. However, Brandon Jennings and Rubio are used to the sweet smell of Euros in their pockets.

This effectively means that the allure of the NBA is strictly based on playing experience rather than building an impressive bank balance.

They already got money AND a nice place to live.

Let’s be fair. If you had your choice of Rome and Barcelona or Oklahoma City which would you choose? Likely you would be booking your tickets to Europe straight away.

The fact is that truly elite athletes have a luxury that everyone else does not. The freedom to choose. They get their own way or, well, no, they just get their own way.

Kobe Bryant is rumoured to hold a no-trade clause in his contract. The only difference is that Rubio has not made it in America yet. It’s the same situation.

Now clearly Rubio is not Kobe, LeBron or Wade, but he has experienced enough success to stamp his feet a little if he feels it.

This throws in another variable in player’s decisions.

Do you want a good team to draft you so that you win straight away with sparce playing time?

Or a bad team with lots of time and lots of losing?

Or the team doesn’t matter at all, just location.

Luckily, the majority of Draftees do not have the sort of power that Rubio possesses, so they will go where they are told and be grateful for it.

The real difficulty for Rubio is that the likelihood of a ‘good’ location is fairly slim. And if he holds out and calls Memphis’s bluff, his reputation takes a huge hit.

If the Grizzlies or the Thunder stand firm and draft him but he returns to Spain, boy does the NBA look silly.

If it turns out to be lies, or not, Rubio can likely expect a loud welcome whatever.

Probably boos and jeers.

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Good Times in Los Angeles: Lakers Survive Nuggets, Clippers Get Lucky

May 20, 2009
Jennings is Flashy

Jennings is Flashy

by Jack Maidment

One night. Two major stories.

Firstly, the LA Lakers recovered from an early hole to take game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against a Denver Nuggets team which threatened to steal home court all night long on the back of a lights out shooting performance from Carmelo Anthony.

Secondly, LA’s ‘Other Team’, the Clippers, lucked out and obtained the right to pick first in the eagerly anticipated NBA Draft.

Both events promised shocks and surprises and neither disappointed.

For the most part the Lakers were out played by a fired up Denver team who raced out to an early lead before the Lake Show’s bench dragged themselves back into it.

To be honest I’m not sure how Denver lost this game and George Karl’s face told the story at the final buzzer as his side ended the game 2 points down thanks to a Trevor Ariza steal, Kobe Bryant’s 4th quarter scoring outburst and Derek Fisher’s series of crucial big shots.

But lose they did and despite the hit that their playoff momentum took last night, at least the Nuggets know they can take this Laker team to the edge. A sweep this will not be.

The other half of LA joined the victory celebrations as the Clippers snatched the number 1 pick from the other hopefuls.

Hope for the re-birth of a long moribund franchise has been rekindled as the Clips won the Blake Griffin Sweepstakes.

The speculation now focuses on how the ‘Craziest Franchise in the League™’ can go about ruining the opportunity that chance has bestowed upon them.

It would not be a surprise to wake up and discover that the Clips had traded their first pick for a pack of magic beans. Or Tracy McGrady.

But, sanity prevailing, the Los Angeles Clippers will take Blake Griffin, adding character and ferocity in the paint.

The only other consensus top picks are center Hasheem Thabeet out of Connecticut and Ricky Rubio the Spanish wunderkind point guard.

Barring a spectacular workout by any other prospect, these two will go 2 and 3 with the Memphis Grizzlies likely to take Rubio second given his talent set and the apparent incompatibility of Thabeet with Marc Gasol.

Memphis promises to be a much improved team next year with a nice core of young, exciting players: Ricky Rubio, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, OJ Mayo. Now that is the definition of promise and potential.

The Oklahoma City Thunder will also rapidly improve after their 3rd pick likely takes the 7-3 Thabeet to bolster its front court with a shot blocking and athletic big man.

Based on starting point, the Thunder should become the new Portland, blessed with young players all of whom have tremendous upsides. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, the hugely underated Jeff Green and Hasheem Thabeet? Yes please.

Outside of Griffin, Rubio and Thabeet, the lottery gets vastly more difficult to call with teams reliant on workouts to determine their guy. However, the player snapping at the top 3 is surely Brandon Jennings, arguably the most exciting player in the draft.

