There’s no secret to what executives in the NBA or college coaches want. They want players that can help them win games that have high character and a work ethic. Now sometimes out of those three traits players lack one or two, but when you can have all three you are in a special class. The draft to me is very similar to a recruited high school player starting their journey to the college level.
The high end of the draft was dominated with high character players that either won at the college level or showed the scouts that they can perform day in and day out. Anthony Davis, to no ones surprise was the top-pick in the draft. His rise from 5’10 shooting guard to 6’11 franchise player is what legends are built on. But not only did he perform statistically for Kentucky, but also put his high school rankings aside and did whatever was needed to lead Kentucky to its 8th national championship.
Bradley Beal was another one who showed his coaches and scouts that he can do whatever is needed to help his team win. People sing his praises about what kind of a great work ethic and attitude that he has. He doesn’t have a sense of entitlement and put his hard hat on every day to not only improve as a player, but also help put his team in a winning situation. There were so many great stories in the draft last night that it was great to see that the hard work and sacrifice pays off.
As much as your reputation can help you in this game it can also hold you back. In today’s society you are being evaluated around every corner as it is so easy to get information on people. When someone is pulling a trigger on millions of dollars on an NBA contract or a $160,000 college scholarship they will do a lot of research no only into your skill level as a player, but also your character. It’s sad to see when a players reputation for being “soft” or a questionable attitude comes into play. At a certain age it gets to point where it is very difficult to change and if you have negative character flaws it will be very hard to turn it around. As a general manager or college coach you want to limit the question marks to your team. In some cases teams at any level would rather the players that they can count on at the end of the day, not necessarily the more talented player.
Some players as you noticed dropped in the draft for one reason or another. There is no shame in that as it has happened to others and they used it as motivation to become great players. For young players you need to understand that people are always evaluating you. Andre Drummond took a hit in the draft as for most of the year he was in the top 2-3, but questions started being asked if he can give good efforts on a nightly basis. His lack of passion and work ethic during the season hurt his standing in the draft. Players at every level are always being evaluated. Coaches and teams will take chances on you, but at one point in your career it will have an impact on you. Andre got drafted in a good position in Detroit and has a chance to play for a great organization and a great coach in Lawrence Frank.
Jared Sullinger had a tough night as well going from a top 10 prospect to the 21st pick in the draft. A red flag to his back sent fright into many general managers to the extent of the injury. I think for the most part he will be fine, but injury needs to be a concern to young players at all levels. There are some injuries that you can’t prevent, but taking care of your body is very important as if you get injured a lot it will impact your playing career.
No one took a hit more than Perry Jones did. I think all 30 teams will agree that he has a lot of talent and has all the makings of an all-star in the NBA. He has all the skill sets, the size, and the athletic ability to be a great player. There were some questions on a knee injury, which again can hurt his stock. But the biggest questions teams have is will he show up every night. As a young player you need to show up every night. I understand if you aren’t good enough and can’t produce every night that is one thing, but to have all that ability and choose not to show up every night is like digging your own grave. There is no excuse for not giving effort. Effort beats skill 9 times out of 10. There are plenty of talented players out there, but not enough that plays hard every night.
A scout’s dream is for a player to have talent and bring it every night on the court. It is a major problem for some reason for today’s player to bring it every night. Sure there are plenty of players that do, but there is an increasing number of players that can’t get it together for one reason or another. As a player especially a post player if you play hard on both ends of the floor every night there is a spot for you on a team. It helps to have a skill set that separates you from the rest, but even if you just go hard and impact your teams winning by doing so you can go further than your ability dictates.
Thomas Robinson is a great example of a player that plays hard every night. He’s probably not in the top 10 in the draft as far as skilled players or natural talent is concerned. Robinson was the 5th player selected as well as one of the best players in college basketball because for 40 minutes a night he went harder than anyone in the country and was almost impossible to stop. His next post move that he learns will be his firs that he has, but no one cares. What people care about is his ability to bring energy and effort every night. He averaged almost 12 rebounds a night for the season. Do know you know how hard that is to do on a nightly basis? I’ll answer the question for you it’s almost impossible. Thomas Robinson is a millionaire because he has size and plays with heart every single night.
For point guards making easy plays for your teammates is the key to being successful. Many young player these days try to be very flashy and dominate the basketball. Kendall Marshall was selected 13th in the draft by the Phoenix Suns. If you watch him he does nothing flashy. The skill that makes him an NBA prospect is his ability to get his team easy shots and put them in position to be successful. He’s not a great athlete, dominate the ball, and not a great shooter. Instead of doing things that he’s not able to do Kendall sticks to getting in the lane to make plays for others as well as himself. He’s not the quickest player, but uses his ability to change speeds to set his defender up on pick and rolls and isolations to get in the paint.
Young players today try to do too much. As a scout, I try to look for one skill that a prospect does well that separates them from the rest. My scouting mentor told me that a player needs one skill to get themselves in an NBA game. There are thousands of players that are good in a lot of areas, but not great in one thing. Being great at one skill can take you far in basketball. Take for instance John Jenkins from Vanderbilt. John was selected with the 23rd pick by the Atlanta Hawks. John only does one thing, in scouting we call him a one trick pony. John shoots the ball better than anyone in this year’s draft. He was by far the best three point shooter in college basketball this past season. John is not an athlete and has average size for a shooting guard. His shooting got him drafted in the NBA, and like Thomas Robinson he will make over a million dollars playing basketball because he can do one thing better than the majority of players his age. Robinson and Jenkins come from two completely different ends of the spectrum as Robinson is an athlete with little skill and Jenkins a player with all skill and little athleticism. Both are lacking significantly in certain areas, but because they have one skill that dominates their peers they both were first round draft picks in the NBA.
