by Jack Maidment
Anthony Randolph, Joe Alexander and Danilo Gallinari were all top 15 picks in the 2008 NBA Draft and after a year in which a certain number of their peers have made an impact to be proud of these three have done everything but over achieve.
Each of these individuals’ situation is different; each one one with different reasons why they have not necessarily grabbed the headlines they may have envisioned on draft night.
For Randolph, taken 14th overall by the Golden State Warriors, his relative mediocrity can be assigned to age and lack of experience: heading into his sophomore NBA season he will be a sprightly 20 years old.
He played his first year as a Warrior while still a teenager. This may well account for his solid but not explosive numbers, but it also highlights the reason why he got drafted early in the first round despite only one year of college at LSU: potential.
6 ft 10 in. with all of the athleticism and quickness to play any of the front court positions. Raw was the word that described Randolph last year. He was unpolished. But hell he was a 19 year old kid.
Drafting on potential has long been viewed critically especially when players who could have contributed more immediately may have still been on the board. But Randolph’s performances in the Summer League just gone caused a collective light bulb moment for hoop heads and NBA personnel alike: this young man can play.
The much vaunted potential of a draft pick which so often comes to nothing appears to be more than hype, Randolph is becoming absolutely real.
Detractors will tell you that Summer League is Summer League and that performances in Las Vegas are impossible to translate or project onto the regular season. The past has provided enough evidence that this is a warranted theory yet disposing of pessismism for a second, couldn’t Randolph’s numbers this past off season be the signal that more is to come? The past cannot predict the future after all. Perhaps Randolph will be the exception that breaks the rule.
The situation in Golden State will certainly provide Randolph with the opportunity to make noise this coming season with little competition in the front court: most of the Warrior’s problems will be in trying to accommodate Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson in the same back court.
As for Alexander, the 8th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks, his quiet debut year is similar to so many rookies who are drafted to teams regardless of what they already have at each position.
Praised as the best overall athlete of his class (second most bench reps, second highest reach, second fastest ¾ sprint time) the West Virginia product arrived at the Bucks knowing full well that playing time would be scarce with Richard Jefferson at starting forward.
You only need look at the top performing rookies to know that there is an undeniable correlation between playing time and improvement: it is a rare rookie indeed who can warrant his draft pick status coming off the bench for a few minutes every game.
With that in mind Alexander should have every chance to build upon last year’s limited experience after the Bucks dumped Jefferson and his contract on a grateful San Antonio, thus freeing up valuable playing time and in all likelihood placing the starting small forward position in the hands of the second year man.
With more minutes comes more responsibility and Alexander will be relied upon to shoulder a large proportion of the offensive load. Playing with rookie point guard Brandon Jennings at a high tempo should guarantee many fast break points for a forward who few will beat down the floor.
Danilo Gallinari meanwhile will enter his second year in much the same was as Greg Oden did last year with injuries ensuring that the Italian will be the least experienced of any sophomore.
The back injury that kept Gallinari sidelined all last year has apparently been banished and the man drafted #6 overall by the New York Knicks last year will finally have the opportunity to warrant his lofty selection.
Getting drafted ahead of first year standouts Brook Lopez and Eric Gordon should be enough to make Gallinari feel a little pressure and comments from his coach have assured that scrutiny will be high on the man labelled ‘the best shooter’ that Mike D’Antoni has ever worked with.
Playing in a front court rotation that includes David Lee, Al Harrington, Darko Milicic and Jordan Hill, Gallinari should experience enough playing time at the small forward position to make an impact on a squad that will do well to do anything other than tread water the year before the 2010 sweepstakes.
3 forwards, 3 similarly underwhelming rookie campaigns. The cruel world of revisionist history will use the coming 2010 season as a barometer as to whether or not these players will be remembered as wise investments or busts. So let us for once give potential and positivity a chance and believe that Gallinari, Randolph and Alexander will all be sophomore successes.
After all, we can all just jump on the bust bandwagon next year instead.