An outstanding playmaker with a penchant for the flashy pass, the Compton native is the exact player that struggling teams need to fill arenas making it highly probable that he will be playing in Sacramento next year.

The League’s worst team slipped as low as they could in the Lottery, but the silver lining could be Jennings. A 6-1 point does not get the nickname ‘Young Money’ by chance. Dude is cash and promises much.

A year playing pro ball in Europe can only have given Jennings the experience that his draft colleagues lack. He is used to a demanding schedule, more practices, more travel.

Griffin may be solid and fierce. Rubio might possess great court vision. Thabeet might have a great upside. But, none of them can match the excitement that Jennings can, and will generate. My tip for fan favourite of the year.

Beyond that, the draft of 2009 is far from as deep as the past two years with GMs having to pray that they can uncover a diamond in the rough. Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans and James Harden will all look to impress and move up.

This class is open and the fact that nobody really knows who to take makes the build up to the big night itself almost as exciting as a Kobe/LeBron Finals. Ok, maybe not.

But it will be fun.

Do Be Do. 


NBA Draft 2009: Luck, The Priceless Commodity. Just Ask The Indiana Pacers…

April 2, 2009
Diamond in the Rough

Diamond in the Rough

The Lottery. A place where statistics can only do so much. A team can certainly improve their odds of success by aiming for a truly horrendous regular season record, but without fate smiling on you come draft night a 10 win season is far from a guarantee of your franchise securing one of the top 3 picks.

 

Cast your mind back a year ago when the Chicago Bulls snatched the number 1 pick when statistically they had a pretty pathetic 1.7% chance of doing so. It was the second biggest upset in draft history behind Orlando’s 1.5% number 1 pick in 1993. All of this serves as a reminder that the lottery is named so for a reason. Anything could happen and probably will.

 

Obtaining the top pick is only part of the problem. No player is a guaranteed sure fire thing coming in to the draft and even the most highly praised prospect can fail to make it in the NBA. And herein lays the major obstacle for GMs around the League: how do you establish which players have the long term potential to become stars based on relatively little information which cannot possibly figure out how well equipped a player is to make the step up into the league? There is no crystal ball. Just ask the teams who have seemingly squandered the top pick in the past.

 

People say that ‘you are better lucky than good’ and no where is this more apparent than on draft night. The difficulty in predicting a player’s potential is illustrated by the fact that numerous current All Stars were drafted outside the top 10, some out of the second round and some go un-drafted only later to excel when given the chance.

 

It can go both ways. Top prospects fail and off the radar players make it big. The drafts ability to surprise and fluctuate is illustrated by the number 17th pick in the 2005 draft, Danny Granger. Drafted out of New Mexico College, Granger was far from an elite prospect, always likely to get taken in the lower first round.

 

Yet, 4 years down the line, Granger has become the Pacers go to guy and the man that the franchise is seeking to build around for future success. He is that good. Averaging 25.1 points per game this season, Granger is one of the premier scorers in the league who continues to improve, consistently getting better every year. His stellar play this year has been rewarded with an All Star nod, and it would not be too brave to suggest that this will certainly not be the last.

 

A 6-8, 228 lbs, forward who can play the 2, 3 and even the 4, Granger is the manifestation of versatility, a man who can help his team in any which way, seamlessly moving around the court to fill gaps left by injuries and his team mates inadequacies.

 

In Danny Granger the Pacers have their franchise player and now its about getting him the help that he can lead into the postseason. Indiana will be hoping that they will replicate their good fortune in taking Granger when they enter the draft this year. They may only hold a 0.7% chance of taking the 1st overall pick, but as drafts of previous years have shown, this does not mean they will not luck out or choose wisely lower down the board.

 

This year’s board is far from loaded, with only one prospect, Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin, an apparently certified star in the making (ESPN labelled him a ‘young Carlos Boozer. But with hops.’). Everyone else in the lottery occupies a GM’s nightmare grey zone: no doubt talented, but unproven, inconsistent, too small etc. Many of these players are as likely to slide to ignominy as they are to succeed.

 

As GMs know, you are better lucky than good.

 

Welcome to lotteryland.