The first huge night of the 2013-14 NCAA One-and-Done Showcase has arrived. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle -- potentially the top three picks in the June draft -- will play at the United Center on Tuesday in the Champions Classic. Wiggins's Kansas Jayhawks and Parker's Duke Blue Devils will face off, giving us a glimpse at the head-to-head battle.
And let me tell you, scouts cannot wait to anoint Wiggins, the top player in this class for years now, as overhyped.
From an anonymous NBA scout quoted by Jeff Goodman a few days ago:
"Great athlete, no way he's the top pick in the draft. Julius Randle is better. There's just way too much hype. His skill level is average. ... Right now, he's the third- or fourth-best player for Kansas."
An anonymous assistant GM quoted by Marc Spears:
"He could be No. 1, but it's not a given. He's not overrated as much as the anointed one gets way too much attention."
There's the quote that puts the first one in context. Fresh off of watching Wiggins have a pedestrian performance, the scout ranks Randle higher. But if the scouts and GMs did that en masse, guess what? They'd start feeling that Randle was overhyped and, by rule, his status would need to be crushed via anonymous quote. It's a pretty sick cycle.
The thing is that hype has zero relevance as to whether Player A or B should be the pick. Hype does not matter. Wins in the NBA are built on performance and production, not popular votes. Given that there's a strict rookie salary scale, you take the best player for your team regardless of the hype surrounding him. Because the hype will not have relevance once he's in the league, especially if he is as humble as everyone says.
It's not Wiggins' fault he has had a No. 1 next to his name for like five years now. It's not his fault he draws LeBron comps. It's good that scouts will now pick apart his game and potential. Good for those scouts' bosses, that is. It does no real service to make that public or to damage Wiggins at the expense of, say, Randle. Especially if that scout likes Randle and wants his team to land him.
This is the big issue in draft scouting every single year: how much of what scouts and GMs say anonymous can you trust? Five percent? One percent? Who are they serving? Their bosses. So what incentive is there to be honest? In fact, isn't there a strong incentive to be dishonest and throw other teams off? The only real incentive is in building relationships with the reporters who publish their opinions; Goodman, Spears, Chad Ford, Jonathan Givony, Sam Amick and Adrian Wojnarowski, among others are all very good at getting these opinions.
But how often do those reporters find out a scout or GM has been pulling their tails, and then write them off? If a high-level scout spends all draft season touting Nerlens Noel over Anthony Bennett, but his team takes Bennett over Noel, do we trust that guy again? We'll never know the identities, so we rely on the reporters to make that call. It's a pretty strange game.
The best solution: we pay less attention to what anonymous scouts and GMs say in generalities and more attention to what details they disclose. Goodman's anonymous scout says Wiggins does everything off the dribble in straight lines. That's something to watch. He's better than Randle? That's something to ignore.
Following the NBA draft sausage-making business is a whole lot prettier when you learn which processes to skip and which to focus on.
IN SEARCH OF LOST GRRAR
Mike Brown was famously easy on LeBron James when both were with the Cavaliers. Brown preached defense heavily, but I'm not sure we ever caught a glimpse of the coach yelling at The Chosen One. It was a franchise-wide thing. LeBron was given a wide berth in hopes that his control over the Cavaliers would keep him in Cleveland. Welp.
So this is interesting. From the Akron Beacon Journal's Jason Lloyd:
First off, the tongue lashing Mike Brown gave to Kyrie Irving. I don't know what Brown was so upset about and I'm not going to speculate, but Brown was hot when Irving left the game in the first quarter. [...] Brown's back was to the media, but you didn't need to see his face to see him really giving it to Irving. It was a stern chew out that included some head shaking from Brown and a lot of jawing.
"There was a lot going on. It's between he and I, but there was a lot going on," Brown said. "Not just with him, but with the whole team."
"Just a conversation with my coach," Irving said. "That's about it."
Irving in 2013 isn't LeBron in 2005, but he's clearly the team's present and future, and a legit star in the NBA. And Brown has decided to treat him like any other player, not like LeBron. That's a big shift, and I bet it's a deliberate one because of what happened with LeBron. (Brown got fired, LeBron left, the Cavs careened into the Earth.)
Given that we're talking about Brown, chances are the tiff was about defense. That's where Irving has struggled most, and it's worth noting that LeBron flourished as a defender under Brown. It'll be interesting to see whether this sort of relationship continues or whether Brown backs off going forward.
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