Draft Busts-Buyer Beware
Published by CROWN staff on June 20, 2009
I recently wrote about the handful of players I think might be a good fit for Toronto if the Raptors can grab them with the 9th pick in this year’s NBA draft. Today I meant to talk about the players the Raps should avoid, but on second thought, I’ll just talk about players any team should be careful about selecting, period.
Before I go into it I just want to say that this isn’t personal, it’s strictly basketball talk. And just because they might be busts, it doesn’t mean they’ll end up like that. I’m just looking at guys with a lot of hype who have the biggest chance of falling hard.
Ever since high school, Jrue Holiday has been touted as a great combo guard. He can play the 1 or the 2, has good lateral quickness, and his defence, court vision and work ethic are commendable. The problem is that he hasn’t put it all together to show that he’s worthy of playing in the NBA. Most draft boards have Holiday as a top 15-16 pick, and some even have him top 10. But in his first year at UCLA, Holiday only averaged 8.5 points and 3.7 assists per game. He struggled with his jump shot and decision-making in traffic. He also demonstrated that while he is a good athlete, he isn’t as explosive as many elite guards in the NCAA. If he’s a great combo guard, why is he struggling with his shooting and decision-making? I watch a lot of UCLA games every year, and one thing that struck me was how ineffective Holiday could be for long stretches. I would watch him make a couple spectacular plays, and then get lost in the mix for about 4 or 5 minutes. Plus, at 6’4 and 199 pounds, Holiday is a bit of a tweener. If his skill doesn’t shine through, his physical gifts certainly won’t carry him.
Maybe if he stuck around UCLA for another year or two, his work ethic would push him into polishing his skills. He would also have time to get stronger and gain invaluable experience. But with the way things stand, Jrue Holiday is just another kid with great potential who hasn’t proven himself yet.
I’ll start with Blair’s positives: he’s strong, he has a good touch, his passing skills are decent, and he plays hard. Now let’s get down to business. Blair is slow, and his shooting is poor anywhere outside the paint. He’s only 6’6 despite the fact that most NBA power forwards are 6’8 at the very least. He doesn’t have 1-on-1 moves other than ramming his body into people, and his defence always suffered due to his slow feet and poor defensive fundamentals. Basically, we’re dealing with a guy who rolled through college because guys were smaller than he was. He would bump and ram his way onto the score sheet and intimidate players on D. But answer me this: what’s a slow guy with no shot, no finesse and poor defensive fundamentals going to do in the best league in the world?
First off, he’ll only be able to play for teams that live in the half court. And even then, how will they use him? He’s probably the guy they’ll send in to set hard picks and to deliver hard fouls. Will they run plays for him to knock down shots? No. Will they give him 1-on-1 looks in the post? No. What will the other teams do when Blair’s on D? They’ll attack his side of the basket and look to exploit his slow feet and make him pick up cheap fouls. Sorry, DeJuan. You might enjoy spending your millions when you get drafted, but you’ll never be a good player in the NBA. But hey, at least you can wipe your tears with $100 bills, right?
I’m not ready to label Earl Clark a bust right from the get-go. All I’m saying is that he’s showing me all the signs of a talented guy who might end up going nowhere in the NBA. Basically, I see Clark as the next Lamar Odom in every possible way, good and bad. Clark is a 6’9, 220 pound combo forward with great athleticism and length. He runs the floor well, is a good passer and can block shots. He isn’t afraid to score from the outside or down low, and is explosive when he wants to be. The only problem is that Clark, just like Odom, allows himself to lose focus when he’s on the court.
Anybody who watched Louisville regularly over the past few years can agree with me that Clark would often take bad shots that would make you roll your eyes. He is also very turnover-prone due to poor shot selection, and he’ll often force passes. A lot of times you’ll watch Clark and it looks like he’s not even trying. He coasts on offence and on defence he wanders aimlessly every few minutes. Much of his offensive production comes from him elevating over and exploding past defenders. The downside from this is that Clark never really developed a back-to-the-basket game, nor is he good at shooting off a catch or the dribble. Ironically, Clark still loves to chuck up shots from the outside. Last season he attempted 2.6 3-pointers per game and only hit 32% of them. Clark needs to improve his shooting consistency and shot selection, while also refining his low-post game. His free throw shooting also needs work.
To put it frankly, Earl Clark has a lot of upside but is still raw. The team that drafts him needs to spend a lot of time in developing the finer points of his game, while also pushing him to give 100% effort every time he steps on the floor. Otherwise, Clark will be another guy that high school and college coaches talk to their players about, and say, “if you don’t smarten up you’ll end up just like Earl Clark.”
At 6’10, Austin Daye has a nice jump shot that he can knock down with consistency. He has good hands and coordination, and a real knack for putting the ball in the hoop. The problem? He’s only 190 pounds! Daye can’t guard big men in the post, and it’s hard for him to even establish position in the post on offence. Because of this, he tends to avoid contact, something that will definitely hurt him in the NBA. If you can’t get physical in the NBA then you’re in trouble. Factor in that Daye only has average athleticism and speed, and that’s a recipe for disaster. People are also talking about how Daye is getting manhandled in the draft workouts against other post players. That’s not a good sign.
Daye would greatly benefit from more time in the NCAA. He needs to get stronger and learn how to play tough. It’s a good idea to learn that against amateurs, not the best pros in the world. Think about other skinny guys like Kevin Durant and Tayshaun Prince. The difference between those guys and Daye is that they’re well-rounded scorers and exceptional athletes. Daye also seems content to linger around the perimeter and do all his work from out there. That brings to mind one particular player: Rashard Lewis. So the potential is obviously there. Even if he never makes it to that level, Daye can still become an effective shooter off the bench for some teams. I’m not ready to write him off right away, but there is bust potential here. A lot of people have him going in the mid-1st round so there are some high expectations.
I don’t like being a hater, but I’ve hated on Budinger’s game since he started his college career at Arizona. It’s not so much that Budinger has a lot of buzz surrounding him. I’m just amazed that he’s being projected as a guaranteed first rounder. Are you kidding me?
Many scouts like Budinger because he’s 6’7 and can run and jump and shoot the rock well. He can also pass the ball decently, but so can a lot of back court players. But the things that Budinger lacks will severely hinder his chances at succeeding in the NBA. He’s mostly a catch-and-shoot player, whereby he doesn’t work well off the dribble, and he struggles finishing through contact. As a 3-point shooter he doesn’t excel when he has to take the ball to the hole. Budinger is also a poor defender and has had his toughness and drive questioned since day one. I’ve watched him numerous times at Arizona, and while he did OK in the NCAA, I really didn’t think I was watching a good NBA player in the making.
I’m not saying Budinger shouldn’t play in the NBA. But when I see his name constantly being listed in the 1st round, and many times in the top 20, I want to pull my hair out.
Now I know some of you are sitting there right now with smirks on your faces, unimpressed with me as I rip into some beloved prospects. “So who would you take instead, Mr. Wise Guy?” Well, for the answer to that question you’ll have to check out my next blog. I already talked about some gems the Toronto Raptors should look at. Now I’ve highlighted 5 guys who might not be as good as advertised. My next blog will look at potential sleepers and value picks scattered throughout the 1st and 2nd rounds. And boy, do I see a lot of guys who are underrated this year.
That’s it for me. Check me out again in a few days. And as always, I’d love to hear what you think about what I said. Drop a comment below if you have time.
You can also hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org