Friday, May 23

Thinking Big

For three consecutive seasons, the Seattle brain trust put their faith in a succession of centers who came loaded with promise.

The names of those three players roll off the tongues of Sonic fans like a movie executive recalling failed blockbusters:

Robert Swift. Johan Petro. Mo Sene.

None of the three lived up to the expectations thrust upon them, and the bitter aftertaste of those picks cost Rick Sund his job and left fans here ready to fire a shotgun at the next “promising big man” who walked through the door.

With six picks in this year’s draft, I’ve heard quite a few people comment that they absolutely DO NOT want the Sonics to take a project at center this year, despite the team’s utter lack of talent at the 5 spot. I can understand the sentiment.

I can understand it, but it’s wrong. Yes, Sund’s Follies marched this organization in the wrong direction, and possibly cost fans a shot at seeing a repeat playoff performance (especially when you look at the people Seattle could have drafted with those picks).

But swearing off drafting raw big men because of three failed experiments is a bit like swearing off driving because your first car was a Ford Festiva. Sure, it wasn’t the best car, but why forgo the future possibility of driving a Ferrari because of a couple negative experiences?

The fact is that the NBA is rife with players who came into the league as projects. Just as a quick example, take a look at where these power forwards and centers went in the draft:

Mehmet Okur, 37th
Samuel Dalembert, 26th
Andrei Kirilenko, 24th
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 20th
Sean Williams, 17th

Do you think Jazz fans were throwing their temple undergarments in the air when they drafted Kirilenko eight years ago? I think not.

But that’s how it works in this league. Sure, it’s easy to find a Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal when you have first crack at the draft, but if you don’t, you have to take a risk and hope that when the cards are turned over you’re looking at Samuel Dalembert rather than Rich King.

And considering that the Sonics aren’t going to be printing playoff tickets for the next couple of seasons, exactly what do we have to lose here?.


Çetin Cem said...

i certainly agree with that. sadly, swift could never turn out the shotblocking monster that scares the hell out of everyone, he just could not play a handful of games, and probably he will never be fit again. petro could not make it, neither, and sene was hardly given a decent chance.

but there is no reason that going to gamble for a center this year. i think there are some talents especially in the european region that could turn to some decent players. when bringing in an overseas player, there are no guarantees, it can be a milicic, or an okur. why not try to find one like the latter?

Anonymous said...

I think it is a matter of fit and opportunity just as much as it is about ability. Williams and Dalembert weren't polished offensive players, but both were outstanding shot blockers and athletes in college, with Williams showing more overall quickness, and Dalembert more powerful as a better rebounder. Williams was actually more efficient than Dalembert, and both were neither big time scorers at their respective schools, but were able to carve out roles for NBA teams. It's not totally impossible to find one of these somewhere in the draft, and there are some candidates, though there are always questions to ask. Sometimes, these guys may not pan out, like Cedric Simmons or Hilton Armstrong, but other times, a guy like Ben Wallace or Scott Williams can pop out of the undrafted circles to surprise a little. These guys aren't everywhere, but it's important to examine players closely, and I wouldn't be opposed to working these players and draft candidates out to see who these potential sleepers could be. Such candidates available for this year may include players like JaVale McGee, Shawn James, Omer Asik, Steven Hill, Tyrelle Blair, Larry Cox, CJ Giles, DeAndre Jordan, Brook Lopez, and Robin Lopez. Each may have their flaws and question marks, and strengths, but it would be wise if the Sonics were to examine such players closely or at least for consideration for workouts.

My answer is, the lower the pick or as an undrafted signee, the lower the risk and more cost effective the outcome can be. However, it may also mean, the less likely the player will make the roster, for there are only a few sleepers who actually make the team. The greater the pick, probably the more talent that comes, but also a more likely chance to bust if the guess turns out wrong. I think draft people know this already. I just hope the Sonics can make good finds with the talent available.

Anonymous said...

That said, the centers position still has to be one of the highest bust rates among positions in the draft. It doesn't mean necessarily one of these guys can't all of sudden play hard and succeed to prove us wrong, though, and over time, some will. It probably takes a good eye to see who will succeed, like when Utah drafted Kirilenko or Detroit picking Okur.