On Monday, Murph wrote an insightful piece about NBA GMs falling in love with potential rather than production. That got me thinking: who in the recent history has fallen into that category and actually lived up to the hype? Or at least looks like they are well on their way. I’m talking about guys that didn’t really light the world on fire in their (usually) brief college careers but were drafted with high picks anyway. This will be part one of a five-part series examining the players who fit into this mold over the past five NBA Drafts.
Note that almost every draft pick is drafted on their potential in some form or fashion. None of these guys are finished products coming out of college. Still, a lot of these players produced in college nonetheless. Greg Oden may have been drafted on what he could eventually do, but he also led his team to the national championship game. Same with Derrick Rose. As Murph mentions, a guy like Perry Jones, who was toward the top of most draft boards this year after only averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds per game, is the definition of what I’m talking about. Jones decided to go back to Baylor, a credit to him, but with more and more guys coming out after a year, whether they are truly ready or not, this is something we are going to have to get used to.
When it comes to drafting, NBA GMs are becoming more and more and more like Major Leaguers, Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds: they’re swinging for the fences more often than not, and they’ll end up hitting a home run or completely striking out (and looking a bit foolish doing so).
The Home Runs
LaMarcus Aldridge, So., Texas, 2nd Pick
Aldridge was drafted second overall after spending two years at Texas. His size and athleticism was simply too enticing to pass up, but after averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds per game his final year in school, he certainly was not a finished product, especially offensively. Texas was good during his sophomore season, but Aldridge was not at a point where he could put them on his back and lead. It definitely took LaMarcus some time once he got to the league as well. Now, in his fifth season in the league, he is easily one of the best big men in the game, and has the Blazers on the right track to be an upper echelon team for years to come.
Rajon Rondo, So., Kentucky, 21st Pick
Rondo was the 21st selection of this draft which makes taking a risk on him a bit more understandable. Still, he very much falls into the category I am talking about. He played on an average Kentucky team and only averaged 10 points and 5 assists per game. Not only that, but he also had questions about his character. Obviously, Rondo has answered any and all questions about his game, as he is considered one of the elite point guards in the league. He has made considerable progress in the character department as well. Teams picking later in the draft have more luxury to take a chance on a guy like Rondo, and in this case the Celtics hit a home run.
Patrick O’Bryant, So., Bradley, 9th Pick
The Golden State Warriors took a chance on seven-footer Patrick O’Bryant, who had a couple breakout performances in the tournament and splashed onto the national radar. However, for being as tall as he his, he barely stood out throughout the majority of his sophomore season. 13 point and 8 rebounds per game is nothing to sneeze at, but considering that he played in a mid-major conference not known for having many seven-footers most years, you would have expected better from a top-ten pick. Maybe the writing was on the wall?
Cedric Simmons, So., NC State, 15th Pick
Simmons’ long 6’10” frame and athleticism (he did average 2.5 blocks per game his sophomore year at NC State) allowed him to sneak into the lottery despite fairly pedestrian numbers his last season with the Wolfpack–12 points and 6 rebounds per game. Simmons was traded four times in three years before heading over to Greece. He, then, only lasted a few months over there before coming back to the D-League. Swing and a miss.
Next Up: The 2007 NBA Draft