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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fit versus Need - Whats the difference?

One thing that irks me when discussing mock drafts is when people talk about what their team needs. They justify taking player X over another player because they already have a quality player at the potential draftees position. Looking back through these types of talk provides high comedy, as often times it leads teams to picking the worse player. The NBA draft is enough of a guessing game - get a guy you feel has the best chance to become a solid player.

Discussing needs at the top of the draft is especially cringe-worthy. We are talking about teams that failed to make the playoffs. They could use help anywhere. Seriously, should the Bobcats refrain from taking a power forward because they have Tyrus Thomas? Or DJ Augustin? Or with Cleveland, do they also ignore all power forwards since they house JJ Hickson on their roster? Seems like a great way to eliminate a good amount of the player pool to me.

For anyone making those arguments, do yourself a favor and go back a few years a look at rosters. Decent/solid starter types get worse, or leave for a new team often. Unless Blake Griffin is your PF, dont count out drafting a PF in the lottery.

People fail to realize that there are 48 minutes in a basketball game. Plenty of wings are interchangeable, along with bigs, so there can be 96 minutes at each. Its not hard to find starter minutes for three wings if they are all good - its not a bad problem to have. The NBA also allows trades which is a novel concept. Bottom feeder teams need to concentrate on getting quality pieces for their team, whether they need them or not. Trade chips are always useful and they can hold onto them for a couple of years until they are ready to make a run.

Because of that wall of text, you may believe that I think that every team's draft board should look the same then. Actually, quite the opposite. Style of play is a lot more important than need. Countless times a player has failed on one team and then bloomed on another. Coaching, teammates, minutes (which can be called need, but its a small part of a bigger equation), tempo, scheme are all factors. I'll break them down one by one.

Coaching - Coaches change as much as players, so some teams that go through coaches like underwear should disregard this. But you don't draft a player with a weak mental make-up to play with Jerry Sloan. Also, some teams have great big men coaches that have had success at developing raw big men. If you have on, you can pull the trigger on Keith Benson - maybe even in the 1st round. If not, let him go. He'll flop in your organization.

Teammates - If Im the Kings, I want to avoid drafting a kid with character issues. They have enough problems and dont have the kind of players to help someone out like that. Teams with strong locker rooms, like the Spurs, can afford to take a problem child. He'll learn quickly to either "put up" or "shut up". In addition, if you lack an energy/locker room guy, take one in the second round. If you have too many players that are selfish, dont add to the fire.

Minutes - Minutes are necessary for players to develop, some more so than others. Its a nice bonus to be able to give a player some playing time. For some guys, too much may break their confidence if they arent ready to be thrown into the fire. Others will lose confidence and/or interest if they are forced to ride the bench all year.

Tempo - This is pretty easy to explain and understand. There are halfcourt guys and fullcourt guys. If you are the Suns, Knicks, or Warriors look for a guy who can get up and down the court as opposed to a slow plodder. The Blazers shouldn't be drafting anyone who only scores in transition.

Scheme - This goes along with tempo and coaching, just more specific to individual teams. A popular example this year would be how Jordan Hamilton would transfer to Utah's flex offense. Hamilton plays in the same offense at Texas and his shooting makes him a good fit there.

There are other factors to look at, but dont make and break anything. All these are simply part of an equation that should effect each team's draft board. Like for the Raptors, they have a young wing that is more of a slasher. To complement him, they could look for another wing who can shoot. This becomes more of a factor if we are talking about complementing a star player. In Philly, Turner and Iguodala dont complement each other. Its up in the air whether it was a bad pick, although rumor has it that the 76ers might trade Iguodala in the offseason. With a high pick like that, its understandable to take the player everyone had pegged as the second best in the draft. My beliefs become more true the farther you go down the draft board. Top 5 should mainly be best player available.

Another thing to focus on is defense. Using the 76ers as an example, they have great perimeter defenders. Some may think that it would give them leeway in drafting a perimeter defender who cant defend. Quite the contrary, because a poor defender would render the rest of the strong defenders useless in the land of the NBA, where one-on-one matchups are exploited.

With great defensive bigs, though, you can lean on them to erase bad guard defense. And then there are the teams that are so bad defensively, that they seem to have lost interest in even trying to fix the problem. Teams like the Warriors are where you send the Jimmers of the world to have a good career of losing basketball.

One final thought is the change of pace pick. Using the 76ers again, all their bigs are the same. Brand, Hawes, Young, Speights, Songaila, Brackins, and Battie are all jump shooters who fail to provide a defensive presence. Adding a guy like John Henson would really change the feel to that group.

The right situation can make or break a player. Pre-draft rankings are only good for a general idea. Once players find their team, one can make a better guess at how the players career with play out.

Now go ahead and check out your favorite team's roster from a few years ago and tell me what you think.

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