Everybody wants winners on their team. Winning is contagious from coaches, to the starters, and all the way down to the end of the bench. It is so hard to be a champion as sometimes there is no true formula to it. It doesn’t matter if you have the most talent for one reason or another it may not be the right mix of personalities to win. Once that right mix of talent, roll players, and bench are put together it is a beautiful thing to watch. I remember coaching AAU and our team was the best in the country. We had a couple of very talented players, but from 3-10 we were just tough. There was no bickering or jealousy as everyone on the team had one goal and that was to win. We knew the ball had to go in the best players hands and the roll players did only what they knew they could. It didn’t matter if the bench players got in for 1 minute or 25 they did what they needed to do to help the team win. College coaches would often give scholarships to our bench players even though for the most part they weren’t great players. I would ask the coaches why they were so interested in players that weren’t great players and they would tell me that winners were hard to find.
Kentucky should be an example for all players and coaches. They had an unprecedented six players drafted in the NBA draft. The team talent wise was dominated by their best two players players in Davis and Gilchrist. The other four were all NBA prospects, but for the most part being a dominant team as they were elevated their value to NBA teams.. Both college and pro scouts are looking to change their culture. Some want to chase great players, and others want to take players from winning programs. They want players from those programs because they know what it takes to be champions. NBA teams would take the 4th or 5th best player from an NCAA Championship team because they know how to fit in and brings a high character and good work ethic on and off the court. Everyone wants winners, it doesn’t matter if it’s high school, AAU, or college people always want to take players from winners.
The NBA Draft is always a great example for players and coaches. If you study the history of it there are many players that are high draft picks that end up out of the NBA within 3-4 years. This should tell you that it doesn’t matter where you stand today that players are always coming up to take your spot. Some of the reason for professional players failing at the NBA level is due to the fact that they never get better and better players take their spots. A lot of the reason for players failing is getting drafted into bad situations where they never get an opportunity. What usually happens is that they never get to crack the lineup and jus like anything else they are yesterday’s news. The reason for not playing could be because that they are playing for a veteran team, injuries, or bad attitude. This sounds a lot like high school players that choose the wrong school during the recruiting process.
College and the NBA is different as high school recruits choose where they go to school while college players are drafted into the NBA and have very little power to choose where they go. In the past year over 400 players transferred schools for one reason or another. A lot of this could have been prevented if players were honest with themselves and chose a level in which they could get an opportunity to play. Players need to understand the situation of the college that they are choosing. I never understood why players decided to attend schools where the roster was filled with players at their position. Everyone is caught up in what level they go to school and play at. Instead of going to a school where they will get the most opportunity to play and get minutes, players were too concerned with hearing their name on ESPN by Dick Vitale. Minutes are they key to getting better, not necessarily just practicing against great players and working out. There is nothing wrong with going to a bigger school and competing for your spot, but if you are in a situation that you can be picky about the school you choose please do.
The NBA Draft is a tricky thing to evaluate. You really can’t get a good read on it as far as what a player is going to do or how well a team selected. I always say a player after their rookie contract is up in 5 years is going to be the player that they are for the rest of their career. A lot goes into those five years that will mold their careers. Some players will get to an elite level no matter the situation, while others need a little hard work and luck to maximize their potential. The same goes into college as a player and coach must understand that the player that shows up on campus the first day wont be the one leaving it in four years. Some will go on to great things, some will stay the same, some will fail, and some will leave early. Nothing in life is guaranteed so you need to work hard.
Rankings mean very little to me. I like to see people’s opinions on players especially those of which concentrate on one area of the country. In the NBA draft players come in to the NBA with big reputations and are spit out on a yearly basis. Players such as Michael Olowokandi, Kwame Brown, Greg Oden, Darko Milicic, Adam Morrison, and Patrick O’Bryant are just names on top of my head that were drafted highly and never made it or went on to average careers. Greg Oden never got a chance because of injury, jus another thing that can derail your career. There is no guarantee and by believing your own hype based on a ranking or reputation can be very dangerous.
An NBA rookie just as a freshman entering college are both starting over. All of the press clippings and awards that they compiled over the career are out the window. Both will battle adversity in their new environments how they handle that adversity will determine their playing careers. Even though they are both on two completely different levels both players are in the same boat. They need to understand how to fit in on their team and develop a skill set which will impact their teams winning. The quicker they find that skill the quicker they can start their career. Attitude is key as you saw last night it could have a big impact on your career. Be coachable, be a good person, and be a good teammate. All of those traits will take you a long way in not only basketball, but in life.
I couldn’t help to have thoughts of certain people after the 60th pick was made of the 2012 NBA Draft. The names of William Buford, JaMychal Green, Sylven Landesberg, Michael Dunnigan and Willie Warren. If you didn’t pick up on what the significance of the names that I mentioned they were the alumni of the 2008 McDonalds All American game that didn’t get their name called or already entered the draft and to this day are on the outside looking in. They were the cream of the crop and considered one of the top 24 high school basketball players entering college and 4 years later not even in the top 60. It just goes to show you in basketball and in life at one point you may have value to people and the next you don’t. If that isn’t a lesson I don’t know what is.