Every year the NBA drafts a slew of college basketball players in the Association. This fresh influx of talent has been a focal point of organizations from the owner down to the fans since Patrick Ewing was drafted by the NY Knicks in 1985. Since then, pretty much every major star in the NBA has come through the draft, with the exception of a handful of foreign born players like Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. However, far outweighing the number of superstars drafted in the first round is the number of busts. The speculation, each year, turns to the central question. Will the top picks be superstars or busts?
It’s a tough question. The main reason is because the average talent and athleticism level in college hoops is so much lower than the average level in the NBA, it becomes very difficult to extrapolate how someone who dominates in college will do in the NBA. There are the occasional exceptions like Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James. But for the most part, it’s a coin flip. On one side, fame and glory for years to come. On the other side, cruel ridicule and derision – the dreaded label: bust.
Take for example, tonight’s presumptive number one overall draft pick, Anthony Davis. At 6’10 220 lbs, Davis is a thin, tall center. He has some speed and athleticism for his size, but is not overwhelming. In my opinion, he is not strong enough or athletic enough for the NBA yet. What about his skill set? Davis is primarily a shot blocker and rebounder. Davis averaged almost five blocks per game during his freshman year, as well as 10 rebounds per game. He also managed 14 points per game on just 8 shots. He did it all in just 32 minutes per game. It seems that a team needing an efficient defender would be foolish not to pick Davis.
Davis’s college stats are almost identical to another tall, light center that was recently drafted. Hasheem Thabeet averaged 14 points per game, 10 rebounds per game, and four blocks per game in his final year of college athletics. Thabeet is averaging two point and two rebounds per game in ten minutes of play. He’s already played for three teams, with fewer and fewer minutes along the way. It’s my opinion that Davis will be a similar bust. My opinion is such simply because I don’t trust college players, particularly freshmen, to be able to handle the level of play and life pressure of the NBA. Particularly when they are the number one draft pick of a team with no hope in sight. Particularly when they are desperately underweight at their position. Particularly when the unibrow is so dense.
Of course, I had similar doubts about a Texas Longhorn named Kevin Durant. I thought he was too light and weak at his size to have an impact in the NBA. I thought it was easy enough for him to get his shot off in college, but the NBA would bring the cruel reality of high level defense to his attention. I thought Kevin Durant would never live up to his number two draft pick status. Joyously, I was proven dead wrong, and Durant has exceeded even the expectations of his believers.
And I hope to be proven wrong once again. I would love nothing more than to see Anthony Davis and his cohort come into their own in the NBA. And it doesn’t have to be immediate. Give them a couple of seasons to mature. However, I just don’t see it. I didn’t see any physical or basketball skill out of any of the top names bandied around all year long that would suggest a game-changing player. I predict this year’s draft to be a bust. Hoops Gods willing, may I be as wrong about that as Dan Gilbert was about LeBron winning a title.